Friday, August 15, 1997
Eldorado dean's past scrutinized
A Clark County school official
faces felony charges in Chicago after he was fired in a spending
By Steve Friess
A Las Vegas high school dean, hired last year,
was fired from the Chicago Public Schools in 1995 amid allegations
he pocketed school money and spent some of it on a trip to a
Wisconsin dog track.
Eddie L. Washington, dean of Eldorado High School,
faces a dozen felony charges in Illinois, including four counts
of official misconduct, two counts of theft under $100,000 and
six counts of forgery. A hearing in that case is scheduled for
Aug. 28 in Cook County District Court.
Court documents from Chicago explaining the
reasoning behind each charge could not be obtained Thursday.
Washington, reached by phone in his Eldorado
office Thursday, denied he is the same man charged in Chicago.
"I have no idea what you're speaking of," he said before hanging
As a dean, Washington is one of two administrators
at the school responsible for handling student disciplinary
His past jobs and their dates, listed on a sheet
given to the Clark County School Board when it voted to hire
him, are the same as details published in Chicago newspaper
accounts of the scandal. The names of past schools and positions
Washington, 46, was dismissed in December 1995
along with more than 30 other officials in a housecleaning that
Chicago schools Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas called "the
biggest crackdown in the history of the system."
An audit of the South Side high school where
Washington was principal for the 1993-94 year found a long list
of questionable expenditures, Chicago schools chief investigator
Maribeth Vander Weele said Thursday.
Among them were student funds spent on a $270
leather jacket, a $348 cellular phone bill, and a $5,617 staff
appreciation lunch and gifts to staff, Vander Weele said. The
audit alleged that Class of 1994 funds were used for a trip
for 25 people to a dog track in Kenosha, Wis.; that girls' basketball
money paid off bar tabs; and that undisclosed sums were deposited
into private checking accounts, she said.
Auditors also found $7,972 in unexplained account
shortfalls and were frustrated by missing receipts for thousands
of dollars in concession sales, Vander Weele said.
"We would not want any school district to hire
an individual like Dr. Washington without the necessary information,"
Vander Weele said. "Obviously we wish the Las Vegas school district
had had this information when hiring Dr. Washington."
Clark County officials said the standard FBI
background check on the dean came up clean when he was hired
in May 1996. He started work in Las Vegas at Cannon Middle School
in August, and he was indicted on Sept. 26 in Chicago.
The Clark County School District suspended Washington
in October in connection with dishonesty on an application.
But the dean was reinstated in December and assigned to Eldorado
after the district's lawyers warned he would be owed back pay
plus interest if he won his arbitration case, sources said.
An arbitrator ruled this spring that Washington
had not lied and could not be fired on those grounds, according
to district sources and the June issue of the administrators
union's newsletter. District general counsel William Hoffman
declined comment because the arbitration process is a confidential
personnel matter, he said.
"The bottom line is, there is absolutely nothing
pending in the Clark County School District on (Washington)
at this time," said Allin Chandler, executive director of the
Clark County Association of School Administrators. "There are
unresolved issues regarding his employment in Chicago, and they
may eventually have some bearing on his employment here."
If Washington were convicted of a felony, the
district would have the legal right to dismiss him immediately
by state law.
Superintendent Brian Cram declined comment on
Washington's case, speaking in generalities about district hiring
"It is not our practice to hire employees who
have serious disciplinary infractions in other districts," Cram
said. "We would not employ anyone whose fingerprint checks showed
criminal violations. And, in general, our practice with all
employees is if we get unsatisfactory references, we don't hire
them. We proceed on the assumption that districts will indicate
to us major infractions and violations of employees who serve
Vander Weele said she could not explain why
Clark County schools did not find out Washington's background.
"Had anyone contacted my office, I certainly
would have provided this information to any potential employer,"
Vander Weele said. "It is public information. We regret that
whomever they contacted did not provide the appropriate information."
This is the second job Washington has held outside
the Chicago school system since the investigation into his conduct
began. By the time Vallas fired him in 1995, he already had
landed a post as assistant professor of education at Chicago
State University. Washington left his Chicago State job for
Las Vegas eight months later.
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