For $9,700, 242 Portland elementary-school students could eat free lunch for a month. Instead, Portland Public Schools spent $9,700 on interim superintendent Ed Schmitt, who's telecommuting from Australia for four weeks—without actually working. That check-cashing earns Schmitt a trip to the Rogue Desk 's office and a stern letter of reprimand in his permanent record. But particular scorn is reserved for the Portland Public Schools Board of Education for approving this ridiculous arrangement.
The board hired Schmitt in June on a month-to-month contract after former superintendent Vicki Phillips quit. During negotiations, Schmitt told the board his wife would be competing in a dragon-boat race in Sydney in September.
So that Schmitt could watch his wife's race, the board agreed he could work from Australia starting Sept. 20. Until Oct. 17, Schmitt was to be available via BlackBerry. The price tag? $9,700.
On Oct. 1, the district hired Carole Smith as the new superintendent. Smith began work immediately. Meantime, news releases said Schmitt would continue to work through the end of October "to ensure a smooth transition." Slippery might be a better adjective.
Last week, WW requested Schmitt's emails to see just how much work he was doing in Australia. Then, two days later, we emailed Schmitt directly, asking him if his work Down Under was worth $9,700. No email ever made it to Schmitt. Upon arriving in Australia, Schmitt discovered his cell service didn't work overseas.
Asked to describe what work Schmitt had performed while abroad, spokesman Matt Shelby said "not a lot." Schmitt could be reached only by phone and folks from the school district had called to talk to him only a couple of times, Shelby said.
School board member Bobbie Regan notes that Schmitt did give up a monthly $7,700 PERS payment. Still sounds like a "boss" deal.