Affairs News Tempe Union High School District
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TEMPE district board chastised chief for affair
The superintendent of the Tempe Union High School District was chastised in writing by the Governing Board for his extramarital affair with the mother of a student, according to personnel records released Tuesday under a court order.
The "letter of direction," which is not considered a reprimand, directed James Buchanan not to engage in immoral behavior or take any actions that would negatively affect the district. It also warned him against using district resources for personal purposes, a reference to a large number of cellphone calls he made to the woman.
"Be advised that even creating the appearance of immoral conduct may be deemed to be a violation of this letter of direction and the terms of your contract," states the one-page letter, dated Aug. 25 and signed by all five Governing Board members.
Buchanan, whose contract requires him to uphold moral standards, admitted to having an affair with Maria Alexander, 44, the mother of a district high school student. Alexander requested an order of protection against Buchanan in May, saying he began stalking and threatening her after she miscarried a fetus she claims he fathered. Buchanan, who is married and has three children, denies harassing the woman.
Governing Board members hired an attorney earlier this year to investigate Alexander's claims. Board members did not terminate or discipline Buchanan after the lawyer determined her harassment allegations were unfounded, instead choosing to issue the letter of direction.
When asked about the letter, Buchanan said his affair with Alexander ended Feb. 22.
"Clearly what I needed to do was done long before that letter was written," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
Buchanan said he hopes his contract is renewed in June.
An evaluation of his 2003 performance is expected to be completed in January.
The past several months have had a "devastating effect" on his family, Buchanan said.
"My first hope is that my family can heal from the pain I've caused them," he said.
Earlier this month, Phoenix police named Buchanan as an investigative lead in connection with graphic letters and unusual telephone calls Alexander has received at her home. The letters, which made sexual references to Alexander and her daughter, were analyzed by police for DNA and fingerprints. Detectives have made no arrests in the case.
The board's letter was included with Buchanan's performance evaluations from 1992-2001.
The 1,000 pages were largely peppered with positive comments from board members and employees citing Buchanan's hard-working nature and exceptional relationships with district staff.
"Jim Buchanan is professional, knows his business and commands the respect of those who report to him. He is involved in the community and not just a part of it," a board member wrote in 2001.
Included in the 2001 evaluation, an unidentified board member makes reference to a Tempe Union employee who voiced concerns about Buchanan. The employee was not identified, and the comments were not disclosed in the evaluation.
Another board member expressed dissatisfaction about the public's perception of the district, indicating Buchanan has fallen short in relations with the community and the media.
Although he was given the highest ranking of "superior performance" for his work in 2001, the scores in Buchanan's evaluation were the second-lowest of his Tempe Union career.
"Clearly I have room for improvement now and in the years to come," he wrote in a response to the board.
Board members initially refused requests to turn over the records, prompting The Arizona Republic to file a lawsuit against the district in August.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge last week ordered Tempe Union to release the records, saying the public's right to information about the leader of the 13,000-student district outweighed any privacy issues claimed by the district's governing board members.
Board member Dan Perkins said he voted to fight the release of Buchanan's records because it could be damaging to administrators and principals if they believed their personnel records would be made public "at will." Rather than a development tool, evaluations could be misused as disciplinary actions, he said.
"It was a much larger issue than Jim Buchanan," said Perkins, who described Buchanan's performance as a "B-plus."
Full credit for this news article goes to: Arizona Republic, AZ
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