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Spokane

Finalist for schools leader bows out

Tue., April 3, 2012

Candidate withdraws over questions about his past

One of the three finalists for the job of Spokane Public Schools superintendent withdrew his name from consideration after school board members asked for more answers about a controversy in his past.

When a recruiter called Gregory Firn, a schools superintendent in Wadesboro, N.C., on Sunday, the candidate told the recruiter that taking his name out of the running was better than rehashing events from the past.

In 2006, a Connecticut school board voted to buy out Firn and end his position as superintendent. According to news reports, he was under suspicion for writing a letter of recommendation for a non-school basketball coach despite knowing the man was under investigation because of a three-year relationship he’d had with a teenager he’d coached in a summer program and recreational league.

Additionally, Firn reportedly taught a college course and coached basketball while on medical leave from the district.

Steve Humphrey, with Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the recruiting firm contracted by Spokane Public Schools, said he’d talked to Firn about those incidents and had read news reports of them. According to Humphrey, Firn “felt he did no wrong.” Weighing that with his accomplishments in education, the company decided he might be a good fit for the Spokane job.

However, “more eyes are better than two,” Humphrey said. “You start talking to people about situations, and other people have questions, so you ask for more details.”

Bob Douthitt, Spokane Public Schools board president, said, “We didn’t know as many details on Saturday as we learned over the weekend. It looked more serious than we thought. So we asked the consultant (recruiter) to call him.”

Firn decided “everything considered, it was better for him and his family to stay where he was at,” Humphrey said. “He didn’t want a lot of things swirling around that he couldn’t explain. He said it was complicated.”

Douthitt said the board also believed the candidate’s past would have been a distraction to the search.

The search to replace Superintendent Nancy Stowell began in January. Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates recruiters reviewed 652 online surveys and spoke with more than 330 Spokane residents, community leaders and school employees in 32 focus groups before they began hunting for the ideal candidate. The company is being paid about $25,000 for the search.

Humphrey has been the lead recruiter.

“My regret is I should have thought deeper about this than I did, but I really thought he was a good candidate,” Humphrey said. “But he’s having success where he’s at and didn’t want to keep answering questions about the past.”



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