April 4, 1997
Huston to leave tech job
Questions arise about the
accuracy of a resume of the man who directs the school district's
By Steve Friess
The school district's top technology coordinator
pulled himself out of the running to retain his job after questions
were raised about the accuracy of his resume.
William Huston, 54, oversees the purchase, installation
and networking of $30 million in computer equipment intended
for classroom use.
He has worked as an outside consultant since
April 1996, but Superintendent Brian Cram asked the Clark County
School Board in March to appoint him to a district managerial
post for $103,000 a year.
The board opted instead to open the position
to all applicants, though trustees at the time expected Huston
to be the leading candidate.
Huston, who gave 30 days' notice Wednesday that
he is returning to Florida, said he withdrew his name following
a Feb. 26 heart attack and anger over being in the "public fishbowl."
Yet a copy of Huston's resume credits him as
having attended two universities, University of Nebraska and
Wayne State University in Michigan.
Spokesmen for both schools said checks of Huston's
name and Social Security number found no record he registered
for any classes.
Huston released a statement Thursday to the
Review-Journal saying he chose "not to be a part" of this story,
but in an interview Wednesday he said he didn't appear in the
universities' records because he had changed his name and did
not have a Social Security number at that time.
Dates of attendance and degrees earned don't
appear on his resume, which refers only to major emphases in
computer management and computer sciences. Records clerks at
both universities were uncertain whether such studies were offered
in concentrations in the 1960s, when Huston would have attended.
The resume also indicates Huston worked "in
various capacities" with four Florida school districts between
1985 and 1994. The resume is sketchy as to what Huston's duties
were, but under Duval County Schools in Jacksonville, Fla.,
it states "Novell Networks."
Cary Peterson, Duval Schools general director
of management information services, said he had never heard
"I'm the MIS director here, and I know exactly
what we've done," Peterson said. "He never set up a Novell Network
and, if he did, it was on a very limited basis for one department.
We set up our networks here; we don't usually go outside."
Linda Crowson, the computer help desk coordinator
for the Pinellas County School District in the St. Petersburg,
Fla., area, also questioned Huston's claim he worked with that
district. Crowson, who said she has been heavily involved with
her district's technology program for 20 years, said, "I've
never heard of anybody like that."
Perhaps not, said computer consultant George
Arnau in Jacksonville, but that may be because in Florida some
school projects are handled by the county governments, not school
officials. Arnau was a project manager with the ARCO Group Inc.,
the computer consultant and sales company where Huston was vice
president until March 1996.
"Bill Huston is a very technically competent
individual, and I have no doubt he could fill a role" with the
Clark County School District, said Arnau, who no longer works
for the ARCO Group. "He's been in industry for a very long time.
He's one of the best I've ever seen, with the exception of his
Huston's brother is V. Randall Huston, a longtime
business associate of Huston's and a high-ranking officer with
Utility Partners Inc.
Cram hired Utility Partners in 1995 to oversee
the school district's technology plan, and the company sent
consultant David Gillespy. Gillespy was replaced by William
Huston in April 1996 after he left his position for health reasons.
Gillespy said in a December interview he felt
a lot of pressure from administrators to rush technology into
the classrooms to please parents asked to vote on the $643 million
school bond issue that passed in November.
Huston said he is frustrated by the public scrutiny
he has experienced, saying he should be judged by his record
in Clark County. On his watch, he said, 6,826 computers, 103
networks and 115 file servers were installed into classrooms.
He also claimed to have saved $1 million through his efforts
to buy equipment and software in bulk and to standardize computer
"It doesn't matter who or what Bill Huston is,"
he said. "I am not in the public world."
Trustee Lois Tarkanian said the possibility
that Huston's background wasn't checked out by district staff
is a public issue. Tarkanian was concerned in December when
she discovered Utility Partners had been paid more than $140,000
for consultant services without the board formally voting to
choose the firm. She voted against retaining Huston in December
when Cram asked that he be kept on for a two-month contract.
Cram defended the initial hiring by insisting
the board in 1995 gave him permission to "do whatever it takes"
to help the district catch up on the technology front. The superintendent
also defended his ongoing support for Huston amid questions
about his background.
"In the main, my analysis of him was that his
work had been good, his work was performed in a timely fashion
and we believed he'd saved us some money," Cram said. "My judgment
is based on what he'd done for us. He wasn't an unknown to us.
We had some experience with him. That's always60 to 90 days
through a national search.
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