Wouldn't we all like to earn $235,000 a year as a consultant for schools?
The Education Leaders Council (ELC), a pro-Bush administration group
representing reform-minded chief state school officers, is in turmoil
over findings of mismanagement and irregularities in documenting time
spent on federal grant projects.
The group's auditors questioned the propriety of Lisa Graham
working under a consultant contract as ELC's $235,000-a-year chief
executive officer, sitting on the corporation's board and helping set
The auditors, Draper & McGinley of Frederick, said the arrangement
conflicted with federal regulations. Billie Orr, who just resigned as
ELC's $200,000-a-year president, also had worked under a similar
automatically renewable contract arrangement.
Mrs. Keegan said she arranged the consultant contracts for herself and
Ms. Orr "for tax purposes" through their respective consulting firms in
Arizona when she resigned as Arizona's state superintendent of public
She arranged for the ELC board to hire John Schilling, her aide at
the Arizona department, as ELC's $150,000-a-year chief of staff. Mr.
Schilling, in turn, then signed the consultant contracts for Mrs.
and Ms. Orr on behalf of ELC.
The auditors also said the organization improperly had documented time
spent by Mrs. Keegan, Ms. Orr and other ELC staff as a basis for
charging two federal projects for a major portion of their salaries.
The projects funded through the U.S. Department of Education are a $10
million computerized school-instructional program called Following the
Leaders and the council's federal subcontract to help implement a $5
million-a-year alternative teacher-licensing program, the American
for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE).
ELC charged $732,022, or 61 percent of its total wages, to the two
federal projects in 2003. Leaders of the centerpiece ABCTE project and
National Council on Teacher Quality, its co-founder with ELC, last
severed ties with the state school officers group.
"The issue is larger than ELC. If word gets out about any of this,
my fear is that it will have several labels -- 'scandal' and
incompetence' come to mind -- and will make ELC look like every other
status quo incarnation of the existing [education stablishment]
board member Cheri Pierson Yecke, Minnesota's state education
commissioner, wrote to other directors after they reviewed the audit
report at their annual conference in Nashville last September.
The Washington Times recently obtained internal board documents
about turmoil still under way within ELC since that meeting. William
J. Hume, a founding benefactor of ELC whose family helped
propel Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes to the presidency, quit the
council's board of directors after Mrs. Keegan and a majority of other
directors rebuffed his request for a more detailed independent review
the group's finances and grant operations.
Mr. Hume, who contributed $700,000 to "seed" ELC's expansion when Mrs.
Keegan joined the group in June 2001, declined to comment on his
William J. Moloney, Colorado education commissioner, also stepped down
as board chairman after clashing with Mrs. Keegan over his proposals to
"rescue" the council from "procedural disarray."
Mr. Moloney's main complaint was that Mrs. Keegan and Ms. Orr, who
worked for her at the state Department of Education, remained in
the past several years for personal and family reasons and ran the
group's Washington office from there most of the time.
"At the heart of it, you have someone who is charismatic, a
wonderful public face, but a bad manager," Mr. Moloney said of Mrs.
Keegan. "Her inability to manage was compounded by the fact that she
never left Arizona."
Mrs. Keegan defended her decision for the three top officials to
remain in Arizona. "We are in 23 different states, I mean my job is
the road, so that's a given," she said.
"The organization has been extremely honest and responsible in the way
we have managed the things that we have been charged to do. But that
does not mean it's been wildly efficient at all times. It doesn't mean
that I've done a good job of managing staff, particularly after Billie
left. Billie is a manager, and that's why she was here."
Jim Horne, the new chairman and a certified public accountant, said ELC
has taken steps to correct management deficiencies.
"Could it just be that Jim Horne is also Commisioner of Education in
Florida ? When are these folks going to learn that incestuous
relationships beget monstrous results ?"
George Archibald / final paragraph by Quan
MISMANAGEMENT CHARGES ROCK SCHOOL-REFORM GROUP
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