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Wednesday, April 4, 2012 07:34 am

Is Milton moonlighting?

Springfield’s school superintendent is affiliated with a Chicago company

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Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton is denying a media report that he is a candidate to become superintendent of a school district in Rochester, N.Y., his hometown.

Citing unnamed sources, television station WHAM in Rochester reported Tuesday that Milton has interviewed to become superintendent of the Rochester City School District. In an interview with Illinois Times, Milton acknowledged speaking with the school board in Rochester, but denied that he is seeking the district’s top post.

“I talked to the board,” said Milton, who last year was a finalist to become superintendent of the Little Rock School District in Arkansas but withdrew his name from consideration. “I’m from Rochester. I know the board members. … I’m not a candidate for the job.”

District spokesman Pete Sherman in an email described the discussion as a “formality interview” with the board.

“But he quickly indicated he has no interest,” Sherman said. “He took his name out before the board came up with a short list.”

Milton also denied that he is affiliated with Hold Hands Chicago, a venture created by Kinney & Associates, an educational consulting firm that has posted a photograph of the Springfield superintendent on the Hold Hands Chicago website and says that it has established a partnership with Milton.

“We are pleased to have Dr. Milton join us as our spokesperson for Hold Hands Chicago as we expand to serve students throughout the nation,” the company said on the Hold Hands Chicago website.

That was last Thursday. By Tuesday, the sentence had been removed. Milton and Hold Hands Chicago, which aims at reducing dropout rates in Chicago schools, still have a “partnership,” according to the website.

“I have no affiliation,” Milton said. “There’s nothing there.”

David Kinney, president of the Kinney and Associates, said that his company has a deal to sell Milton’s 2007 self-published book called Me In The Making, One Man’s Journey To Becoming A School Superintendent. No money has changed hands because no books have been sold, Kinney said, and Milton is neither an employee nor a consultant.

“We would be compensated – that would be the arrangement,” Kinney said. “But we haven’t sold any of his books. … He’s not paid to be a spokesperson for me. It was probably the wrong phrase.”

Milton says that he has praised Hold Hands Chicago at a public function and that he is not bothered by the use of his photograph on the home page of the organization.

“It’s all about kids, that’s it – it’s like you saying the Coca Cola over there is real good,” Milton said. “I’m an advocate for kids.”

Milton’s employment contract with the Springfield School District, which pays him $220,000 a year, is silent on the issue of outside employment, which Milton points out.

“If I had an affiliation with the organization, who cares?” Milton said.

But two school board members say they want to know more.

“I’ve heard about it (Hold Hands Chicago) through people who have brought it to my attention,” says board member Lisa Funderburg. “I have not had a chance to ask Dr. Milton about it. I think it’s something that we need to know about, if he’s working another job or has responsibilities beyond the district.”

Funderburg says the Hold Hands Chicago website described Milton as the organization’s spokesperson when she saw it.

“When I saw it, that’s what it said, which is what caught my attention,” Funderburg said. “I just think he needs to address it and explain the relationship.”

School board member Nick Stoutamyer also said he intends to ask Milton about Hold Hands Chicago.

“It’s something I definitely need to look into,” Stoutamyer said.

Funderburg said that she has also seen the media report from Rochester stating that Milton has interviewed for a job there.

“I don’t know if that’s accurate or not,” Funderburg said. “If his interests lie elsewhere, I think we need to know that.”

School board member Scott McFarland said that he has seen the media report about Rochester.

“We have a contract in place,” McFarland said. “It’s his prerogative what he wants to do.”

School board chairman William Looby said no one can stop Milton from looking for a job.

“As long as it was done on his own time and not on his time and with district resources, that’s up to him,” Looby said.

Milton’s employment contract signed in 2009 expires in 2014.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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