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Superintendent Wendt: 'I Am Very Committed to District 308'

Jan 23, 2016 08:51AM ● By Steven Jack

Superintendent Matthew Wendt

After reports surfaced last week of Oswego school Superintendent Matthew Wendt interviewing for a position in Fayetteville, Ark., the district's leader told Only Oswego Friday he remains dedicated to District 308.

"I am very committed to District 308," Wendt said when asked about his interest level in the superintendent position in the Fayetteville Public School system. "I am as committed to District 308 as I was two days ago or two months ago. ... The district just announced earlier today that I've been appointed to the governor's Advisory Council on the Education of Children with Disabilities, and I think that says a lot."

Wendt was reportedly the third candidate to interview for a position as superintendent in Fayetteville. Following his Monday interview Wendt told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette he was interested in the job because it would put him closer to family members in the area and the potential for a partnership with the University of Arkansas, where he earned his doctorate. 

Wendt reiterated his position Friday, saying that most of his and his wife's family, including their aging parents, live within a few hours drive of Fayetteville. They also have a child attending college in the area. 

School Board President Matt Bauman said last week he didn't feel Wendt has a "strong motivation" to take the Fayetteville job, and that his name was put forward by the retiring superintendent, who is a personal friend. Wendt called Bauman's characterization mostly accurate. He also said he encourages all District 308 staff to explore outside opportunities that may align with their career and family goals. 

"I have turned down other opportunities to interview in other districts," he said. "... This opportunity reflects more on my family (interests.)"

If Fayetteville school board members choose Wendt as a finalist, he could be back in Arkansas next month for a daylong interview with school officials and community members. Oswego School Board member Lauri Doyle said Wendt’s contract requires him to notify the board if he becomes a finalist for a new job.

Wendt came to Oswego from the Ankeny, Iowa, school district in 2012. Shortly after arriving in Oswego, Wendt was sued by his former school board, which claimed he defrauded them by accepting a $176,000 transitional allowance upon his resignation, only to sign a three-year contract with Oswego the next day.

The lawsuit was eventually settled, and Wendt received half of the $176,000 severance package.

 “I am not at all concerned that if Dr. Wendt were to be successful in his application (in Fayetteville) that our community would be faced with a situation similar to what happened in Iowa,” Doyle said. “There will not be a situation in which our board is unaware of his negotiations for a new position.”

Doyle added that the Iowa school district controversy stemmed from the fact that Wendt was being asked to negotiate out of his contract before it was completed.

“In our school district, no board action has been taken to negotiate out of Dr. Wendt's contract,” Doyle said. “As a result, there has not been any discussion of negotiating severance.”

The Fayetteville school board has recommended a “negotiable” salary of $200,000 for the candidate who is chosen for the job, the Democrat Gazette reported. 

Wendt is currently in the midst of a five-year contract in Oswego that pays him a $225,000 annual base salary and up to $309,000 in total bonus and annuity payments at the successful completion of the contract.