Controversial Miles removed as DODEA director
ARLINGTON, Va. — The embattled head of the Department of Defense Education Activity has been removed from her post, months after an investigation was launched into numerous allegations that she abused her authority.
Shirley Miles has been temporarily transferred elsewhere in the Defense Department, said Virginia Penrod, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy. Penrod declined to say whether the investigation prompted Miles’ transfer.
Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, decided to move Miles as part of an overall staffing assessment, Penrod said.
Effective Thursday afternoon, Marilee Fitzgerald takes over as acting director of DODEA, Penrod said. Her previous job was acting deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian policy, though she has previously worked for DODEA.
“She was chief of staff, she managed the budget for DODEA, she managed for DODEA,” Penrod said. “And so she understands how the organization operates.”
The head of the federal teachers union, which has long been critical of Miles, expressed satisfaction at her removal.
“We are pleased that there’s been some oversight above the level of Dr. Miles and we think that a change of leadership will be a positive thing for DODEA,” said Michael Priser, president of the Federal Education Association.
The teachers union also looks forward to working with Fitzgerald and hopes for reversal of some of the cuts in personnel and programs under Miles, he said.
“We appreciate the fact that Marilee Fitzgerald is no stranger to DODEA,” Priser said.
“She’s worked in DODEA for a long time. She knows the schools. She knows the education system.”
Miles’ new title and portfolio have yet to be decided, Penrod said.
In September, former Miles assistant Belinda Croteau submitted documents to the Defense Department’s Inspector General’s office that she said showed wrongdoing.
Among Croteau’s allegations were that Miles:• Directed DODEA officials to hire her daughter-in-law as a teacher, bypassing veterans and other qualified candidates and violating merit principles• Improperly hired friends for several high-level area superintendent positions, concealing her personal connections to the candidates during the interview and selection process• Misused a government credit card to purchase a computer, which she subsequently refused to use because she did not like its red color• Ordered subordinates to purchase more expensive, upgradeable airline tickets for her travel• Arranged staff conferences at luxury spa resorts when free government facilities were available.
Gary Comerford, spokesman for the Inspector General’s office, said Thursday that the investigation is ongoing.
Miles has been DODEA director since June 2008. During her tenure, she has clashed with the federal teachers union over a variety of issues. The union claimed last year that DODEA planned to cut up to 350 middle school teachers, but Miles said at the time that they were only proposed changes.
The union also disagreed with Miles’ plan to restructure DODEA to centralize education decisions, which had been the responsibility of area directors.