Friday, May 11, 2007

Family Foundation calls for reconsideration of State Education Commissioner selection

For Immediate Release
May 11, 2007
Contact: Martin Cothran
Phone: 859-329-1919

The Family Foundation calls for reconsideration of State School Commissioner selection

LEXINGTON—Pointing to problems with the search process for State School Commissioner, The Family Foundation called for the Kentucky Board of Education to reconsider its selection of Barbara Irwin as the new school’s chief. “At this point, it is clear that we have a newly selected Commissioner of Education who will begin her tenure with little or no credibility. This does not bode well for education in Kentucky,” said Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation.

“The search firm hired by the Board to make the Commissioner selection, Ray and Associates, obviously did not do its job,” Cothran said. “And there are some questions about the process by which the State Board made this selection.” Here is what the search firm’s website says that it does:

Ray and Associates makes every effort to ensure our clients that the candidates recommended for consideration are exactly who they say they are. Careful screening and background checks are essential to this process. Our firm provides our clients with detailed information on each semi-finalist in addition to all other application materials. [emphasis added]

“The discrepancies discovered in her résumé, which include claims that she made presentations she didn’t make, honors she didn’t receive, and organizational bodies she didn’t belong to when she said she did, should have been uncovered by the search firm and related to the Board,” said Cothran. “Either they were not discovered by the search firm, in which case they didn’t meet their contractual obligations to the Board, or the Board and the Kentucky Department of Education knew about the discrepancies and hired Irwin anyway, in which case, the Board and KDE's competence has to be questioned.”

In addition, he said there are other questions about the search firm itself. “The company was administratively dissolved Dec. 5, 1994 for failure to file their annual report to the Secretary of State of Iowa,” Cothran said. “There are also four federal tax liens by Internal Revenue Service listed on the Iowa Secretary of State's website. Although three of these have terminated, there is still one outstanding.”

Cothran said that there are other outstanding questions about the process itself for choosing a Commissioner of Education:
  • What does the selection of this search firm say about the competence of the State School Board?
  • Who selected this search firm?
  • Why have the other application documents (the ones accompanying Irwin’s résumé) not been publicly released?
Are there other potential problems in these documents that we don’t know about yet?
There are three other documents that Irwin would have filled out in the application process. None of these has been released by the State School Board. “Whatever the Board does now,” said Cothran, “the process of selecting the leader of Kentucky’s schools is going to have to change. It’s going to have to be more careful and more open.”


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