The Seattle school district’s executive director of special education was placed on paid leave Friday afternoon while the district investigates whether proper procedures were followed when the district hired a national consultant last spring.
The executive director, Zakiyyah McWilliams, will be out during the review, which is expected to take a few weeks, said district spokeswoman Lesley Rogers.
“This is not disciplinary,” Rogers said. “We’re reviewing activities associated with the contract process and we place someone on paid administrative leave because it’s best for the employee and the district.”
Rogers would not elaborate on McWilliams’ involvement. No one else has been placed on leave.
McWilliams took over the school district’s troubled special education department in May of 2013, the eighth person to hold the top job in five years. The district spent the last school year trying to carry out an improvement plan ordered by the state to fix longstanding problems. That plan required the district to use part of its federal special education funding to hire a national consultant to help the district carry out that plan.
In a letter to staff last Friday, Deputy Superintendent Charles Wright said that the district was looking into how the T.I.E.R.S Group (Teams Intervening Early to Reach all Students) of Louisiana State University was selected in April out of a group of four organizations that applied. The contract, which ends Aug. 31, was worth almost $150,000.
“On August 5, the District learned that all proper procedures may have not been followed during the contract procurement process,” Wright wrote last Friday.
The TIERS Group, a sub-contractor with a national education consulting firm called Accelify Consulting, has already reached an agreement with the district for the upcoming school year for $450,000, but the contract requires approval by the school board.
Wright said in his letter Friday that the second contract has been put on hold.
The TIERS Group issued a report on July 21 that identified four main problems with Seattle Public Schools’ special education program: chaotic internal organization, poor communication, insufficient training for principals and teachers, and frequent turnover of top positions.
Wright told the staff on Monday that Wyeth Jessee, who is currently Executive Director of Leadership Development, will be the special education department’s interim leader.