/Ed Dept contract raises questions

Ed Dept contract raises questions

Mississippi Today learned that the state Department of Education paid a private investigator almost $16,000 for 38 days of work. This was to supplement the work of full-time state employees. This revelation follows complaints by Gov. Phil Bryant and other state officials have complained about excessive spending during Carey Wright’s tenure as Education Superintendent. Recent media reports describe inflated contracts that were awarded by the department for Wright’s friends and other employees and administrators. J. Chad Callender’s contract calls for him, among other things, to investigate allegations regarding educator misconduct, serve as expert witness in state licensure hearings and prepare and deliver subpoenas. Holley Haywood, who is the investigator for the Office of Educator Malconduct on the education department website, performs the same tasks that Callender was hired to do. “J. “J. “The MDE didn’t lose employees who did these work.” The Clarksdale case was about principals and teachers from Heidelberg Elementary School, who were accused of cheating state achievement tests. Cook did not provide any further details as to why it was necessary for a contractor to complete the work. Cook stated that Callender established the rate of pay and it was accepted by the department. She said that the Education Department didn’t seek out quotes from other contract workers to provide Callender with the services. Callender, who was a former administrator at Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, also receives more than $800. This contract covers what the department’s matching contribution to Social Security and Medicare would cover if Callender were a full-time employee. Chuck McIntosh (director of communications at the state Department of Finance and Administration) said that all state agencies pay FICA to contract workers. The licensure board, among other duties hears cases of educator misconduct and decides whether or not to grant licenses. Callender will receive a minimum of $11,400 per day, $300 per day, and $4,500 for travel expenses for work performed between May 16th and June 30th. A further $872.10 is included as the “MDE’s match contribution for Social Security & Medicaid (FICA)”. This rate of pay would be $78,000 if it was extended over a one-year period. Haywood’s May salary was $54,000. Callender answered the phone Tuesday afternoon and said that he would call the reporter to find out how he calculated his rate of compensation for the job. Callender did not return his call that afternoon. Between May 13th and June 21st, the department had 10 public hearings. These dates were included in Callender’s contract. The minutes of these meetings are not yet available on the commission’s site, so it is impossible to determine whether Callender attended those sessions. Six cases were dealt with by the licensure board, three of which were continued and one remains pending. There are 18 additional hearings planned for July. Carey Wright, state education superintendent, said that due to the current political climate and budget situation the agency has been forced to contract with workers rather than hiring the service in-house. Wright stated last week that she doesn’t recommend relying on contractors. She was responding to reporters’ questions about large contracts she received from companies linked to former Maryland coworkers. Wright said that she wanted to bring the skills in-house, but the problem is when the company got cut all the pins and money last year. This makes it difficult to bring in the people you need.