Superintendent defends hiring his wife

HILLSBORO, Mo. - There's controversy in the Hillsboro School District after concerns the superintendent pushed for district policy change to get his wife a job.

A new superintendent comes in, plays a part in a closed-door meeting that changes the rules involving nepotism and then his wife gets a job. Superintendent Aaron Cornman knows how it sounds, but says he did nothing wrong.

Cornman has been Hillsboro's superintendent since last summer. Last week, his wife Leigh Ann Cornman became one of the district's newest employees, an instructional coach who assists teachers. Did the superintendent manipulate policy to make it happen?

"Most certainly not," he said.

Cornman doesn't deny that last September he and the Hillsboro School Board went into a closed meeting and changed the district's nepotism policy. It removed previous language that stated relatives of the superintendent couldn't be hired. But he says it had nothing to do with making room for his wife.

"Unfortunately, people do not have all the facts before they make statements," he said.

Cornman says he examined the district's nepotism policy soon after he was hired because an employee had filed a grievance.

"And I noticed that that particular policy contradicted two other policies that the district has," said Cornman.

That's when he says he consulted with the state for the new policy which mentions restrictions on board members, who do the hiring, but not the superintendent. Cornman also says the old policy could be discriminating.

"We're not going to discriminate based on an individual's name, last name, who they're married to if they're the best qualified candidate," he said.

Cornman says his wife, one of two instructional coaches hired, with at least 16 years education experience, fit the bill. And he says he had nothing to do with the process.

But some members of the teachers union, the Missouri National Education Association have complained to their leadership.

"It just seems a little bit too, too coincidental," said MNEA Representative Jim Ward, who represents teachers in the Hillsboro District. "Things don't seem to happen that way unless they're sort of more purposeful."

The superintendent says the board changed the nepotism policy in a closed session because it was tied to the grievance, a personnel matter.

Missouri law states 23 reasons officials can close a meeting. We consulted the KSDK attorney, and he couldn't find one that fit this situation and justified changing a general policy behind closed doors.


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