(New information has come to light! See the update below.)
Just last September, Sylvester Jack Lawson was one of 70-some Oakland school district employees who received an Expect Success award, honored for “for exemplifying the highest commitment to the success of our students and our district.”
Today, the 52-year-old Oakland High School custodian, who’s been a district employee for 15 years, stands accused of stealing district property, and even taking a kid’s lost wallet. He was formally charged today, and appears in court tomorrow.
Then there’s Kenneth Wayne Hill, 43, a janitor at Webster Academy in East Oakland. He had a 2005 felony conviction (smuggling drugs into the Santa Rita Jail) and is now locked up without bail on a probation violation and charge of receiving stolen property.
A third custodian, Gregorio Solis (hired in 1992), was charged Wednesday.
According to the school district’s hiring rules (AR 4212, last updated in 2004) and state education law, new non-teaching hires can’t have been convicted of a violent or serious crime, a sex offense or a drug offense.
I don’t know when Hill was hired, or whether the district knew about his record. Hopefully I’ll have those details soon. However, Flint said this afternoon that he was not allowed to release the two men’s hiring dates — a troubling response, since that information is CLEARLY public record.
Hill was hired in February 2005, about six months before his conviction. District spokesman Troy Flint said his arrest record — a document routinely mailed to the employer of a convict — wasn’t on file, and that he didn’t know why.
Flint said the district does a better job of tracking such information now, through a central log. Still, he said that employees hired before 1997, when the background check requirement went into effect, are not fingerprinted.
Is it time for Oakland to change its policy?