School & District Management

Acting Texas Chief Off to Rocky Start

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 17, 2007 1 min read
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About the same time that Shirley Neeley, the head of the Texas Education Agency, handed over the reins to then-Chief Deputy Commissioner Robert Scott this summer, he was faced with a storm of questions regarding his handling of contracts and grants, prompted by a report from the agency’s inspector general that was leaked to the news media.

Some contracts were not competitively bid and “were awarded to individuals with ties to TEA senior staff,” including Mr. Scott, says the report by TEA Inspector General, Michael J. Donley, which has been available to the public by request since July 6.

But nothing in the report has persuaded Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, to withdraw his support for Mr. Scott, who is serving as acting commissioner. Krista Moody, a spokeswoman for the governor, said last week that Mr. Perry is considering him, along with others, as a candidate to be the permanent state schools chief.

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See other stories on education issues in Texas. See data on Texas’ public school system.

The controversy is just the latest political dust-up involving the TEA. Ms. Neeley, for example, left the commissioner’s post, which she had held for 3½ years, on July 1 after losing the governor’s support.

The report as released to the public contains two distinct views: the allegations in the original report from the inspector general, and an italicized response to those allegations written by “management,” according to Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency. She said last week that the TEA management response contains Mr. Scott’s perspective.

The response states, for example, that the Texas Education Agency “is not required to follow the competitive bid practices” for projects such as those administered by education service centers, which were cited in the inspector general’s report.

In addition, the agency management says that the inspectors made a mistake in alleging that Mr. Scott had negotiated a particular contract with a friend of his. According to the response, inspectors confused Mr. Scott with someone else who has a similar name and who worked for an education service center that administered the contract.

So far, the controversy has not hurt Mr. Scott’s standing with Gov. Perry.

“The governor has full confidence in Robert Scott as an honest and strong public steward,” said Ms. Moody, the governor’s spokeswoman.

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A version of this article appeared in the July 18, 2007 edition of Education Week

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