Hiring of Former Tribal Chairman at LCO School Causes Community Backlash

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 | by Joe Morey |

Former LCO tribal chairman, Mic Isham, was hired last week at the LCO Ojibwe School through a grant-funded program to act as outreach to at-risk students. The hiring caused an immediate backlash in the community as outraged parents even took to social media suggesting they may take their students out of the school.

Jessica “Hutch” Hutchinson, the LCO School Director, told SawyerWire that she hired Isham after he was the most qualified applicant out of five persons who applied for the position.

Hutch explained that the position was posted back in October and they didn’t receive any applications, so they posted it again in area newspapers and online via the tribal website and newsletter. Hutch said that it was posted on a Wisconsin jobs site as well.

The grant position was awarded for three years by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as part of a larger grant application which originally included multiple tribal agencies, according to Hutch.

“The grant was awarded but only the youth/education component was funded,” Hutch said. “None of the funding for the grant or the position comes out of the school or tribal budget, however the school will benefit from the guest speakers and events that the grant will provide, at no cost to the school.”

Hutch wouldn’t confirm what Isham is being paid for this new position, but two sources within the LCO School told SawyerWire they overheard Isham himself state that he is being paid $30 per hour. Hutch said he isn't being paid that much.

“The salary for the project coordinator was written into the grant based on predetermined qualifications,” Hutch said. “The position is a 12-month position and will be housed at the LCO Middle School. The project manager will be responsible for reporting to the OJJDP, the LCO School administrator and the LCO Ojibwe School Board.”

Hutch also said the overall goal of the grant is truancy and delinquency prevention for boys ages 10-17 that are either tribal members or living in the LCO community, and Isham’s title is project manager.

“The LCO School board was informed about the grant,” Hutch said. Several tribal council members, who also act as the LCO School Board, were not informed that Isham was hired when phone calls were placed by SawyerWire.

Many community members posted on Facebook that they believed Hutch hired Isham because they are friends, and there were many posts that people had yet to see the posting for the job anywhere on the internet.

“An interview committee of five people interviewed the candidates and selected the most qualified candidate who is also one of three tribal members that applied,” Hutch said, yet, she refused to identify who sits on the hiring committee at the LCO School, despite being reminded that personnel committees for the tribal administration are not a secret.

Hutch also said Isham underwent a background check and took a drug test.

The objective of the grant is to provide social skills training and intervention, cultural activities and teaching, promote mentorships and positive relationships, all with the goal of preventing truancy and delinquency in at risk youth, Hutch explained. Coordination with social services, courts, youth organizations and community organizations will be an integral part of the program.

“There is no discipline component of the grant or the position of project manager,” Hutch said in response to accusations that Isham was hired as a disciplinarian at the school.

Amid the backlash on social media, some people questioned Hutch’s educational background and whether she was qualified to be a school administrator.

“I received a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 2012 where I graduated with a 4.0. I also have a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Hamline University in St. Paul where I graduated in 2001 earning Cum Laude honors,” Hutch responded. “ I hold an Administrator license #5051 from the Department of Public Instruction which covers early childhood to adult students which is valid until June of 2020. Verification of this can be found on the DPI website as it is a public record.”

Hutch also said it is not a requirement of administrators of Bureau of Indian Education schools, but she has two courses to complete in order to obtain a superintendent's license from the state of Wisconsin which she hopes to complete before the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

“I have worked at the LCO school since 2001. I have applied for every position I have held at LCO since that time including Second grade teacher, high school Social Studies teacher, high school basketball coach, Dean of Students, k-12 Principal and School Director,” Hutch said. “I have worked under multiple administrators and various School Boards and have been awarded excellent evaluations throughout my career at LCO and do not have any reprimands or violations in my personnel record.”

Hutch said if anyone has any questions for her, they can reach her at the school, 715-34-8924, ext. 1229, or via email at jessica.hutchison@lcoosk12.org.

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