An Indianapolis Public Schools Board member seeking re-election this fall is facing criticism for his role in leading failed for-profit education company ITT Educational Services Inc.
Samuel Odle, a former hospital executive who was elected to the IPS board in 2012, has served on ITT's board of directors since 2006. The Carmel-based company—which operated more than 130 ITT Technical Institute campuses around the country—filed for bankruptcy following its sudden closure in September in the wake of severe sanctions imposed by the federal government.
The Facebook page “Indy Apples,” which describes itself as a coalition of teachers, parents and community members supporting public education, recently posted an image of Odle along with his compensation from ITT, which was $282,502 in combined fees and stock awards in 2015.
“As a highly compensated board member, Odle helped lead the company into bankruptcy,” the post read. “Don't our children and communities in Indianapolis deserve better?”
When asked by IBJ about his experience on the ITT board, Odle said, “ITT is a legal issue and I cannot comment on that.” Odle resigned as an ITT board member in mid-September.
“To my critics, I would say my record of community service and as a commissioner speaks for itself,” Odle said, pointing to “phenomenal improvement” at the district, including reducing the number of schools rated as failing by the state, decreasing student absences, and improving the district’s graduation rate. “I choose to stay focused on improving educational outcomes for IPS students.”
But Odle’s performance on the ITT board was questioned last July by Washington, D.C.-based CtW Investment Group, which “works with union-sponsored pension funds sponsored by affiliates of Change to Win to enhance long-term shareholder value through active ownership.”
The company at the time was reeling from fraud charges against the company and its executives by the Securities and Exchange Commission and a tough year in which the company’s stock price had taken a sharp fall.
CtW Investment Group urged shareholders against re-electing Odle or another director, Joanna Lau, stating in a letter that “these directors and the entire board have failed to properly oversee or demand accountability from ITT’s executives, and as a consequence have put shareholders at risk.”
CtW told shareholders that Odle, a member of ITT’s compensation committee, should be held accountable for the fact that ITT’s then-CEO Kevin Modany and CFO Dan Fitzpatrick had received “significant increases in compensation … despite profound deterioration of the company’s operation performance and share price.” Modany and Fitzpatrick were specifically named in the SEC fraud charges.
The group also said it considered Odle “particularly culpable” for some of the oversight issues at ITT because he also served as chairman of ITT’s nominating and governance committee during the time it promoted a director of the company, John E. Dean, who the group believed “bears responsibility for the … failure to properly oversee the audit and internal controls functions” of the organization.
Richard Clayton, research director for the group, said if he were a voter in Indianapolis he’d be “very leery” about re-electing Odle to the IPS board.
Odle’s opponent in the race, Jim Grim, director of community school partnerships for Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, said he believes Odle’s history as an ITT board member is “obviously a concern.”
“My concerns about oversight is one of the reasons I’m running for the board,” Grim said.
He said he believes the current IPS board, which includes Odle, has turned a blind eye to parental concerns across the district.
“They just accept whatever the line is [from the administration]. If you don’t know what’s going on, how can you provide oversight?”
Also seeking the seat is former IPS school board member Elizabeth Gore. She said she wasn’t aware until recently that Odle was on the ITT board and didn’t have a comment.