Topeka New Education Commissioner Bob Corkins got to hire a conservative consultant after all.
Last month, just days after being hired for $140,000 per year, Corkins asked the State Board of Education to allow him to hire Daniel Harden for as much as $15,000 to coordinate his transitional team.
But Education Board Chairman Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, who pushed for the hiring of Corkins, told Corkins to remove the request for a paid consultant from the board's agenda because there was not enough background material on the proposal at the time.
Fast forward to Thursday, and Corkins announced the formation of his transition team, which will be led by Harden "who is fulfilling a contract with the department."
When asked for details, Valerie Jennings, Corkins' newly hired spokeswoman, said Harden would be paid up to $2,500 per month for up to three months.
When asked why Corkins did not seek board approval of the hiring, Jennings said Corkins spoke with majority party and minority party members of the board and "none of them expressed concern with Dr. Harden."
Education Board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka, whose district includes Lawrence, is one of the minority party members of the board.
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- Supreme Court's Show Cause Order (07-02-05)
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Wagnon said Corkins didn't speak with him about hiring Harden.
"I've yet to have my first conversation with him," Wagnon said.
He said the expense was wasteful. Corkins was hired for $140,000 by conservatives who hold a majority on the board because "he supposedly knows what to do," Wagnon said.
"To spend this level of money at a time of fiscal austerity is irresponsible," he said.
Corkins was hired by a 6-4 vote despite having no background in the education profession and having spent the past several years lobbying against increased public school spending. Wagnon was one of the four who voted against him.
Corkins said the transition team would improve efficiency at the Kansas State Department of Education.
"This team will work to identify the best practices for improving KSDE efficiency and effectiveness and the challenges in achieving State Board objectives," he said.
Harden is an education professor at Washburn University and vice president of the Jefferson County West school district in Meriden. He was a finalist for the education commissioner job, and his Web site, www.washburn.edu/cas/education/dharden, provides numerous links to conservative Web sites.
The site starts with "Traditional Education in the Year of Our Lord 2005." And it quotes a 19th century French poet, saying, "We will never know how many acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of appearing not sufficiently progressive."
The remaining members of the transition team will serve as volunteers but will be reimbursed for expenses, if they submit them, Jennings said.
Commissioner's transition team
Bob Corkins' transition team also includes: ¢ Art Hall, the founding executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at Kansas University. Prior to joining the KU School of Business, Hall was chief economist in the public affairs groups of Wichita-based Koch Industries Inc. ¢ Diana Aguirre of Kansas City, Kan., works for the KU Medical Center, School of Medicine, where she recruits high school students into math and science programs. She also serves on several boards and committees. ¢ David Penny, a former Lawrence city commissioner, engineer and president of Masters Dredging Co. ¢ Chiquita Coggs, executive director of the North East Business Assn. Inc. of Kansas City, Kan. ¢ Cheryl Randall of Topeka, an assessment coordinator for the state education department. ¢ Karen Watney, director of human resources at the education agency. ¢ Beryl New, an assistant principal at Lawrence High School. ¢ Crosby Kemper III is chief executive of the Kansas City Public Library and president of the Kansas City Public Library Foundation. ¢ Scott Hill of Abilene, former member of the Education Board, and is self-employed. ¢ Charles McClain, currently a higher education consultant, and former president of Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo.