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St Paul Schools hire principal with an interesting resume: Misused State Funds, Drunk Driving Arrests

People should be allowed to make mistakes, make restitution and after time has passed, establish that they have learned from their mistakes. But it is also a good idea if school superintendents, when hiring principals have all the facts in front of them when hiring. And maintain high standards for the profession. To do less is to fail students and set a poor example for the teaching faculty and support staff.

The Pioneer Press reported that Superintendent Joe Gothard hired a new principal without a complete history of the principal, and after informed , has taken a forgiving approach to personnel. The new hire, Duane Dutrieuille, has significant flaws in his past but says he is a different man today. And to be fair, the transgressions unearthed by a reporter are well over a decade old.

I got an email from a long-time educator, alerting me to the story, who expressed great disappointment with the Superintendent.

Did the Superintendent do his due diligence? Would you want Mr. Dutrieuille to be the person leading your child’s school? You be the judge.

  • Dutrieuille was the subject of a 2004 Legislative Audit that found he misused $90,000 in taxpayer funds while running the African American Mentor Program. He has never paid the money back. The funds were spent on a performance bonus for himself, a personal vehicle, and staff meetings at upscale restaurants, among other items “not related to the organization’s mission.”
  • He left St. Paul Public Schools to help run a charter school in 2007 and returned to Central in 2013 as an administrative intern. He has been an assistant principal at Harding High since 2015.
  • Dutrieuille faced drunk driving charges four times between 1993 and 1999.
  • And this is a much smaller point but in this context, makes you wonder: Superintendent Joe Gothard said he was pleased to hire someone from the neighborhood around the school; he did not know that Mr. Dutrieuille had moved to a different part of town several years ago.

How much does a School Principal in Saint Paul, MN make? According to Salary.com, “The median annual School Principal salary in Saint Paul, MN is $109,962, as of May 30, 2018, with a range usually between $97,130-$123,698 not including bonus and benefit information and other factors that impact base pay.”

The pensions are pretty amazing, by the way. Unfunded but amazing.

Maybe Mr. Dutrieuille  could set an example by making restitution to the taxpayers of Minnesota.

 

The article by Josh Verges is a great piece of reporting. Here it is.

The new principal of a St. Paul school was accused in 2004 of misusing $90,000 in state grant funds intended for his nonprofit organization.

A report by the Legislative Auditor found Duane Dutrieuille spent grant money on a performance bonus for himself, a personal vehicle, and staff meetings at upscale restaurants, among other items “not related to the organization’s mission.”

Superintendent Joe Gothard said in an interview that he was unaware of the audit when he picked Dutrieuille as principal of the grades K-8 Hazel Park Preparatory Academy on the East Side. Gothard said he’s since reviewed the audit and has no concerns.

“Mr. Dutrieuille made it through three rounds of a really intensive interview process,” Gothard said. “I feel confident in his abilities.”

Dutrieuille started the African American Mentor Program in 1997 and relied heavily on state funds. The improper spending represented less than 5 percent of the $2 million in grants he received from 1998 to 2002.

He said in an interview he has not paid back any of that money.

Included with the audit was a referral for possible criminal charges, but Ramsey County prosecutors declined the case in 2008.

“We just weren’t able to support a felony level charge,” said Dennis Gerhardstein, spokesman for the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.

The audit sparked increased grants oversight by the state Department of Education.

Dutrieuille said he’s grown in many ways since the nonprofit collapsed.

“Over 16 years ago, I made some poor financial decisions. Since then, I’ve been able to grow and learn as a leader, as a financial manager, and to be completely honest with you, as a person,” he said.

Dutrieuille did not list the nonprofit organization on the resume he submitted to the district.

FOUR DUI ARRESTS

Besides the questionable spending, Dutrieuille faced drunk driving charges four times between 1993 and 1999. He pleaded guilty in three cases to either DUI or refusing to submit to an alcohol test and to a reduced charge of careless driving in the other.

“You’re looking at a person who’s overcome those mistakes,” he said.

Gothard said he was unaware of Dutrieuille’s drunk driving arrests.

“I have not seen anything to indicate there are concerns,” he said.

Gothard noted Dutrieuille has a long history with the school district with no discipline on his employment record.

In 1999, while running the nonprofit, Dutrieuille was hired to teach special education at Central High School.

He left St. Paul Public Schools to help run a charter school in 2007 and returned to Central in 2013 as an administrative intern. He has been an assistant principal at Harding High since 2015.

EAST SIDE TIES

Gothard said Dutrieuille is a positive person who is involved in the community.

“We very much want to value and support opportunities for our employees to grow,” he said.

Gothard’s announcement to Hazel Park families and staff said Dutrieuille is “excited to work in the neighborhood where he lives.”

In fact, Dutrieuille lived one mile from Hazel Park for years but moved to Maplewood, six miles from the school, in 2016.

The superintendent said the information about Dutrieuille’s residence came from his communications staff.

Dutrieuille said he knows Hazel Park well. He said he’s friends with its retiring principal, Delores Henderson, and has relationships with local faith-based organizations and businesses.

“I’m an East Sider,” he said.

Kent Pekel, who worked in former St. Paul superintendent Pat Harvey’s administration, recalled being impressed when he saw Dutrieuille’s nonprofit in action.

Pekel said the concerns raised in the audit were “very significant” but not unusual for someone new to nonprofit work.

Besides the improper spending, Pekel said, Dutrieuille didn’t manage his organization well. He kept people employed when he didn’t have the money to pay them.

Still, Pekel thinks Dutrieuille has learned from his mistakes.

“I’m thrilled that the superintendent decided to give him the opportunity. He’s a great educator” and willing to work with all kinds of kids, he said. “I think he’s going to be a really great fit.”

PRINCIPAL CHANGES

In Henderson, Dutrieuille is replacing the most experienced principal in the state, at 46 years, according to Department of Education records.

Henderson has had an unspecified complaint pending against her for over a year, according to the school district’s human resources office. The nature of that complaint won’t be public unless she is disciplined before her retirement is official June 30.

The district has named new leaders for four other schools:

 

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