- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

D.C. school board members have sought legal advice on a pending multimillion-dollar contract with an educational publishing firm that recently employed incoming Superintendent Clifford B. Janey.

Board members learned Monday evening that Mr. Janey’s name appeared on a cover sheet of a “last, best and final offer” that Scholastic Inc. sent to D.C. public schools for a contract to supply classroom library materials.

The document was dated July 26. Mr. Janey, a vice president at the New York-based company at the time, was interviewing with school system officials to replace former D.C. Schools Superintendent Paul L. Vance.

The situation has prompted the executive director of the D.C. Board of Education, Russell A. Smith, to recommend that board members not approve a $2.2 million contract with Scholastic Inc.

“It seemed to me that … it would pose questions,” Mr. Smith said at a board meeting Monday night.

The board could vote on the $2.25 million Scholastic Inc. contract as early as tonight. At the same meeting, board members also are set to approve a three-year contract for Mr. Janey that would pay him more than $200,000 annually.

School system administrators and attorneys say they see neither a conflict of interest nor the appearance of a conflict of interest in approving the Scholastic contract.

Interim Schools Superintendent Robert C. Rice said Mr. Janey, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, was not involved in contract negotiations after he became a candidate for the superintendent’s job.

Mr. Rice, however, criticized the timing of contracting officials in seeking approval of the Scholastic contract at the same time Mr. Janey’s contract was under consideration.

“This is one of these issues that highlight our inability to move things in a proper fashion,” Mr. Rice said.

Mr. Rice said he told school contracting officials to move the Scholastic contract forward last month after he learned that the school board had selected Mr. Janey.

“I was very much concerned when [the school board] selected Dr. Janey, knowing that this issue was on the table,” said Judy Corman, a spokeswoman for Scholastic Inc. She said Mr. Janey discontinued his work on the contract after he became “a serious candidate” for the D.C. superintendent’s position.

“He took his name out of any dealings,” Miss Corman said. “He ceased any contact with the people who took on the contract.”

Miss Corman said an oversight led to Mr. Janey’s name appearing on Scholastic’s final contract while he was interviewing for the superintendent’s post.

“That [offer] may have already been written,” she said. “It confounds us, it really does.”

Miss Corman said Mr. Janey will not receive any compensation if D.C. school board members approve the Scholastic contract.

D.C. schools attorney Veleter Mazyck said school contracting officials recommended approving the Scholastic contract because the company’s bid came in $1.2 million less than a competitor’s.

She told board members that there did not appear to be a conflict of interest issue in approving the Scholastic contract.

Mr. Janey’s tenure with Scholastic Inc. was short. He took the job as vice president of the company in 2003 after seven years as superintendent in Rochester, N.Y.

Mr. Janey was credited with raising test scores and increasing parental involvement in the 55,000-student district, but his handing of school finances led the Rochester school board to buy out his contract in 2002.

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