Orlando Ramos, one of three finalists for St. Paul schools’ superintendent, withdrew Tuesday after it was revealed that he’d failed to disclose that he sought bankruptcy protection about eight years ago.
The exit came a few hours after the Star Tribune reported about the bankruptcy filing in a story on its website.
“I apologize for the distraction that this issue has caused,” Ramos said in a written statement. “I wish the St. Paul community the best as district leaders work to find the best candidate to lead St. Paul Public Schools.”
Said school board Chairman Jon Schumacher, “The board respects Mr. Ramos’ decision and wishes him well.”
His departure leaves Joe Gothard, superintendent of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District, and Cheryl Logan, chief academic support officer for the School District of Philadelphia, as candidates to lead the state’s second-largest district.
Last week, the school board had met privately in small groups to narrow a list of 13 semifinalists to three finalists to be interviewed this week.
At the time, Schumacher said he was confident that each of the finalists was qualified to lead the district.
He did not know, however, of Ramos’ Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing until he was informed of the case by the newspaper on Tuesday. Schumacher said then that it was “hard to say” whether a bankruptcy disclosure a week or more ago could have affected Ramos’ ability to make the three-person cut.
“I think he has a lot of strong qualifications,” Schumacher said.
Ramos, a regional superintendent for Milwaukee Public Schools, said the Chapter 13 filing came about at a painful time for him and his ex-wife. Their marriage had ended, he said, and the 2009 filing for bankruptcy protection came on the advice of attorneys.
According to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records, the two listed $252,785 in assets, and $555,270 in liabilities. Among the liabilities was $260,000 in student loan obligations. The two completed a court-ordered plan to pay creditors in 2013, falling behind on three occasions, the documents show.
Ramos was a middle school principal in San Jose, Calif., at the time of the filing.
Since then, he has held administrative positions in Illinois and Louisiana, and now in Milwaukee, where he supervises 26 high schools.
Last week, he dropped a bid to become schools chief in Detroit when he made the list in St. Paul. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he is a finalist for the top schools job in Cincinnati, too.
Moving on with 2 finalists
The St. Paul, Detroit and Cincinnati searches are all being handled by Ray and Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The search firm’s contract with the St. Paul district requires “background investigation” of candidates, but it appears to be limited. An attachment to the contract states that the firm will check a candidate’s work history through “online sources such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sources as well as checking for blogs.”
The contract called for a fixed fee of $30,000 plus as much as $5,000 in expenses.
The Star Tribune learned of the bankruptcy filing through use of the search tool LexisNexis Accurint and court records.
When informed of the bankruptcy case on Tuesday morning, Schumacher said: “I certainly would have liked to have known that.”
But he added he was willing to hear from Ramos on the subject in the belief that the bankruptcy was just one part of his story.
“Obviously, not everybody’s perfect, and you try to judge how it all fits,” Schumacher said.
Ramos said the failure to share the information was not intentional. Initially, he also appeared open to staying in the hunt for the job. He defended his ability to manage school district finances by stating he had “balanced all budgets in all organizations” he had led.
But by midafternoon, Ramos notified Ray and Associates that he was dropping out, and the search firm informed the school board of his decision.
Gothard and Logan are scheduled to visit schools and meet with staff and stakeholders beginning on Wednesday.
A “Meet the Candidates” event will be held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Washington Technology Magnet School, 1495 Rice St.