In Philly, New administrator has past controversies

Dr. William Hite Jr hires Eric Becoats who was among the finalist in 2013 PGCPS MESS . Eric Becoats scored poorly during the interview at Sasscer. dr-becoats

Eric Becoats who failed the test in PGCPS was recently hired for senior position in Philly school District by William Hite Jr. 

ERIC BECOATS was very dedicated to his administrator job in Charlotte, N.C.

He was also equally committed to his consulting business, Queen Educational Planning LLC, whose client was the Little Rock School District in Arkansas. Once Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials found he made at least 17 calls from district phones to Little Rock, he was censured and suspended for a day.

Becoats, now a newly hired top school district administrator in Philadelphia, has resigned from two previous jobs, including Charlotte, following accounts of his alleged misuse of public resources, the Daily News has learned.

Becoats, who has a business and financial-planning background, was forced to resign after a series of missteps that included underestimating the rainy day fund by $15 million and using a public school bus to ferry around friends and loved ones.

District officials, however, stood behind Becoats yesterday, saying in a statement that he was fully vetted and brings a “deep skills set” to Philadelphia.

School Reform Commission president Marjorie Neff was on vacation yesterday and unavailable for comment. Becoats was also unavailable, officials said.

But one Durham community activist, who butted heads with him during his tenure, warned:

“All I can say to Philadelphia is good luck and keep your eyes on the process,” said parent activist Rodrigo Dorfman, a multimedia producer. “There’s obviously a pattern and you can expect more, unless he had a come-to-Jesus moment.”

Background

Becoats will earn $150,000 as the district’s new assistant superintendent for the Turnaround Network, an office newly created by Superintendent William Hite to improve low-performing schools.

He came to the district from Chicago, where he was interim executive director at Distinctive Schools, a nonprofit that assists charter schools serving underserved children.

The Lincoln University graduate stepped down in December 2013 as superintendent of Durham Public Schools in North Carolina. Nearly a decade earlier, in March 2004, he resigned from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as assistant superintendent for Planning and Development.

When he left Durham, Becoats was in the middle of a contract that paid him $223,048.56 annually, according to Durham schools spokeswoman Chrissy Deal, and his term was expected to end in June 2016.

He walked away with a $298,074.54 severance package, according to a resignation agreement with the Durham Board of Education.

Decisions questioned

Among Becoats’ financial missteps in Durham, according to media reports and documents and minutes from Durham public schools, he was found to have:

*  Used a Durham school bus and driver in June 2013 to shepherd his family and friends to private events around the Durham area, including a stop at the upscale mall, The Streets of Southpoint.

*  Racked up $21,000 in credit-card bills over 12 months, mostly for out-of-state travel to professional conferences. The board suspended the credit card.

*  Underestimated Durham school’s unassigned fund budget by $15 million – an error that was discovered in an audit days before his resignation.

Becoats worked from 1997 to 2004 for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, where he left as an assistant superintendent for Planning and Development earning $91,800 a year.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg officials reprimanded Becoats for violating district policies regarding his personal business, Queen Educational Planning, according to several media reports.

An internal investigation found that Becoats used Charlotte-Mecklenburg phones, computers, email and documents, the Charlotte Observer reported July 2003. Officials suspended him one day without pay, docked him a day of leave and told him to repay $3,625, the paper reported.

Newspaper editorials in the Durham area called for his resignation and by Dec. 31, Becoats was out.

In an email to the Daily News, Chanice Savage, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia school district, said, “We made the decision to hire Eric after fully vetting his candidacy, which we do with all executive hires.

“Our vetting process includes reviewing candidates’ background and work history information, conducting interviews, and contacting references,” the statement read. “Eric brings a deep skill set and experience to his role and we are excited to have Eric join the team.”

Repercussions

After a review by Durham lawyers regarding the bus outing in June 2013, the board issued a public statement a month later calling it “an inappropriate action,” but stated that Becoats had not “intended to violate school policy.”

Becoats had asked to be billed for the bus use and did pay it, but the investigation found his payment didn’t cover the full invoice amount, the statement said. He later paid the full amount.

The statement also included Becoats’ comments: “After the use of the activity bus on the contracted dates, I was informed of the local and state policy. I apologize for my mistake.”

He was issued a letter of reprimand by the board.

The media reported in late August, however, that Becoats had been made aware of the bus usage policy by a district lawyer in 2011. At the time, the lawyer had been advising the board about bus usage in another matter, The Herald-Sun in Durham reported.

The credit-card bills’ tally was uncovered by a local TV station. Becoats was authorized to use the school-issued credit card for professional conferences but with the prior approval of the school board chair. He reimbursed the district for about $580 to cover some of the expenses.

Becoats appeared to have lofty tastes and bought from minibars, purchased flowers for employees, and took limousines from the airport, according to receipts provided by Durham schools.

Becoats’ report to the board claiming the “rainy day” fund had only $4 million appeared to anger and embarrass the members.

“The Board of Education depends on the superintendent to present an accurate accounting of what our true financial status is,” board chairwoman Heidi Carter said in 2013, according to a report in The News & Observer of Raleigh. “I feel foolish having gone in front of the county and pleaded poverty, when that doesn’t appear to be the actual case now.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20150724_New_school_administrator_has_past_controversies.html#MsmXf6sZYAbddmob.99

>>>Read more 

hite1

William Hite Jr hired Eric Becoats with growing charter-school ties and will earn $150,000 despite the fiasco in North Carolina and Maryland. 

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