Where's Wallace?

By Kyle Melinn

The Lansing schools superintendent misses a meeting called to force him out, sources say. Board President Clarke denies he wants Wallace gone.

(Click above to hear Kyle Melinn interview Lansing school board President Hugh Clarke Jr.)

The Lansing school board sought to end T.C. Wallace’s term as superintendent at a closed-door meeting Monday night but was unable to get Wallace to attend, according to well-placed sources.

“That is exactly what happened,” one of the sources, who is a school board member, told City Pulse.

Asked if it was true, schools spokesman Steve Serkaian said it was not. He said he was speaking for Wallace and board President Hugh Clarke Jr..

The meeting came several days after Wallace withdrew his application for superintendent of Pontiac schools. The application by Wallace, who has two years remaining on his contract, apparently caught the school board off guard.

Sources told City Pulse that Clarke tried to reach Wallace to inform him that the board wanted him to attend the meeting but was unsuccessful.

An attorney representing the board was present for the meeting, the sources said.

It is unclear if the board intended to fire him outright or to seek his resignation.

The board moved into executive session soon after the meeting began. A City Pulse reporter was asked to leave.

While the meeting was taking place, the reporter saw Wallace in the hallway and shook his hand. Then the reporter saw Serkaian usher Wallace into a private office.

After the meeting, Clarke confirmed that Wallace remained superintendent for that day, but when asked if Wallace would be the superintendent a month from now, he responded, "You know that I'd like to be able to tell a fortune on whether or not if I go out and play $2 if I'm going to win that $220 million."

Asked a second time whether the superintendent would remain for at least a month, Clarke responded, "Dr. Wallace is still the superintendent."

Clarke declined to comment on whether he had learned through the media that Wallace had applied for the Pontiac position. Clarke also declined comment when asked if he was happy with Wallace’s performance or whether he wants Wallace to continue.

Clarke was apparently concerned about giving any impression that he wants Wallace gone. On Tuesday, City Pulse received a letter from a law firm representing Clarke and the school board denying that Clarke "wants to revoke" Wallace's contract or "wants him out." (See letter at the bottom of the article.)

Wallace released a statement on Thursday saying that he had officially withdrawn as a candidate for the superintendent of Pontiac public schools only days after the school district made him one of two finalists.

Questioned on Tuesday about his future with the school district, the superintendent noted that he and the district were still operating under the same four-year contract they entered into two years ago and that "nothing has altered that status." Asked if he was aware of any movement by the Lansing board to terminate his contract, Wallace responded:

"I have no knowledge of that," he said. "That would be a surprise to me."

Yet, at least three sources connected to the Lansing School District told City Pulse that the situation with the remainder of Wallace's contract remained in flux. One of the sources said it was his impression that Clarke had already made up his mind last week to fire the superintendent, but that the situation would be clear after the Monday meeting.

The other five board members who attended Monday's meeting were asked by the media to publicly address Wallace's future with the district. All declined to comment. The board meets again Thursday.

Wallace will undergo his next performance review in June.

City Pulse received a letter as an email attachment Tuesday on the letterhead of Clark Hill, a Michigan law firm. It was signed by Barbara A. Ruga, an attorney in the firm’s Grand Rapids office. The letter in its entirety follows:

“We write on behalf of Hugh Clarke, President of the Board of Education of the School District for the City of Lansing, and its Board of Education.

Mr. Clarke understands that the Lansing City Pulse may publish an article inaccurately stating that Mr. Clarke wants to revoke the contract of Lansing Public Schools Superintendent Dr. T.C. Wallace or in the alternative, wants him out as Superintendent.

“The purpose of this letter is to officially inform you that Mr. Clarke has not made any such statements. Further, any statements by him declining to comment on Dr. Wallace should not be construed directly or indirectly as reflecting any position of the Board on the future employment status of Mr. Wallace. To the contrary, Mr. Clarke has explicitly informed [City Pulse reporter] Kyle Melinn that he has not made such statements as outlined above. Further, Mr. Clark [sic] informed another reporter of the Lansing City Pulse that Dr. Wallace has a contract of employment through 2011. See last Wednesday’s February 25, 2009 edition of Lansing City Pulse.

“Therefore, any article containing statements contrary to or inconsistent with the above would false and inaccurate. We strongly recommend and respectfully request that no statements to that effect be published in any of your articles or editions.

We have been instructed to take all available legal action if false or inaccurate information on this issue is nevertheless published.

“Thank you for your prompt and serious attention to this matter.”