Hiring of couple to work for Fresno Unified raises concerns

The Fresno BeeSeptember 21, 2013 

Michael Hanson

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Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson recently appointed a married couple to newly created administrative jobs that each pay more than $100,000, bypassing usual hiring practices to get them on board.

For new assistant superintendent for human resources Paul Idsvoog, it's his second go-round with the district. His wife, Amy, is a Fresno native who has never worked in education but will be one of the district's two communications analysts.

The Idsvoogs were appointed by Hanson in August.

Paul Idsvoog was the district's food services director and then fiscal services director until 2008, when he took a job in Milwaukee as vice president of operations at Food Services Inc., a private catering and dining company.

Amy Idsvoog most recently worked as director of strategic sales and support at Marcus Hotels and Resorts in Wisconsin; she has worked in the hotel industry for more than 15 years.

Fresno Unified is paying Paul Idsvoog an annual salary of $138,456; Amy Idsvoog's annual salary is $100,304.

Hanson said it's within his authority to appoint employees, which he said happens infrequently. But he wouldn't directly answer whether hiring Amy Idsvoog was a way to entice her husband to accept his job.

"Let me answer it this way," he said. "Amy would not have been hired if she were not extremely qualified, and I needed the work done, period."

It was only after looking "far and wide" to find an eligible candidate, Hanson said, that he appointed Amy Idsvoog. He changed her job title from "manager" to "analyst" and boosted her pay by about $5,000 to help match her previous job's salary.

"There are multiple ways we can do hiring and this is exactly standard for me in this type of situation," he said. "I don't do it a lot, but I do it when we have great needs for very explicit skill sets and we haven't been able to find them."

He added that both Idsvoogs are "incredibly qualified, and they happened to be married to each other."

The Idsvoogs declined an interview request from The Bee last week. But in an email, Amy Idsvoog said she felt she had a moral obligation to give back to her hometown.

"After having multiple conversations with the superintendent, Paul and I both realized we had much to give," she said. "This giving was no longer centered around corporate profits and closing the next big deal, but being an active participant in providing more to the kids in a community I grew up in."

Trustee Michelle Asadoorian said she has received multiple comments from community members who think the Idsvoogs weren't thoroughly vetted.

The district has well thought-out recruitment and hiring processes, Asadoorian said, and she wants the district to keep them intact.

"We're posting a job and we only keep it online for (eight) days, and then we end up offering it to the spouse of a targeted hire, and then we increase the pay? That causes me great concern," she said. "That process and procedure is highly unusual to me ... it just doesn't pass the smell test."

Kim Mecum, associate superintendent for human resources, explained that Paul Idsvoog's job was added because the human resources office, which faced cuts during the recession, has long needed another top-level administrator to help balance the workload.

Amy Idsvoog's job will give relief to the communications department, she said, which is juggling more responsibilities as the new Common Core English and math standards are rolled out this fall. She is responsible for creating a communications plan for district initiatives, which can include anything from writing press releases to event planning.

Mecum said Amy Idsvoog's job was posted online for eight days and attracted 15 applicants. Paul Idsvoog was a targeted recruit, and his job did not appear in online listings.

The Idsvoogs were the only candidates interviewed for either job, she said in an email.

In a written statement, the district describes Paul Idsvoog as a leader who has "proven to be instrumental in building working partnerships with both union and nonunion associates as well community leaders."

Amy Idsvoog's "charismatic personality partnered with her lengthy sales background proves extremely beneficial as we work to strengthen the district's message and further define the shifts in our Common Core State Standards," the district's statement said.

School board President Valerie Davis said that while the district tries to find local talent to fill jobs, it doesn't always work out.

And, she said, it's not uncommon for the district to hire an employee's spouse or relative.

"I believe the strength of our district is in our families," she said. "Mr. Hanson tries to hire the best, whoever they are, and deal with our challenges."

 

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, hfurfaro@fresnobee.com or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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