Monday, Nov 20, 2017
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EDITORIAL

Washington Local gets trashed with Hickey election

Disgraced former Washington Local Superintendent Patrick Hickey has no business being on the school board, but that is where the district’s voters have put him. The truth is that Mr. Hickey probably had no business working as an administrator in the district in the first place. But an unsavory custom that lets teachers and administrators accused of misconduct quietly resign and move on to new jobs is to blame for that.

The Washington Local School Board’s first conundrum since Mr. Hickey’s election is figuring out how to schedule board meetings because the newly elected Mr. Hickey has been banned from district property since a 2016 incident at a Whitmer High School basketball game. That incident included giving an unwelcome embrace to then-interim Superintendent Cherie Mourlam.

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Former Washington Local Schools superintendent Patrick Hickey has been elected to the school board of the same district, despite being banned from district property.

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He also has been the subject of a court order to stay away from a female board member who accused him of harassing her and a complaint that accused Mr. Hickey of harassing a female employee and her husband after an alleged relationship between the wife and Mr. Hickey ended.

Mr. Hickey resigned as superintendent before the school board considered a resolution to fire him because of 37 charges compiled by a law firm hired to investigate his behavior. Those charges — only recently revealed to the public — included allegations that he failed to inform Washington Local that he had left Addison Community Schools in Addison, Mich., in 1990, after accusations that he had inappropriate relationships with students.

It is a sadly familiar story. It even has a name: “Pass the trash”: School districts allow employees to leave and seek new jobs with new employers who are left in the dark about their troubles because districts do not want negative attention and/​or they do not want a lengthy fight.

In 2016, a USA Today investigation found at least 100 teachers across the country who lost their licenses because of misconduct ended up working with children in new jobs. A lax patchwork of state laws requiring disclosure and tracking of disciplined teachers is also to blame.

Washington Local appears to not only be on the receiving end of this practice, but perhaps was itself willing to pass Mr. Hickey along to yet another unwitting employer.

When asked why the board would let Mr. Hickey resign with a $300,000 severance package, at least one member of the Washington Local School Board said he wanted to avoid a legal fight. The district needed to “move on” from contentious drama surrounding Mr. Hickey, the board member added.

That may well be what someone in Addison said years earlier — just before Mr. Hickey got “passed” to Washington Local.

Two things must happen: Federal authorities must establish a searchable national database and require schools to both report teachers and administrators accused of misconduct and check it before hiring anyone. And school boards must end the hushed-up exits that let troubled educators scoot from job to job undetected.

It is time to stop passing the trash.

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