A new story out of the Tennessee Department of Education indicates more turmoil among staff there under the leadership of Commissioner Penny Schwinn. Here’s more from Chalkbeat:
The leader of Tennessee’s new “whole child” initiative that includes anti-bullying programs has been demoted and reassigned after an investigation found she verbally abused employees under her supervision at the Department of Education.
Katie Houghtlin has been stripped of her title as assistant commissioner, as well as her responsibilities managing personnel. She is now handling special projects for Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, who recruited her from Texas where they previously worked together.
According to a summary of an investigation obtained by Chalkbeat, a state investigator found that Houghtlin “utilized verbal abuse, micromanagement, as well as harsh and inappropriate treatment” toward a staff member who later filed a complaint, as well as toward other employees.
An earlier story noted that Schwinn had been involved in the termination of a whistleblower during her time in a leadership post at the Texas Education Agency:
Federal officials have ordered the Texas Education Agency to pay a former special education director more than $200,000 in damages for illegally firing her.
Laurie Kash filed a federal complaint Nov. 21, 2017, with the U.S. Department of Education, claiming the TEA had illegally awarded a no-bid contract to a company to analyze private records of students receiving special education services.
Less than a month after firing Kash, the TEA ended its no-bid special education contract — losing millions of dollars — and promised to review its own contracting processes. A year later, state auditors found the TEA had failed to follow all the required steps before awarding the contract.
It also had failed to identify the personal relationship between the subcontractor and the main decision maker for the contract: Penny Schwinn, who was then the agency’s deputy commissioner of academics.
Seems like a pattern is emerging.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport