INDIANAPOLIS – From accusations of nepotism to questions about taxpayer dollars, a FOX59/CBS4 investigation uncovered Washington Township Schools has been filling summer technology jobs with the children of high-ranking school officials.
The issue has raised concerns among several community members, even gaining the attention of one of the district’s school board members.
Back in 2019, Washington Township Schools started offering summer technology maintenance positions. According to payroll records obtained by FOX59/CBS4, the position was titled “sub technology.”
According to the payroll records on Indiana Gateway, a statewide database gathering how taxes and public dollars are budgeted and spent, at least two-thirds of these “sub technology” workers have been related to school employees.
Those employees include some of the highest-paid officials in the district, like the superintendent, several school principals and a variety of high-paid department chairs.
Parents and Washington Township taxpayers say they have a lot of questions about how the school is filling these jobs. Meanwhile, the district maintains it is not doing anything wrong.
Records show there have been 23 workers over the course of four years. Not all 23 worked each year, but every year an overwhelming majority were the children of district employees and leadership.
The group was responsible for a variety of tasks including cleaning computers, installing software and moving equipment from building to building. That work cost the district nearly $100,000 over the course of four years.
Todd Hanson lives in the district; he was doing the same research. He said a school parent reached out to him hoping he could help her find some answers.
“I am stunned,” Hanson said. “I am stunned.”
Hanson said he reached out to every school board member to try and get some answers. Of the five school board members, Hanson said only one board member replied. That board member was Kristina Frey.
FOX59/CBS4 also reached out to each board member. The only board member who agreed to speak with us or give any statement on the issue was Frey.
In the interview, Frey said she was not speaking on behalf of the district or the board. She said she wanted to simply speak on her own behalf.
“Voters did put their trust in me as a board member, you know,” Frey said. “I do want to let it be known to the community that I do take this seriously. It does concern me, and I have been actively working with my fellow board members and administration to ask questions, get some answers.”
During the interview, we showed Frey the list of all 23 names to get her reaction.
“I recognize a lot of the names,” Frey said as she looked at the document. “And I recognize a lot of the names as administration.”
Frey said she received a number of concerns from community members on this issue.
“I can understand why members of the community would see this and would say this just doesn’t pass the smell test,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem right.”
FOX59/CBS4 asked Frey if anything about this seemed suspicious to her.
“It raises my eyebrows,” she said.
In 2022 alone, eight of the 10 workers were related to employees, especially high-ranking ones. That included two children of Superintendent Nikki Woodson, a child of Human Resources Director Matthew Kaiser, a child of former North Central Principal Evans Brannigan and three sons of Technology Director Michael Kneebone.
In an interview with Todd Hanson, FOX59/CBS4 asked him if he felt like this could be a coincidence.
“Coincidences aren’t coincidences,” he laughed. “They were made to happen for a reason.”
Graduation records show Kneebone’s children did not even attend Washington Township Schools. District Parent Kelly Campbell said she is bothered by the whole thing. While she said all kids deserve opportunities, she said she feels the number of children related to district leaders makes this problematic.
“I think their children deserve the same benefits too,” she said. “And if they’ve got a leg up, well you know what, that’s okay. I’m not going to knock you for that, but I mean there was a great number of them and a few of them were not even in the district.”
We reached out to the district and requested interviews with Superintendent Woodson and Technology Director Kneebone. The district denied those requests.
We also requested documentation of supervisors and timesheets. The district did not provide either.
In a statement emailed to FOX59/CBS4, the district said the summer workers were “supervised by a variety of technology or operations department members depending on the tasks at hand.”
It also shared the district’s nepotism policy in a statement. Washington Township Schools Board Policy 4113 states:
“Persons related by blood or marriage to a member of the administrative staff should not be appointed to a position that is a line relationship involving supervision and evaluation of the position. All individuals employed in the District adhere to this policy, including these temporary positions.”Washington Township Schools Board Policy 4113
The district shared a job description sheet as well. The duties were as listed below:
- Setup and deployment of technology
- Cleaning and inventorying of equipment
- Assisting with installation of software and hardware
- Performing testing and punch-list for classroom equipment
- Assisting building foremen with furniture moves
- Moving technology equipment at buildings and warehouse
- Disposal of packing materials and shipping containers
- Other tasks as assigned by the Director of Technology and the Director of Operations
It’s that eighth assignment listed that district parents and community members find to be most concerning: “Other tasks as assigned by the Director of Technology.”
Technology Director Michael Kneebone had three of his sons working in the position between 2019 and 2022.
“How about that,” Hanson said. “And to say there is no direct line of supervision? How about that.”
The district said in its statement that “no employee had a family member as their in-line supervisor.”
“If you’re Director of Technology and your two children are sub technology, that looks like a direct line to me,” Hanson said.
Hanson said he is most concerned by all of this because he believes there are other children, district employees and community members that could have benefited from this.
“They did it at my expense, at every taxpayer in Washington township’s expense, and at every needy family and child in this township’s expense,” Hanson said, “That is so wrong.”
Kristina Frey agreed the district needs to prioritize those considerations in the future.
“As a district, we have a lot of students and families with high needs,” she said. “And we’ve done a lot with the district to address those needs. I think from an equity perspective, it is important for us to make sure that when we’re looking at jobs like this, you know, who are they going to? Considering our population. Considering equity.”
In the district’s statement, it said the job was posted online and open to all. It shared that job description sheet but did not provide any proof of the actual online postings between 2019 and 2022.
The district said employees in their first year started at $10 per hour from 2019 to 2021. Returning employees received a $0.50 raise. However, in 2022, the district established a minimum hourly wage of $15 per hour.
The school board also approved the hire of an external technology contractor in 2021. The contractor covered work for all grade levels except high school, but on May 17, almost three weeks after our initial inquiry to the district, the technology director asked the board to extend and expand the contract, so it also covers the high school.
Starting this year, the district will no longer offer the summer “sub technology” positions.