The Fayette County Board of Education will meet in a special session at 8 a.m. Sunday to discuss the future of its contract with superintendent search firm Proact Search Inc.
"We have recently become aware of very disturbing allegations involving the CEO of Proact Search," Fayette County school board chairman John Price said in a news release Friday. "The school board needs time to review these allegations and determine our next steps in the search process. We must ensure that the individuals representing us in the superintendent search reflect the core values of our district and community."
The board is working to find a replacement for Tom Shelton, who resigned effective December 2014.
Price, who was out of state Friday, said in a telephone interview that board members were concerned about allegations in a newspaper article.
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A Chicago Sun-Times article posted online Thursday reported allegations about Proact Search CEO Gary Solomon dating to 1999. The newspaper obtained records under the Freedom of Information Act from Niles Township High School District 219. The records contained allegations against Solomon while he was an administrator and social studies teacher there. The newspaper reported allegations that Solomon made racial slurs in an e-mail.
"Niles Township recently released a disciplinary hearing transcript that includes a discussion of emails from the late 1990s that I allegedly authored, one or more of which, admittedly included racial slurs," Solomon wrote in a statement to the Herald-Leader on Friday.
"Although these were fleeting statements in the context of a private conversation from many years ago, I make no excuse for such abhorrent, racially, and ethnically insensitive comments, regardless of my intent. Those closest to me, my life's work, and my actions know that such language is not a true reflection of my feelings, beliefs, or thoughts. I apologize for such harmful and insulting language, which I deeply regret."
Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for PROACT, said in a statement that "we remain committed to working with Fayette County on their journey to achieving educational excellence in their schools, and finding their next superintendent."
The Sun-Times also reported other allegations.
Culloton said Niles Township High School released a transcript of a disciplinary hearing that took place in 1999 when Solomon was a young high school dean and teacher. He was accused of sending inappropriate email to a female student, the Sun-Times reported.
"The hearing lasted numerous days over numerous months and was never completed," Culloton said.
"While he vigorously defended himself against the charges and before Mr. Solomon could present his defense, Niles Township agreed to confidentially settle the parties' employment matter, which included Niles Township paying Mr. Solomon $50,000. No law enforcement authority of any kind, including the police and (social services), then or since, ever filed charges or rendered any adverse finding against Mr. Solomon for the alleged occurrences," Culloton said.
The Sun-Times said district trustees approved paying $50,000 to Solomon and the law firm that represented him to settle the dispute with the district in February 2000. Under the terms of the deal, Solomon resigned, the newspaper said.
The newspaper previously reported that Solomon's principal-training company is under federal criminal scrutiny for a deal with Chicago Public Schools.
In Fayette County, Price said that before hiring PROACT Search, the district searched news coverage and legal cases involving Proact Search back to 1999 and didn't find any of the problems that have since come to light.
One of the reasons the school board selected Proact Search was its record of success in recruiting diverse candidate pools for other school districts, Price said.