Is there room for redemption in education?
Man is not perfect. Some are more imperfect than others. We all slip some time. What reveals our true character in those times is what we do about our mistakes. Do we take ownership of them? Do we atone for them? Do we learn from them?
Fred Czerwonka was fired as Superintendent of the St. Joseph School district after a disastrous state audit that uncovered $40 million in questionable spending which further resulted in an FBI investigation of the district and its administration. Czerwonka left by sending his resignation letter to the local news paper, the St. Joseph News Press, instead of to his employers, the school board members. That is a sign of someone who is not yet ready to admit to the people whose trust he violated, that what he did was wrong. In fact, his resignation was spun as a sort of gift to the district. In his letter to the Board President Brad Haggard he wrote, “I hope my resignation can allow the District to move forward with the hiring of my successor. I look forward to continuing the good work I have been put here by God to do.” Were the nepotism, no-bid contracts and unapproved stipends he dispensed in St. Joseph part of the “good work” God put him here to do?
That is a question his new employer, the Caruthersville School District, might want to ask of their new Director of School Services. If one believes one has a moral calling to be the candy man, what would stop one from doing the things Czerwonka is accused of doing again, especially if one has not admitted to those actions in the past nor atoned for them. Caruthersville’s hiring comes while the FBI investigation of Czerwonka is still ongoing.
Czerwonka’s wife, Wendy, has also been hired to teach business at the high school in Caruthersville, in the boot heel of Missouri.
Husband and wife, both with educational experience, moving to a small rural town of less than seven thousand will admittedly have limited employment options. The case of nepotism might be harder to make there. Perhaps her hiring was a result of what the Caruthersville website called a “great pride in tradition, community and family.” That pride and commitment to family may be sorely tested by the Czerwonkas.
We have already reported that another fallen superintendent, Diane Critchlow formerly of the Fox School District, has also resurfaced somewhere else in the state, as an Assessment Quality Assurance Inspector for Pearson corp.
It is no stretch to imagine that recently resigned Superintendent CJ Huff will also resurface somewhere else in Missouri, perhaps in some capacity other than Superintendent.
These people have training and years of experience in education in come capacity. They most likely will seek future employment in that field, which begs the question; is there room for redemption in education? Is there anything someone can do to get themselves permanently barred from the field of education in particular? What can reasonably be expected of the fallen to earn their redemption and the trust of the community? It is hard to imagine trusting them with money or authority over others. They have many steps ahead of them on the trust ladder.