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November 10, 2012

Ethics findings issued against New Castle school director

(Continued)

NEW CASTLE — CREDITS NEEDED

Mark Kirkwood became aware that his son needed six credits to transfer and had told Meehan after a board meeting about his son’s scholarship chance, the findings say. Kirkwood approached Meehan to see if he had any contacts to help his son get the needed summer credits, because the enrollment deadline had passed for schools where he was trying to make up the courses.

On June 24 of that year Meehan wrote to Seton Hill, requesting its approval to offer two summer courses to Kirkwood, but did not indicate that Kirkwood was a college student.

The findings state that Meehan alleged to ethics investigators that he wanted to use the summer program as a “trial run” to eventually open it up to all New Castle graduates who are college students needing summer credits.

The findings indicate, however, that summer courses for college students were not approved by the school board.

Meehan yesterday said there was a “misunderstanding” between him and Seton Hill that Kirkwood was a college student.

“We wanted to do it as an extension of what we already had. This was kind of a pilot to see if we could do it and cover the curriculum into that time. I should have put more students into it. It was meant to see if we could cover the content,” he said.

According to the ethics findings, the district had to have a different calculus teacher approved by Seton Hill for Kirkwood’s summer course because the one approved for the program was not able to teach it.

LIKE EVERYONE ELSE

Meehan said he didn’t consider that Kirkwood was a board member in setting up the classes.

“It was more him approaching me as a community member, looking for possible solutions for an academic need,” he said. “Anyone who came to my door with a request, I would try my best to accommodate them. It wasn’t a situation where he got special treatment.

“The program’s been a wonderful benefit to a lot of kids in New Castle,” Meehan commented of College in High School. “I hate to put a dark shadow on it.

Meehan emphasized that he works closely with Seton Hill. The program averages about 80 students a year in the district and Seton Hill monitors it closely and approves the courses, instructors and content, he said.

Kirkwood said yesterday that he intended no wrongdoing.

“I just think that whoever started an investigation jumped to some conclusions. It was never my intention to do what they said I did.

“We were just too late to get into community college, and I wanted to see about getting him into summer school. That’s the last I heard till Meehan said we’re going to do that.

“I just have to pay the cost of investigation back to them and I’m preparing to do that,” he added.

Attempts to reach district Superintendent George Gabriel were unsuccessful yesterday.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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