Note to superintendent search team: Heads up!

In today’s Chronicle, Nanette Asimov exposed fabrications in the resume of Stephen J. Wesley, the recently appointed superintendent of the two-school, 800-student Emery Unified School District.

Asimov noted that she had been corrected by a district administrator after she called Wesley `Mr.’, not `Dr.’ — but apparently he doesn’t even have a doctorate.

This must be a huge let-down for Emery Unified families and teachers, especially since the district — which went into state receivership because of fiscal mismanagement — seemed to be the model of recovery.

It also brought to light the limitations of some executive search firms — namely, the California School Boards Association, which recommended Wesley for the job. Asimov said that CSBA’s acting director told her that it wasn’t their job to uncover resume fraud.

Here is the Web page that describes Wesley’s purported qualifications.

This news comes just as the Oakland school board is gearing up for its own executive search. A word of advice: Before you get bedazzled by someone’s resume, pick up the phone!

image from Emery USD Web site

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    “We do not lie, cheat or steal nor tolerate among us those that do.” …

    If in fact a school employee has lied about qualifications to get a position that employee is subject to summary dismissal and could be prosecuted for stealing his/her paycheck.

    So it’s hard to imagine this could be true – and such a person would still be in his/her position a day longer.

    As far as CSBA, well, exactly what, if anything, is the contract between the district and CSBA? One who makes the offer is the “Master” of the contract.

    Silly stories such as this is why lawyers or those trained in law need to be involved in running large organizations. Not “educators” and not Social Workers.

    As far as Wesley goes – responding to such published stains on his reputation are now up to the board. Either they clear this up or the problem is the board’s doing, not CSBA or anyone else. The board is responsible for the fidelity of those who serve the district.

  • cranky teacher

    Wow, and he’d even been majorly busted for this before. Show no mercy, Emeryville. And CSBA nees to fire its director, too.

    This is hilarious:

    CSBA’s acting director Dan Walden refused to discuss the Emery search, but said that uncovering fakery wasn’t the firm’s job.

    “It’s the candidates’ responsibility to be truthful in their application,” he said.

    Asked if verifying degrees is the search firm’s responsibility, he said, “I don’t know that it is.”

    For less than $40, The Chronicle checked four of Wesley’s claimed degrees in just a few days.

    I always did hate it when people use titles. I’m a little-d democrat that way. It’s unAmerican!

  • Sharon

    This story reminds me of another infamous con-man, Isaac Haqq, the ex-principal of UPrep. Does anyone know where he ended up?

  • Katy Murphy

    I don’t know what Isaac Haqq is up to these days, but believe it or not, he does have a Wikipedia entry (which says he lives in Oakland)…


  • Nextset

    So I see in the Trib that Wesley is out. The only thing left is punishment of whoever negligently hired him. If that was the board – they should publicly note their failure and promise the public that it will never be repeated.

    Negligent Hiring is a serious failure of performance by the hiriring authority and one that brings into question their competence to remain in their positions.

    As far as Wesley goes, if the story is as bad as it sounds – a criminal referral to the local DA is indicated for theft of public funds. Teachers have been criminally prosecuted for lying their way into a school district teaching job and this is no different. The district has a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers to make the referral if it now appears that an employee falsified the basic qualifications to take a district job.

    Lying to fraudulently take a public position does happen – it usually is detected before it gets to this point.

  • Katy Murphy

    Yes – I meant to post an update on Wesley. Here’s the story about his apology:


  • Catherine

    My belief from many of the Emery Unified School District employees is that the search is limited by race. That is to no way imply that a person of color cannot be qualified.

    What the school district is looking at first and foremost is race, then other qualifications. That does not work.

    Qualifications first, then everything else.

  • Nextset

    Catherine: I might have known – an affirmative action hire?

    One of the things I have see on some of the AA games is the hiring of the worst candidate they can find who can be easily fired when the time is right… You can find fully qualified black and brown hires sometimes – but if the hiring authority is up to no good they will hire somebody fireable who is the desired race then dump them later.

    Firing the unwanted black or brown employee is especially useful when the friend/relative you really want becomes available later. Again, it’s important to not hire an actually qualified minority because they might not be so easy to get rid of when the time comes.

    The hilarious part is when you do pull the plug on the AA easy-to-fire employee – you bemoan that good colored help is hard to find. While you shred the resumes of the (minority) candidates that would have actually done well.

    It’s tough to be black sometimes!

  • Nextset

    I have seen – typo…

    Hope I’m not too cynical for the readership.. But this is a game I’m familiar with.

  • Nextset

    If I were really cynical I might suspect that the hiring authority knew all along that there was a problem with the credentials of this candidate and hired him figuring that they had their ticket out whenever they wanted to use it later. There is a saying – there are no accidents. Are we to believe that a simple thing like degree verification wasn’t really done?

    And if they knew the truth – or were on notice of it – there would be no fraud, and they’d better not let the DA get involved in this or the resulting legal proceedings would prove up the truth.

    So who might be the real victims here I suppose?

  • Jon Simon

    The CSBA are a bunch of wolves preying on school district dollars.

  • John

    From the (link) update on the Wesley story:

    ‘The Emery District board hired Wesley in 2007 in part based on the false claims that he had a Ph.D. from Columbia University and a master’s from the University of Chicago, and that he attended the Principals’ Center at Harvard University.’

    NOTEABLE QUOTES from an Emeryville school board member, parent, and city councilperson in the aftermath of Wesley getting caught and then taking personal responsibility for misrepresentations about his qualifications to be Superintendent:

    “Wesley admitted his mistake and said he still wants to be part of this community.” – Emeryville School board vice president.

    “Wesley told the crowd at the meeting that he was on his way to Arizona when he decided to head back.”

    “That took a lot of guts. I have more admiration for the man than I ever had before.”

    “He was a great administrator.”

    “Wesley improved the culture and morale of the two-school district of nearly 800 students. “But he got caught up in something that I still don’t fully understand.”

    “I appreciate his honesty and that he took responsibility for his actions. Member of the Emery
    I appreciate the fact that he moved the district forward, and his heart was in the right place.”
    – Member of the Emery District Parent Advisory Council.

    “This has been a difficult meeting. The way we have gotten through this is indicative of the city’s sense of community.” – Emeryville City Councilmember

    WHAT AN INSPIRING UPDATE! Perhaps they’ll set up an Emery High School job search and placement counseling office based on Wesley’s good example? Students could be schooled in how to falsify their resumes and convincingly misrepresent themselves to prospective employers, then if caught taught to take full responsibility for their misdeeds with an expectation of being “more admired” by members of their employing community “than ever before.”

    Before having a stomach convulsion and reaching for a bottle of the pink stuff I should remember that George Washington was forgiven by his father when he admitted to “cutting down the cherry tree.” However, I don’t rightly recall if George Washington, like Superintendent Wesley, got busted before having “the guts” to take responsibility for his misbehavior. Does anyone recall?

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  • IP Freely

    Stephen Wesley did the exact same thing in Rockford, IL in the mid 90’s. He was forced out of the Rockford Public Schools, where he was Associate Superintendent, after is was found by the Rockford Register Star newspaper, that Wesley had falsified his master’s and doctoral degree. Some people never learn!

  • Some Guy

    And since he was never fired and allowed to resign (all kinds of political BS going on there), there is no black mark on his official record for his shenannigans in Emeryville, and he will probably pop up in some other state with the same schtick.
    I just couldn’t understand it because at Emery Unified School District they put community as their top priority and then hire a super who lives in Arizona? They should have known something fishy was going on.
    1 Year on and the district is in much better shape with a REAL superintendent. But how long until politics forces him out and a new Wesley is hired?