By Kevin Kelley
Geoffrey Andrews, the educator the Fairview Park City Schools hired in April to be its next superintendent, will not take over on Aug. 1 after all.
At a board of education meeting Monday night attended by approximately 90 people, board President Joe Shucofsky said Andrews “breached his duty to be fully open and transparent with us.”
Questions emerged in the past month about the accuracy of the employment history Andrews submitted with his application. Andrews’ employment history indicated he was employed through June 30, 2014, as director of the Western Academy of Beijing, in China. But a letter dated Aug. 4, 2013, posted on the school’s website and addressed to that institution’s families, stated that Andrews was no longer director there “due to differences in approach to vision, direction and strategy.”
“Despite his obvious credentials, we cannot tell you how disappointed we were to find out he was less than forthright with us,” Shucofsky said in a prepared statement at Monday night’s meeting. “I cannot tell you how unhappy we were to find out we were not provided with important and relevant information about the nature and duration of his employment problems.”
Andrews, who served as the superintendent of the Oberlin City Schools from 2006 to 2011, was the only candidate the school board interviewed. After Andrews was hired, Shucofsky explained that board members believed they had to move quickly to hire Andrews, who impressed them in the interview. Andrews had been a finalist for an open superintendent position in the Kenston school district and likely others as well.
Anne Randall, president of the Kenston Local Schools Board of Education, said Andrews also gave them the impression he was still employed by WAB when they interviewed him earlier this year. Andrews’ application to the Kenston district, provided to West Life following a public records request, stated he was employed as director at WAB through “07-2014.” As reason for leaving, he stated “Returning to United States; separating from school.” On his Fairview application, he only stated “Returning to USA.”
Randall said the consultant her district hired, Finding Leaders, told their board members that Andrews was a hot commodity, and if they wanted him as superintendent they’d have to act quickly.
“He’s not going to last. He’s too good,” the consultant said, according to Randall.
But Randall said she and her fellow board members were uncomfortable with the perceived pressure and concluded there was no way they would make a hiring decision after just one interview with Andrews.
Andrews withdrew from consideration from the Kenston job after the Fairview district made its offer. The Kenston district never reached the point of closely checking Andrews’ references, Randall said.
In a June 10 e-mail to West Life, Andrews said he felt it was best not to address the controversy at this time but said he looked forward to speaking about it once he returns to Ohio.
In his statement, Shucofsky said he regretted not pressing Andrews further when the the educator alluded to a problem at WAB the day after he was hired as Fairview’s next superintendent. Shucofsky also said he failed to share that information with his fellow board members.
“In hindsight, I should have pressed Mr. Andrews for more information on what he characterized as a developing ‘situation’ in China,” Shucofsky said. “I should have worked harder to fight through his insistence that he was unable to talk further about that situation.
“I will forever regret not doing so and because of that, I owe my fellow board members and our community – a huge apology.”
But Shucofsky said the board believed Andrews was heading back to his job at WAB once he was hired as superintendent.
Shucofsky said the district faced a possible legal challenge from Andrews for withdrawing the job contract.
Shucofsky said the district will appoint an interim superintendent by Aug. 1. Finding the best possible permanent superintendent is the board’s top priority, the board president added.
During the public comments section of the meeting, a few speakers sharply criticized Shucofsky and the other board members for the fiasco.
“I’ve lost my trust in each and every one of you,” Mary Krava told board members. Her call for Shucofsky to resign was met with a smattering of applause.
The fact that no other candidates were interviewed was also criticized by some who spoke.
Shucofsky gave this explanation for not interviewing additional candidates: “We did not want to say to this community, ‘We let this guy go.’”
Shucofsky concluded the meeting by saying the board has heard the community “loud and clear.” More information on the situation will be posted on the district’s website, www.fairviewparkschools.org, later this week, the board president said.