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Kentucky school board to review firm involved in Chicago school probe

Gary Solomon

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The Fayette County,Kentucky, school board will meet Sunday in special session to discuss allegations involving the Wilmette company it hired to find a new superintendent, responding to a Chicago Sun-Times report that PROACT Search chief executive officer Gary Solomon made racial slurs in a 1999 e-mail when he was a school administrator and teacher at Niles West High School in Skokie.

Fayette school board chairman John Price said the group is reviewing the report on the comments, for which Solomon apologized in a story published by the Lexington, Kentucky, Herald-Leader, saying it was a fleeting statement that doesn’t reflect his beliefs.

“We have recently become aware of very disturbing allegations involving the CEO of Proact Search,” Price said. “The school board needs time to review these allegations and determine our next steps in the search process. We must ensure that the individuals representing us in the superintendent search reflect the core values of our district and community.”

Price said one of the reasons the school board selected PROACT Search was its record of success in recruiting diverse candidate pools for other school districts.

The Sun-Times also reported Solomon had been accused of sending an inappropriate email to a female student. Solomon later resigned in a deal with the Niles Township School District 219 administration in which he received a $50,000 payment but agreed to leave.

He went on to form three education-related businesses, including SUPES Academy, whose $20.5 million, no-bid deal with the Chicago Public Schools was suspended a week ago amid a federal investigation that prompted CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to take a paid leave of absence. Byrd-Bennett previously worked for SUPES and Synesi Associates, another company owned by Solomon and Thomas Vranas, the Sun-Times is reporting online and in its Sunday editions.

Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for PROACT, said, “No law enforcement authority of any kind, including the police and (social services), then or since, ever filed charges or rendered any adverse finding against Mr. Solomon for the alleged occurrences.”

Price said that before hiring PROACT Search, the district searched news coverage and legal cases involving eh company back to 1999 and didn’t find any of the problems that have since come to light.