Reports indicate Madison superintendent finalist had controversial history

Only one candidate remains after finalist withdraws
Reports indicate Madison superintendent finalist had controversial history

One of the two finalists for superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District has withdrawn his application for the position as news reports reveal his past.

Board member Arlene Silveira said finalist Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, Ill., decided that Madison wasn’t the right fit for him.

On Sunday, the school board had announced Milton and Jennifer Cheatham, chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, as the two finalists. Cheatham is now the sole candidate.

“Certainly, (Milton’s decision) was disappointing,” Silveira said. “It’s not the way we wanted the process to proceed.”

Multiple news reports discuss Milton’s controversial history at districts in three other states.

The (Middleton, N.Y.) Times Herald Record reported that a New York state audit revealed Milton had been overpaid by more than $44,000 and that he hired a convicted child molester during his two years at an area district.

Milton used the district’s credit card and got paid for things like video rentals, car washes and restaurant meals, the paper reported.

He also hired a former business partner, Julius Anthony, to a district consulting job where Anthony made $233,000. Anthony had been convicted of child molestation in Georgia, the paper reported.

Milton brought Anthony to his next superintendent job, in Flint, Mich., where he also made false claims on his resume and made a controversial pitch to close schools, The Flint Journal reported.

At his current district, in Springfield, Ill., Milton faced a $6.9 million budget shortfall and proposed cutting teaching jobs, The State Journal-Register newspaper reported.

Ray and Associates, the Iowa firm that led Madison’s superintendent search, brought at least some of these issues to the board’s attention, Silveira said.

“When we interviewed him the first time, a number of those issues were presented by the board,” she said. “They had been vetted, and there was information that showed they were resolved or were not what they reported to be.”

The district is paying Ray and Associates $31,000 for the search, said Rachel Strauch-Nelson, a district spokeswoman.

A phone call to Ray and Associates attempting to obtain the information provided to the board about Milton was not returned.

Silveira said a community forum with Cheatham on Thursday would go on as scheduled. The public is encouraged to ask their questions at 5:45 p.m. at the Monona Terrace, board members said in a statement.

“We are not committed to moving forward (on a hire) if it turns out she’s not fit on meeting our needs,” Silveira said. “If it turns out she’s the one, we’d be very excited.”

Silveira declined to discuss how the board would handle the search if Cheatham wasn’t chosen, instead saying, “We decided we would put that on the shelf.”

Board President James Howard did not return two phone calls seeking comment Tuesday and Wednesday. Five other board members did not return calls Tuesday.