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Resume gets a fine tuning
An education chief hopeful draws flak for claims he wrote music for major stars.
By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
Published September 1, 2007
Three decades before he was a serious candidate to become Florida's next education commissioner, Jim Warford was a small-time entertainer trying to make a name in the music business.
He played in clubs. He wrote songs. He penned a minor hit.
But did he really write songs for Kenny Rogers and Olivia Newton-John, as he claimed on a resume a few years ago?
Rogers' agent says the claim "reeks of bogus." Warford stands by it.
But Warford had enough concerns about the claim that he recently took it off his resume.
"I thought about somebody calling me up and saying, 'Can you prove it?'" said Warford, a former Marion County superintendent who now heads the Florida Association of School Administrators. "I don't think it's misleading in my own mind, but I can't prove it."
Warford, 58, is one of seven candidates who two weeks ago made the short list for education commissioner, a powerful post that helps shape education policy for 2.6-million students and 170,000 teachers. The Board of Education is scheduled to interview the candidates in Tampa on Sept. 17.
In July, Warford submitted his new resume to the search firm that's assisting the Board of Education. It contains several changes to an earlier resume - the one posted on the Department of Education Web site when Warford was K-12 chancellor between June 2003 and July 2005.
Two changes involve numbers.
But in the wonkified world of education policy, Warford's songwriting claims can't help but stick out. On the previous resume, Warford said he "wrote material for such artists as Olivia Newton-John and Kenny Rogers." On the current one, he said he "wrote material for Gusto/Starday Records," a small Nashville label.
Warford said in the 1970s he wrote a song called She Shines. He said his manager told him Olivia Newton-John liked it. He said "she looked at it seriously" for six months, but ultimately did not record it.
Warford also said his manager told him Kenny Rogers' team wanted a follow-up to Rogers' smash, Lucille. So he quickly penned an "answer song" called Thanks for Leaving Lucille. Warford said his manager told him Rogers' team considered it, but Rogers did not record it.
Representatives for both artists said the artists could not recall Warford or the songs he says they considered.
"It doesn't mean that he didn't submit songs" to Newton-John, said her national press representative, Michael Caprio. But there were "hundreds of song writers who used to contact her and submit songs."
Kenny Rogers' representative, Bob Burwell, was more skeptical.
Burwell, senior vice president of Dreamcatcher Entertainment in Nashville, has 35 years of experience in the music industry. He said he doubts Kenny Rogers, Rogers' team or Rogers' record company would have considered doing a follow-up to Lucille. With a few exceptions, he said, answer songs have not been a successful formula in country music, and Rogers would not have advanced his career by recording one.
"It all just reeks of bogus to me," Burwell said. "I don't want to shoot a hole in the guy, but it's not adding up."
Warford's manager may have pitched a song to Rogers, but thousands of people have done that, Burwell said.
Warford's response: "Did a lot of other people do that too? Absolutely," he said. "I never said I was Kenny Rogers' and Olivia Newton-John's songwriter."
Warford's song did chart. Thanks for Leaving Lucillewas recorded by an artist named Sherri Jerrico, on Gusto-Starday records, in 1977. It peaked on Billboard's country chart at No. 95.
Warford said he last saw his manager, Jerry Hale, in Nashville in the 1970s. He said he has not heard from him since.
He said their relationship ended when Hale listed himself as co-writer of Thanks for Leaving Lucille.
"I was young but never liked, or trusted Jerry Hale," Warford wrote in an e-mail. "He was one of those hustlers working the music business at the time."
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Warford made other recent changes to his resume.
On his earlier resume, he wrote that he supervised a staff of "over 250" when he was entertainment director and consultant for "Florida's Silver Springs Attraction" between 1989 and 1998. He also wrote that when he was Marion County superintendent, he partnered with business leaders to create a group called Community Alliance for Results in Education, or CARE, that raised "over $170,000 in incentives for high-performing principals and teachers."
On the current resume, Warford doesn't include either number.
Warford initially told the Times he removed the Silver Springs figure because he didn't know the exact number and "that was the number I had in my head, in all honesty."
After being told that a current Silver Springs official said he probably oversaw 75 to 100 employees, Warford called back to say he got the "over 250" figure from the park's former chief operating officer. He also said the figure included employees at the Weeki Wachee attraction in Hernando County, which was then owned by the same company.
The former COO, Mike Jacobs, confirmed Warford's account and Warford's number. "He did work his proverbial tail off for us," said Jacobs, who now oversees custodial and grounds works for the Marion County school district.
As to CARE, Carmen Maines, executive director of the Public Education Foundation of Marion County, said the group raised $105,644.
Warford said business leaders with CARE gave money to other projects, and he considered those contributions, too.
"I used the term 'over' $170,000 to clearly indicate that this was an estimate," he wrote in an e-mail.
"I changed my resume because I wanted to be as accurate as possible," he also wrote. "I knew the numbers in question were estimates and I did not have documentation to confirm them in my possession."
Times researcher Caryn Baird and Times pop music critic Sean Daly contributed to this report. Ron Matus can be reached at (727) 893-8873 or firstname.lastname@example.org.