The School District of Lancaster is cutting ties with the firm it hired in February to conduct a superintendent search.
School directors will terminate a $24,000 contract with Illinois-based PROACT Search at a May 19 board meeting, according to a district press release sent Friday.
"Within the past week, disturbing allegations have surfaced concerning the firm's CEO. While this individual has not been involved in the district's search, the board strongly opposes continued support of his firm," the release said.
A PROACT spokesman said in an email Friday that the firm is disappointed with the board's decision and stands by the company's work.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported on April 30 that PROACT Chief Executive Officer Gary Solomon allegedly made racial slurs while he was a public school teacher and administrator in Illinois.
The Chicago Sun-Times also reported that Solomon was forced out of his former school after his bosses accused him of inappropriate conduct, including allegations he kissed a female student and covered up students' drug and alcohol use.
"We are disappointed that the School District of Lancaster has decided to terminate our contract based on old allegations. No law enforcement authority of any kind ever substantiated any misconduct," wrote PROACT spokesman Dennis Culloton on Friday. "Mr. Solomon apologizes and deeply regrets his statements of many years ago."
The most recent reports on Solomon's behavior came after April news that the FBI is investigating another company of which Solomon is one of the owners. The FBI is looking into a $20.5 million no-bid contract that SUPES Academy received from Chicago Public Schools, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
School District of Lancaster officials said Friday that the district had never before done business with PROACT Search or other firms connected to Solomon. They also said the firm was chosen after interviews with several companies.
The district isn't the first to sever a contract with PROACT in light of the accusations against Solomon. One district in Kentucky and another in Georgia have done the same, according to media reports.
School District of Lancaster has already made one payment of $6,000 to PROACT, according to Chief Administrative Officer Matt Przywara. Another payment of the same amount was due when the firm submitted screened applications for the superintendency on May 22. The position was vacated by Pedro Rivera in January when Gov. Tom Wolf tapped him to become the state education secretary.
The open position was posted on April 15. Przywara said the district has offered $4,000 to PROACT for the unscreened applications already received, but that proposal is being negotiated. Przywara declined to say how many applications have been submitted so far.
The school board had planned to hire a new superintendent in June. Przywara said he didn't know if the terminated contract will delay that step.
"We're going forward in looking at some consultants now. We're still going to get a great number of applications from the initial search, and we'll post it further," he said.
Said board president Stacey Marten in the district press release: "We are committed to conducting a thorough search process to ensure the integrity of the outcome."