Saturday, September 14, 2002

School districts warned of imposter

Man offering to dispose of chemicals

By Earnest Winston,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit is warning the state's 176 school superintendents about a man posing as a Kentucky Department of Education official and offering waste-removal services to school districts.

        In an e-mail sent to educators this week, Mr. Wilhoit said the scam artist is offering services, including the removal of laboratory classroom hazardous waste with a possible focus on chemicals that may be resold.

        Northern Kentucky school officials largely have been unaffected by the scam.

        Gary Rye, superintendent of Dayton Independent Schools, said district officials received a call from a man last summer “who was wanting to come up and look at our chemicals for disposal. We didn't pursue it with him because we had already done it.” He said he's not sure if the call was related to the man to whom the commissioner alluded.

        Jack Hicks, spokesman for Newport Independent Schools, said John Sowinsky, assistant superintendent for buildings and grounds, acknowledged that officials were aware of this situation but declined further comment.

        Mr. Wilhoit advised superintendents that if someone improperly disposes of hazardous chemicals for a district, it could subject the district to liability.

        “We strongly recommend that school districts that have not already done so do an immediate inventory of all chemicals used for instruction or maintenance and that proper storage, disposal and security be implemented as part of the school safety plan,” he said.

        “All science teaching staff, as well as plant operators, should receive thorough training regarding purchase, storage, security, use and disposal of chemical substances.”

        A KDE spokeswoman said she's not sure how many school districts have been affected.


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