The Fayette County Public Schools' director of middle schools has resigned, after he provided two people with an advance list of questions and other material a district committee used to screen applicants for jobs as principals, school district records show.
Middle Schools Director Michael Ernst submitted his resignation on June 1, according to the documents.
Crawford Middle School associate principal Michael Bayless, one of the people who received the questions, was demoted to classroom teacher and suspended 10 days without pay, according to district records.
Bayless was interviewed by the screening committee in April and got a high score, using answers and other information supplied by Ernst, the records said.
The other person who improperly received screening materials is not employed by the Fayette schools and never went through an interview for principal, Superintendent Stu Silberman said Wednesday.
Ernst declined to comment Wednesday. Bayless said only that he had acknowledged his actions and accepted the consequences.
Ernst was one of several administrators on the screening committee, which this spring interviewed candidates seeking jobs as principals for next year. The panel used prepared questions and certain "look fors," or key points, that candidates' responses should include, Silberman said.
"A person would have a distinct advantage in knowing what the questions and answers were ahead of time," he said.
After screening, candidates are considered by site-based councils, which ultimately pick principals for their schools.
Ernst is a defendant, along with Silberman, in a pending civil lawsuit against the Fayette schools involving the appointment of an associate principal at Jessie Clark Middle School in 2007-2008.
Rumors about Ernst's status began circulating last month because he was absent from work. Ernst was on medical leave at that time, the school system said.
According to letters from Silberman — which the Herald-Leader obtained under an Open Records request — Silberman started an internal investigation about May 1, after learning of an allegation that "Mr. Ernst had supplied an unfair advantage" to a candidate being screened for principal.
In a letter to Phillip Rogers, executive director of the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board, Silberman said he suspended Ernst with pay after learning of the allegation.
The schools switched Ernst to sick leave status about May 13, Silberman wrote, after Ernst's attorney indicated Ernst was too ill to attend a meeting about the pending investigation. Ernst also cited illness in canceling a second meeting.
According to Silberman's letters, the schools' investigation showed that Ernst had the questions and "look fors" that the principal screening committee used and "supplied them to two individuals who had applied for these positions."
One of the individuals who got the materials — Bayless — later was interviewed by the principal screening panel and "answered every question correctly," Silberman wrote.
According to Silberman's letter to the state professional standards board, Ernst tendered his resignation June 1 after the school's attorney outlined the evidence against him.
In a separate letter to the state standards board, Silberman identified Bayless as the district employee who received the screening committee materials.
Silberman said in the letter that Bayless admitted to all the allegations in a meeting on May 11 and accepted the demotion to classroom teacher and a 10-day suspension without pay. Bayless also agreed not to apply for any administrative position in the Fayette schools at any time in the future, Silberman's letter states.
According to Silberman, the school system has not hired a replacement for Ernst. Jock Gum, a former principal, is filling in as middle schools director for now, he said.