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NWA EDITORIAL: That's chutzpah

Fired superintendent sues for district he failed

Oh, my.

That exclamation has probably been uttered more than once in the months since the revelations that the (thankfully) former superintendent of the Fayetteville School District had, at a minimum, behaved unprofessionally by engaging in an extramarital affair with someone on the district's administrative office staff.

What’s the point?

It’s laughable that Fayetteville’s fired school superintendent suggests his termination was wrongful.

There are many indications that Matthew Wendt was performing exceptionally well in the duties of the job, much the same way one could say Bobby Petrino was doing a bang-up job as Arkansas' football coach a few years back. There was hardly any question back then the offense-minded Petrino was marching the Hogs toward great heights. Then he did a bang-up job on a motorcycle and devoted considerable energy to hiding from everyone the presence of a riding partner, a former student-athlete hired to work within the athletics department.

It was a disaster, but it quickly became clear to most reasonable fans that it's not too much to expect a head coach paid millions of dollars a year to not be a liar to his employer.

Extramarital affairs have a tendency to turn everyone involved in them into liars.

Wendt became the Bobby Petrino of school superintendents. Sure, he's not paid millions, but in terms of Arkansas income, his $200,000-plus each year ranks up there pretty high.

But it's not really about the expectations based on pay grade. Wendt had a responsibility to the school district as a leader, as the person at the helm of the community's public school system. He was in charge of protecting the well-being of the school system's professional culture, and all evidence suggests at a minimum he wrecked the trust that so many put in him, not the least of whom were the members of the school board who are elected to safeguard the community's public school students, faculty and staff. How do they do that? The biggest action they take is the employment of a school superintendent. When the superintendent's actions betray the trust placed in him, there's really no choice but to unceremoniously send him on his way.

Wendt, of course, seems to see it differently. He recently filed a lawsuit against the Fayetteville School District, the very one he previously vowed, by accepting the job of superintendent, to jealously guard against harm and to advance toward a better future. Perhaps it's just the natural outcome of a very public termination: Wendt says he was wrongly fired after the school district employee with whom he engaged in an affair filed a claim of sexual harassment against him.

Wendt is suing to be reinstated as superintendent with all back and future compensation and benefits or to be awarded damages for breach of contract for wrongful termination, according to the lawsuit.

We hope that's all just standard legal mumbo-jumbo from a man hoping to restore some of the paydays he jeopardized by his own actions and poor judgment, because surely there's no way he can imagine returning to the post. But maybe he can. He's full of surprises and, apparently, ego.

Petrino at least had the dignity to head for the border without putting up a fight. Then again, it's probably easier to do that in the world of athletics. There's always a team looking for victories.

It may be this lawsuit represents, to him, hope for a financial settlement that will provide him a softer landing than the hard crash he forced the school board to deliver. But if Matthew Wendt's termination is ever determined to be wrongful, we're not sure what a rightful termination must look like.

Commentary on 10/09/2018

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