By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
A top administrator in the Killeen Independent School District said he is contemplating the possibility of moving outside the district, after he asked a friend to consider letting him use her address to establish residency.
Deputy Superintendent Robert Ott asked Barbara Schindler if he could use her Harker Heights address to maintain residency in the school district, according to a written exchange between Ott and Schindler, which was given to the Herald.
“I may need to find someone I can use their address, as my residency address, at least on paper,” Ott wrote in the detailed correspondence with Schindler on a social media website.
According to Ott’s contract, which is due for renewal in February, he is required to live within the school district. On Friday, Ott said he and his family rent a home in Nolanville.
“(The written exchange) was to explore some options for dual residence,” said Ott, who added that changes to his wife’s work situation could mean a longer commute for her, which made him consider a “dual residency” situation.
“No decisions have been made,” said Ott in his office at district headquarters. “Everything is … up in the air at this point.”
Ott said he spoke with Superintendent Robert Muller on Dec. 16 about his residency and planned to address the school board at its meeting Tuesday.
“I’m going to go into closed session with the board and just explain my situation,” said Ott. “Whatever they say, I’m going to have to manage.”
Hired in 2009, Ott said the residency requirement was added to his first employment contract with the Killeen school district.
Ron Rainosek, president of the Killeen school board, said he was not aware of the written exchange between Ott and Schindler but added that he might consider re-thinking the residency requirement as a general principle.
“I used to be pretty hardcore about people living in the district, but my thoughts on that have evolved,” Rainosek said. “To be truthful, (Ott) has done an excellent job for us, and I don’t think it will be that much of an issue. If (the requirement) is on there, I might consider getting it off.”
The deputy superintendent confirmed he had a written correspondence with Schindler, whose Facebook page states she works for Scott & White, but that he did not remember the full content of the written exchange.
According to the documented correspondence dated between Dec. 30 and Jan. 1, Ott asked Schindler if she would be comfortable if he used her address and asked her not to tell anyone else. “It would have to be super quiet; nobody could know,” he wrote.
Ott said he asked Schindler to keep the matter quiet because of the nebulous nature of his situation.
“I asked her not to say anything and why did I say that? That’s easy because stuff is underdeveloped at this point,” he said. “I don’t know what it’s going to look like.”
Later in their correspondence, Ott again asked Schindler if she was OK with his proposal. “I figure there (sic) are no kids from your house in school so I won’t get caught there,” he said. “And you can just let me know if I ever get mail, which is unlikely. You can say I’m renting from you.”
Ott maintained that the written exchange with Schindler was simply to determine the options he had depending on the outcome of his family’s situation.
“I wanted to have different plans going in, and that was it,” said Ott.
Schindler did not return a phone message seeking comment.
DeEtta Culbertson, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency, said having a residency requirement was not mandated in the state education codes. “That is up to the districts and school boards,” she said. “It’s their decision.”
As Killeen’s superintendent, Muller also is contractually required to live in the school district.
The Copperas Cove Independent School District, where Ott worked as a deputy superintendent before joining the Killeen district nearly three years ago, has a similar provision for Superintendent Rose Cameron. However, Troy Galow, Cove’s assistant superintendent, does not have a residency requirement in his current contract.