The Dryades YMCA board — which runs James M. Singleton Charter School — appointed an interim CEO at its meeting Friday afternoon, one week after its former CEO and CFO resigned in the midst of an investigation into how the school has conducted employee background checks.
Board member Sam Odom will replace Doug Evens, serving as interim CEO while board searches for another interim CEO and plans a search for a permanent replacement.
Evans, who also previously served on the board, was present at the meeting but left before it ended. The organization announced Evans’ and CFO Catrina Reed’s resignations this week following a report from the NOLA Public Schools district that raised serious concerns about criminal background checks at the school, which are required for all school employees under state law.
A district warning letter, released earlier this month, found that Singleton employed at least one person who should not have been eligible to work at the school due to a past conviction. Under Louisiana law, anyone who is convicted of or pleads guilty or no contest to one of a list of crimes — including violent crimes, sex crimes and some drug offenses — can’t work at a school. The district also found evidence that a number of background checks in Singleton’s files were not authentic. The New Orleans Police Department and the Louisiana State Police are now investigating the matter.
The NOLA Public Schools district first issued a warning to Singleton in December for failing to complete background checks on all employees. The school then reported that it had completed the background checks, which led district Chief School Accountability Officer Kevin George to return to campus to verify them. That’s when he found the additional problems detailed in the most recent warning letter.
George noted that three background checks had “an incorrect State Police signature” and “five documents incorrectly indicate that the applicant did not have a rap sheet and one document had an audit code assigned to another individual by the State Police.”
“Finally, the State Police could not find records of background checks being completed on the documented dates,” for several employees, he wrote in a warning letter.
George was present at Friday’s meeting but was not involved in any board discussion. In fact, the background check issue was not addressed at the meeting.
Board chair Barbara Lacen-Keller said earlier this week that all information related to the incident has been turned over to the New Orleans Police Department. NOPD spokesman Gary Scheets said the department was turning over material to the Louisiana State Police.
State Police spokesman Nick Manale, on Thursday, said the “LSP is aware of the incident and will coordinate with the New Orleans Police Department to provide assistance as needed in the investigation.”
After a few reports on the YMCA programs, the board held an executive session to discuss the resignations and process of hiring a new CFO. The Lens questioned the need for an executive session to discuss the hiring of a CFO, as it didn’t appear to fall under the exceptions in state law that allows a public board to close its doors to the public. Singleton’s lawyer said the board needed to meet privately because she would be providing confidential legal advice. The board has not identified a candidate to replace the CFO and did not vote on the matter.
The private session lasted about an hour and afterwards, an item nearly identical to Joseph’s suggested item to form a transition team was added to the agenda and approved. Joseph will chair that committee, which is charged with finding an interim CEO and developing a search process for a permanent CEO.
The board unanimously voted to appoint Odom as interim CEO to manage day-to-day operations and keep board members informed.