A Houston Independent School District administrator has had a lucrative side job for at least three years -- running an education nonprofit that has a nearly $2 million contract with HISD, something Superintendent Terry Grier says is “probably an ethical issue.”
Ann Stiles’ job at HISD in recent years has been overseeing the school system program coordinated by her own group, Project GRAD Houston, which tries to prevent low-income children in HISD from dropping out of school. Project GRAD has a $1.86 million contract with the Houston district, which school trustees renewed in June.
But that’s not her only source of income. Stiles is also the executive director for Project GRAD Houston, where, according to the group’s IRS form, she earned $120,201 in 2008 and listed an average 40 hours of work per week. The total paycheck for the two jobs comes to more than $187,000 annually.
Stiles’ moonlighting was revealed Monday by Grier to school system trustees and the public. “I want to bring it to the board’s attention as it is probably an ethical issue that should be discussed,” Grier, who took over as the school system chief last September, told the group. He didn’t elaborate.
Asked whether an HISD employee is allowed to also work for a nonprofit that contracts with the district, Uhl said in an e-mail, “there does not appear to be a violation of any policy and it was known that she worked for the district. I just don’t think the question of the possible appearance of a conflict had been asked until now.”
Project GRAD Houston's IRS form and its Web site list HISD Trustee Paula Harris as one of the group's board members. Her name appears on the group's IRS form on the same page as the one identifying Stiles as executive director. Harris and another HISD trustee, Anna Eastman, had questioned Grier about Stiles' dual employment at the Monday meeting, but Harris did not volunteer publicly that she is a Project GRAD board member.
Stiles has submitted a resignation letter to the school district, effective Aug. 31, Uhl said. A school district staffer told the trustees Monday that the resignation had been turned in, though it was unclear exactly when it was submitted.
HISD salary records show Stiles has been a district employee since August 1993. She was initially hired as a teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, Uhl said.
The first reference to Project GRAD in Stiles’ employee file at HISD is in 1997, Uhl said, where Stiles is listed as a math teacher at the now-closed Lamar Elementary serving as a “Teacher Trainer under Project Grad.”
She began working as Project GRAD’s teacher specialist for HISD in August 2000, earning a salary of more than $40,000, Uhl said. Salary records show her HISD pay increased each year, up to the $67,318 she earned last year.
HISD’s headquarters at 1800 W. 18th St. is 8.5 miles away from the Project GRAD office at 3000 Richmond -- a 25-minute drive in traffic, according to Google Maps.
According to its website, Project GRAD (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams) Houston is part of a national program that works to increase high school graduation and college attendance rates for low-income students. The national program grew “from a scholarship program which began in partnership with (the) Houston Independent School District in 1989."
The group was founded by former Tenneco oil chief James Ketelsen and his wife, Kathryn; James Ketelsen is Project GRAD Houston's president and board chairman, while Kathryn Ketelsen is one of Harris' fellow directors. HISD named an elementary school after James Ketelsen in 2002.
The possible addition of a ninth site, Phillis Wheatley High School in northeast Houston, prompted Grier’s mention of Stiles’ dual employment at Monday's school board meeting. The addition of Wheatley and the additional costs of $59,221 associated with it are up for approval by school trustees Thursday (agenda item D-4).
Do you think HISD should have a policy that prohibits an employee from receiving a taxpayer-funded salary from the school district while at the same time working for a business or nonprofit that contracts with the district?
Let Texas Watchdog know what you think. Contact Lynn Walsh, Lynn@TexasWatchdog.org or 713-228-2850. On Twitter, @TexasWatchdog or @Lwalsh, and follow #HISD for stories, meeting highlights and more on HISD.
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