The other armpit… Troy Edumacation

Sheesh.  It’s just been over a month, and I already have the counterpoint example to my recent snide Schenectady, NY vs. Troy, NY comment:

…one armpit telling the other armpit, ‘you stink.’

The comment comes from a blog post titled “Schenectady Edumacation.” In that post I lambasted the Schenectady School District over recent disturbing news coming from the district.  You might even conclude that Troy is looking pretty good in comparison.  Nope.

Thanks to Al Roney’s talk radio show on Talk 1300, I heard about a minor *ahem* mistake made by the Troy School District.  Without Al’s discussion, I probably would have overlooked it.  To my knowledge, it hasn’t been widely reported, at least not yet.

Here’s the gist of the story:  the Troy school district hired Freddie Smith to be their interim director of pupil personnel services.  Turns out that Smith wasn’t quite all he claimed to be.  An August 3rd article by Noreen O’Donnell for The Journal News said that Smith had his doctorate revoked by the University of Virginia.  O’Donnell also provided details about an investigation of Smith’s dissertation that revealed significant plagiarism. Follow that with an August 9th article by Scott Waldman in the Times Union. It’s no surprise to me, as reported in the TU article, that the Troy School District fired Smith.

But that’s no biggie right?  The school district and superintendent Fadhilika Atiba-Weza just had the wool pulled over their eyes, right?  Happens all the time.  Many people claim to have qualifications that later turn out to be false.

Not so fast.  Here’s the part that makes me want to bang my head on my desk, or at least would if I was a Troy taxpayer.  Waldman wrote the following:

Superintendent Fadhilika Atiba-Weza said the district was aware that Smith had been accused of plagiarizing part of his dissertation when he was hired. He said Smith, who has an extensive background as a schools administrator, interviewed very well for the job and seemed to be a good fit.

When Troy school officials discovered the allegations against Smith, he claimed to have documentation from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education that he had been cleared, Atiba-Weza said.

Ok, still not too bad.  If I’m in the superintendent’s shoes, the alarm bells would be ringing, but maybe not too loudly.  I would ask for documentation and at least do some follow-up with Smith’s alma mater.  Not quite what happened.  Here’s where you need to hold onto your head with both hands to keep it from spinning.  Waldman continued:

“He [Smith] said ‘I have a letter here’ and read it,” Atiba-Weza said. “I didn’t think anything of it.”

Atiba-Weza said Smith only read from the letter over the phone and that he never submitted it. He said Smith had earned his degree in 2003 and that district officials figured it would have been withdrawn if there was a problem.

Pardon me?  That’s the extent of interviewing that goes on in Troy?  Wow! I had a more thorough interview process and background check a few years back when I got a job as a substitute teacher in Elmira, NY.  Smith’s job paid just a wee bit more than substitute teaching, apparently $400 a day.  According to my calculations, that’s the equivalent of a $104,000 salary.  Based on what I’ve read, I am guessing that Smith was paid on a per-diem basis, not salaried.  Either way, I’d qualify it as a high-paying job.

And this is in a school district with major budget problems.  Like good ol’ Schenectady, Troy is facing a contingency budget.  According to a report by YNN, Troy didn’t even bother to hold a second vote on the budget, opting instead to go straight to a contingency budget.  I’m thinking there were possibilties for more budget cuts… maybe in some of them six-figure jobs in the district.

If I was a Troy taxpayer, I’d be furious.

Just a further reminder to keep a close eye on your school district folks! Even if you don’t have kids in the district, you sure do have dollars there.

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