Recent evaluation of Oldham County superintendent reveals ethics - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Recent evaluation of Oldham County superintendent reveals ethics and integrity concerns, prompts suspension

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A day after Oldham County superintendent Will Wells was suspended and an investigation was launched by the school board, WDRB News has obtained a copy of his recent evaluation indicating his personal life was interfering with his performance.

The Oldham County Board of Education met Monday to complete Wells' annual evaluation and it was during that meeting a number of performance concerns were raised, which prompted Thursday's special meeting

"It was felt that there have been some concerns regarding some decisions that our superintendent has made...in terms of an interpersonal relationship," Joyce Fletcher. chairwoman of the Oldham County told WDRB News in an interview Friday.

Wells is in the final year of his contract with Oldham County and makes $158,000 annually. He did not return several calls for comment on Friday.

At Monday's meeting, Fletcher acknowledged the efforts of Wells' administrative and instructional teams, but stated that in the board's indicator areas concerning "professionalism, ethics, honesty, and integrity, Dr. Wells has fallen short of our expectations and that the board will have further conversations with the superintendent to determine next steps regarding his performance evaluation."

Fletcher said that Rick McHargue, a former chief operations officer for Oldham County Schools, will serve as interim superintendent. She hopes he will start Monday. 

On Thursday, the board hired Mark Fenzel with Middleton Reutlinger to launch an investigation into Wells' management of district personnel, relationships with staff members and impact on staff morale, as well as school board and community confidence in his ability to perform his job.

"We have fabulous staff in the this district from the central office to classroom teachers," Fletcher said. "We certainly believe they will conduct business as usual in Oldham County during the investigation."

Fletcher added that the Oldham County district is "moving forward just like it always has and this board of education is fully focused on making decisions that are best for the students in our community."

Wells' 8-page evaluation contains several leadership standards and the following comments were made by board members:

Cultural Leadership

  • "Board member has been on the receiving end of multiple, frequent rumor sharing, regarding a personal relationship the superintended had with a district employee that may have influenced his marital status. Staff members have stated that this situation has negatively impacted morale in their buildings."
  • "According to some feedback I've received from different staff members, the superintendent has allowed his personal life and some staffing changes to significantly lower morale among the staff."
Influential Leadership
  • "Ethics and integrity have suffered as a result of the superintendent's personal choices."
  • "The superintendents's personal issues have greatly impacted his ability to maintain a high standard of ethics and integrity."
  • "The ongoing turmoil by the superintend's involvement with another board employee ... have seriously eroded his ability to inspire confidence and leadership. I'm tired of hearing about his issues and believe it is negatively impacting the district. I believe we have run our course with this individual and should seek his resignation as soon as possible. This situation overshadows any possible benefits that he may bring in the next year and detracts from the district's focus and goals."
  • "Dr. Wells has done a wonderful job of taking our district forward academically; however, there is much improvement needed to regain trust in areas of ethics, honesty and integrity. Perception is reality, and the issues are unfortunately not going away. It is disappointing because these issues aside, he has been an excellent superintendent."
Wells was named superintendent in 2012, after previously being an assistant superintendent in Oldham County. He has worked in the district since 1996 and previously in Jefferson County Public Schools as a math and science teacher and counselor.

Oldham County is one of the highest performing districts in the state. A posting on the district's website notes the meeting was called to address a personnel matter that may involve the suspension or termination of an employee.

Dr. Wells sent a statement Friday night, it is reprinted in full below:

I remain committed to the students of Oldham County.

Beyond that, let me say I am disappointed at the recent action of the Oldham County Board of Education to suspend me, given the fact they have no grounds to do so. I have followed our district's policies to the "t."

I am proud to say that just four days ago, on Monday the 22nd, the Board gave me an overwhelmingly favorable rating, affirming that I am meeting the expectations set. The Kentucky Department of Education recently conducted a survey throughout the district, as they do in all districts every two years (the TELL working conditions survey) and those results again indicate overwhelmingly favorable responses from staff. Separate from that, the board surveyed administrators throughout the district about my performance. The results of this survey were included in my evaluation, which, again was overwhelmingly favorable.

Under my leadership as superintendent, we have initiated several successful programs and developed fruitful partnerships with individuals and institutions throughout our region. These programs and partnerships are having significant positive impacts on student learning and are expanding opportunities for students and professional learning opportunities for teachers and administrators. All of this, as well as all measures of student learning, indicate that the district is functioning well under my leadership.

Again, I remain committed to the students of Oldham County, which I have done for the past 19 years as a leader in our district. I look forward to continuing to serve with the talented and dedicated men and women who work in our schools in the upcoming 2015-16 school year and gettting our focus back on students.

Previous: Oldham County Schools superintendent Will Wells suspended

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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