Twenty four qualified individuals, many with PhD’s, met the February 19, 2008 deadline to submit their application packages for the position of Superintendent of Scott County Schools. Yet the 2008 Scott School Board hired Patricia Putty, a name not amongst those 24. Here’s what we know.
At his retirement announcement at the November 2007 school board meeting, then Superintendent Dallas Blankenship introduced Mike Oder, a “superintendent search facilitator” the district had contracted with to aid in the search for Dr. Blankenship’s replacement. Mike Oder, a retired Superintendent from Woodford County Schools but working in retirement for the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA), presented our school board with a necessarily aggressive schedule that the Scott County School Board would be required to meet in order to have a new Superintendent hired before the beginning of the 2008-09 school year. It was a necessarily aggressive schedule because many applicants operate on annual contracts and their individual employment decisions must be made by late spring for the upcoming school year.
This aggressive schedule required that Mr. Oder immediately post and advertise the vacancy by Dec. 1, 2007; assemble a Superintendent Screening Committee (required by state law and made up of 6 individuals, Feb. 1, 2008); prepare, mail, collect and organize application packets (deadline for applicants – Feb. 19, 2008); present those packets to the Screening Committee (Feb. 25, 2008); facilitate the Screening Committee’s winnowing of the 24 candidates down to 5, facilitate the Screening Committee checking backgrounds of the 5 selected and then present those 5 to the Board (Mar. 13, 2008); allow the Board’s consideration of the 5, allow the Board time to make a choice, investigate a choice, negotiate and prepare a contract, and then present the new Superintendent to the community (April 4, 2008).
But something went wrong. And we do mean – WRONG! A Board Member even resigned his position shortly after the fiasco.
With all previous deadlines met, the Board’s April 4th deadline came and went. The first sign of trouble came two days later with this paragraph from a front page article in the April 6, 2008 News Graphic. “The screening committee, composed of representatives from each segment of the school population, recommended five candidates to the board BUT THE BOARD DECIDED TO EXPAND ITS SEARCH (emphasis added) chair Becky Sams said”, meaning (so everyone thought) that the Board was not satisfied with any of the top five candidates vetted and presented by the screening committee and they were instead looking at the other 19 candidates who had applied.
And then, an actual News Graphic editorial (maybe the last ever critical of the schools) in the May, 20, 2008 edition titled “CLOCK IS TICKING IN SEARCH FOR SUPERINTENDENT.” Actually the clock had since expired back on May 15th, a date by which the 24 candidates would have needed to have made their employment choices for the next school year.
On June 8th, a full two months after the Board’s deadline, a front page News Graphic article reported just how wrong things had gone. Titled “DISTRICT CONSIDERS INTERIM LEADER”, Board Chairwomen Becky Sams is quoted as saying, “I wish I could explain right now what we’ve done and how we’ve been going about it, but by law I can’t. After it’s over I would be glad to let everyone know just how we reached our decision.” She never did.
And then it happened, an interim appointment was avoided. A scant two days after the June 8th News Graphic report, Patricia “Tish” Putty – a name seemingly coming from the blue, certainly not from the list of 24 applicants - was presented as Scott County School’s next Superintendent.
Mike Scogin – publisher of the Georgetown News Graphic – was quick to jump on board as his very next editorial just days later screamed - “Superintendent Putty looks to be excellent choice.” In that editorial, Mr. Scogin stated “Putty is no stranger to Scott County. Her husband, Don, is employed with Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky” and that “all indications are that the board made a sound decision in selecting the new superintendent.” Really Mr. Scogin? You could declare that, when just days before you knew nothing of Mrs. Putty’s consideration and thought an interim superintendent was going to be named?
That June 15, 2008 editorial exactly marks the point when the News Graphic stopped editorializing anything but positives for the Scott County School System, and pretty much avoiding any controversial or negative news of district affairs. But not without warning. Late in the same editorial, Mr. Scogin stated “It is clear the board worked hard to find the best candidate, but questions about the search process have also justifiably arisen. It is time to put those questions to rest.” And that he did. Seems no one wants to explore Scott School’s past to this day.
Never did Mr. Scogin report how Mrs. Putty came to be Superintendent when she hadn’t applied. Never did he allow, even after his prior questioning of the search process, Chairwoman Becky Sams her “opportunity to explain what the search process involved and how the board went about it.” But the kicker - he never mentioned when citing Mrs. Putty’s qualifications in that editorial that Mrs. Putty and search facilitator Mike Oder had a past.
Yes, with the reputation of the School Board and KSBA’s search process, as well as Mr. Oder’s personal reputation as a search facilitator on the line, the Scott School Board hired Patricia Putty, once an employee of Mr. Oder’s during his tenure as Superintendent at Woodford County Schools. Hmmm. Just two days previous to Mrs. Putty being named Superintendent, Mr. Scogin’s newspaper was reporting that an interim superintendent appointment was imminent, then out of the blue a colleague of the search facilitator’s was named, preserving several reputations. And not a mention in the newspaper. Hmmm. We are not newshounds, but the odor from this stench should have attracted even a Pomeranian.
$148,470 plus benefits and perks. Here’s how we got there:
The current Scott County Schools Superintendent’s contract was signed June 12, 2012 by then School Board Chairwoman Phyllis Young. That 2012 School Board included her; current Chair Roger Ward; current lame duck member Becky Sams; Luther Mason; and abstaining – Haley Conway. Highlights of the contract include a $19,740 raise, creating a $147,000 annual salary with subsequent annual raises equal to the highest percentage given any other district employee for any subsequent year, explaining the $148,470 paid last year; the School District contributing not only its own share to the Superintendent’s retirement but also covering what would otherwise be the Superintendent’s share – sweet; the most premium health, dental and vision plans are provided with any upcharges paid by the district; 24/7/365 Toyota Sienna van and all fuel and maintenance provided; a $148,470 life insurance policy; 20 annual vacation days plus district holidays and 10 sick days as well as 2 emergency days and 1 personal day with full compensation provided for any vacation days not taken. And more. The contract can be viewed here - http://education.ky.gov/districts/FinRept/Pages/Superintendent-Compensation.aspx
Sweet indeed, but certainly not out of line with what private sector CEO’s compensation packages provide (the School Board calls the Superintendent their “CEO”). But a distinction must be made between private and public sector jobs.
Certainly the private sector often provides some ridiculous CEO compensation packages, ones that can in no way be justified by the value added by a sole individual. But that is a private entity’s prerogative. If you don’t like it, you neither have to invest in or engage in commerce with that company. You have a choice. The public sector is different.
Tax dollars fund the public sector. You can opt to privately school your children, you can even ignore your stake in public education, but you will fund public education with your tax dollars regardless. Of that YOU have no prerogative. Responding to findings from State Auditor Adam Edelan’s multiple public school audits, KY Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday stated – “We’re seeing far too many cases of where adults are making choices that are right for them rather than what’s really right for students and their futures”. We might understand the wide range of salaries paid private sector CEOs, but what explains salary differentials of public school CEO’s (Superintendents)? It’s entirely up to their School Boards.
We think a case could be made for a State Standard School Superintendent Salary. Fact is, the larger the school district, the more layers there are of Central Office personnel relieving and equalizing Superintendent responsibilities. Scott County’s Superintendent Salary is 14th highest of county school districts in the state, while 90 school districts boast higher average daily attendance percentages than Scott.
Next up? Central Office Administrators – past and present.