School board considers hiring private investigator

As the lee county school board searches for a new Superintendent they may be more cautious this time. Board members are now considering hiring a private investigator to screen candidates in order to prevent future problems. Four in your Corner’s Mike Mason has more on this one.

These days you can get a lot of information about someone by Googling them….but there are some things that won’t show up online and that’s why board members are considering hiring a private eye.

Jeanne Dozier: “It’s an unfortunate situation that we are where we are today.”

Board member Jeanne Dozier says there’s a dark cloud hanging over the district. A storm of controversy began brewing when Superintendent Joseph Burke suspended an investigation into Deedara Hicks, who was accused of being drunk on the job in 2011. Burke and hicks worked together in Orange County and he hired her as one of his top directors.

Jeanne Dozier: “If the Superintendent had acted appropriately, if the Superintendent had followed protocol and policies we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

Right now the board is preparing to search for a new Superintendent after Burke suddenly announced this week he’ll be retiring in June.

Jane Kuckel: “This district is in shambles.”

Jane Kuckel says she warned fellow board members about problems Burke allgedly had when he worked in Monroe County….but they hired him anyway. And when Burke hired Hicks he said she had a good track record.

Dr. Joseph Burke: “Dr. Hicks has had good performance in her previous, in her previous work.”

Information has since surfaced about problems Hicks had while working at Florida Atlantic University. The Department of Education asked FAU to terminate Hicks from a grant program for her “failure to perform”.

Will Zariske: “You’re going to want to know about that person.”

Will Zariske is a licensed private investigator based in Cape Coral. He says if the board had hired a firm like his to research district officials they could have found out this type of information beforehand.

Will Zariske: “There’s a lot of search engines and things on the internet but you’re not going to get the result you would with a licensed agency that has access to databases that can get that kind of information.”

Dozier says she’ll support a motion to hire a private investigator to research Superintendent candidates. I asked board chair Mary Fischer if that’s something she’d also consider.

Mike Mason: “Well, it couldn’t hurt though.”
Mary Fischer: “Oh no, absolutely, the more information you can gather and the more you know the better off you are.”

Uncovering information now could end up saving the district from problems in the future.

Will Zariske: “Down the road it could save a lot of headaches, troubles and finances down the road absolutely.”

A background search could cost as little as a few hundred dollars or as much as a few thousand if people need to be interviewed. Next week board members will discuss how they plan to move forward with their search for a new Superintendent.

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