Friday, May 22, 2015

MIKE SCOGIN WEIGHS IN...

….as a lightweight. 

Mike Scogin has a problem.  More than one actually, but a big one regarding Scott County Schools.  Yes, we regularly criticize Mr. Scogin's editorial absence concerning his wife's employer, Scott County Schools.  His May 19th Georgetown News Graphic editorial though reveals his conspicuous editorial absence has reached a tipping point.   

Of all that occurred at the May 14th Scott County School Board meeting (and the May 7th meeting for that matter, or the April 23rd meeting, or - FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS..... but we digress), Mike chooses to enter the fray with an issue he can present as petty and that represents this Board's full body of work. Neither is the case. 

How about Agenda item # 20, Mike?  You know -  the agenda item that asked the Board to approve yet again robbing our new high school's construction funds to appease administration's whims?  AND THE BOARD SAID NO!!! UNPRECEDENTED!!!  BIG NEWS, MIKE!!!  But not a word from you. No. Or from your reporting. 

Here we finally have a Board that recognizes the district's perilous financial circumstance and acts on it, and nary a word. And here was an opportunity to offer context to Board Member Stephanie Power's repeated concerns about locating Great Crossing High School on a 20 foot deep fill placed there to prevent the original plan to turn Phase I (Elkhorn Crossing School) into our second high school. She keeps asking how much the district will be spending on the extraordinary efforts that will be required to build on that fill area when there are so many other acres on which to build. WE MUST SAVE MONEY! But she can't get an answer.  Easier to characterize her as an obstructionist.

Which brings us to this little ditty revealed in this same meeting that you or your paper failed to even mention  - GREAT CROSSING HIGH WILL NOT HAVE A GYMNASIUM!!! WHAT??? 

Yep!  And no mention whatsoever in the News Graphic!  The last the public had heard concerning a gym was from Finance Director Randy Cutright a couple of months or so ago.  At that time positive financial projections indicated a gym was a done deal. Don't you think your community deserves to know about this little revelation, Mr. Scogin? Money saved by not building on a fill could go to providing a gym.  But instead you editorialize on the flier. 

Or this - (again, at the same meeting) - our artistic Director of Transportation's throwing his Superintendent "under the bus" with his revelation that he had not vetted agenda item # 8's "common carrier" approval request. This was very interesting because the Superintendent had assured the Board some time back that all such tour bus considerations would first be considered by Mr. Prince to allow him opportunity to satisfy the Board's legal requirement to provide school buses before allowing tour buses to transport school children.  And then, in case the Super wasn't fully under the bus, Mr. Prince reminded the Board that school buses are eight times safer, that he has school buses available, and he would not recommend using tour buses for this agenda item trip. 

And what about the Board finally receiving the long awaited staffing information from Human Resources Director Dr.* Culross.  This was a big deal, but no mention in the News Graphic at all.  Are you curious at all about why Band Director Tom Brawner received his pink slip the morning after the April 23rd Board meeting where it was made abundantly clear the Board expected to receive staffing information?  Are you curious at all why the furor over his non-renewal died as quickly as it began?  Are you curious why the Board went into closed executive session Thursday before last? The community is curious about all these things, Mr. Scogin. 
Instead, you hand pick a serious discussion involving an ethics violation from the end of the meeting and turn it into a platform for you to appear involved and engaged in School Board affairs.  

Your editorial headline - "Children lose out when adults focus energies on squabbling" reveals a tired old intent - to marginalize by playing the "children" card.  If you had attended even one School Board meeting over all these years you would know that this Board's focus is instead to salvage what's left of a school district ravaged by Boards and Superintendents past.  Spare us your politically safe lecturing that "it is time the swords were laid down and each side find some common ground - which obviously is the education of our young people and the welfare of the school system as a whole". 

This Board is doing the hard work to preserve "the welfare of the school system as a whole" that can't be accomplished by your self serving "go along to get along" mantra.  This work, so long evaded, deserves its community's newspaper's support. Instead it must overcome your obvious bias while digging the district out of its financial hole.  Shame on you, your "editorial", and your newspaper. 

Next Board meeting is Thursday.  Come on out before weighing in.  Oh, and we noticed your wife survived the rash of pink slips that recently went out that Mr. Brawner was the victim of.  We feel for all those pink slipped, those less fortunate (or connected), whichever the case may be.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

CHANGE ORDERS

Again it comes down to the two piles of money, the general fund and the construction fund. Scott Schools administration's antics and the conduct unbecoming serve mostly to distract from the coming financial storm. 

At last Thursday's Scott County School Board work session, the Board squarely set the record straight regarding the administration's charade designed to turn Central Office staff members against the Board. And in so doing plugged another money leak.  Our dynamic Director duo of Facilities and Maintenance will be expected to actually do their jobs instead of farming it out in a $10,000 payment to an unnecessary architect to replace Central Office windows.  Whose hands the $10,000 would ultimately grease is anybody's guess. 

But again, what should concern us all comes via the Director of Finance, Randy Cutright, whose facade of noble innocence is wearing thin.  Bear with us the following layman's explanation of how the District yearly and routinely robs the construction fund to provide pocket money for department heads to satisfy their wishes over their needs.  An admitted "wish list" was presented to the Board Thursday evening expressing how they wished to spend this ill gotten money. 

The two piles of money are funded from many sources.  The construction fund is primarily funded from selling bonds.  Scott has historically found projects with ample "change orders" to keep this source exhausted to avoid being able to afford a second high school.  Another source that funds construction is called Capital Outlay. This funding provides each KY school district significant monies based on the number of students enrolled in the district, upwards of a million dollars a year for Scott. 

Some years ago, the state legislature saw fit to allow districts to pay certain "general fund" expenses from capital outlay monies.  The rational was that many school districts were accumulating capital funds money, but due to stagnant growth with no construction projects needed on which to spend it, it sat while these same district's tax bases shrank reducing much needed general fund balances. To help out, legislation was enacted to allow school districts to transfer money out of capital funds (construction) to the general fund to pay certain expenses such as insurance or school bus purchases. 

Blue ribbon districts (high growth districts) such as Scott County cannot defend making such transfers, as these monies are needed in the construction fund where they originate to sustain facility growth to accommodate enrollment growth.  Yet Scott routinely and without fail makes the transfers, then uses the money originally budgeted for insurance and the like to fund their every whim, such as those on the wish list presented Thursday evening. It has become an addiction and in good part accounts for the expended shape of the construction fund.

Boards past were either not intellectually equipped to understand what was happening right under their noses, or were complicit in this scheme that helped keep Scott from affording a new high school. Same goes for our newspaper. 

Thursday evening, Mr. Cutright made his routine presentation, only this time to a Board paying attention. After politely listening, Board Chair Haley Conway just as politely expressed how nonsensical it would be to rob an already bereft construction account to pay for items that should otherwise be prioritized in individual department budgets. IT'S WHY YOU BUDGET IN THE FIRST PLACE, BOYS AND GIRLS (our words)! Talk about a "change order"!  This change order profits us all, students and taxpayers. Mr. Conway's comment, if realized, changes everything!

Maybe we will eventually find time and energy to post all the tabloid-like shenanigans being played by administrators and played out at these recent School Board meetings.  But for now it is incumbent upon us to stress the perfect financial storm being left for this Board to absorb after the Superintendent's departure.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

CONDUCT UNBECOMING

Amid the celebration of a name for the new high school was a tirade from the Superintendent and an hour long expression of frustration from Board members that they can't get requested information from the Superintendent and administrators. There was also this - the most critical moment of the April 23, 2015 Scott County School Board meeting, and it came from the usually dry financial report delivered by Finance Director Randy Cutright

Seems 1st quarter tax revenues are down, and considerably so, from the same period last year. Something? Maybe or maybe not, but Mr. Cutright's tone was disconcerting when advising the Board that should this down quarter indicate a developing trend, the 2016 budget would suffer. 

So what?  What about the Superintendent's behavior?  That's much more interesting! 

Oh, interesting it was, and it can be viewed during agenda item #29 about an hour or so into the meeting. That is, it can be viewed should the video ever get posted on the district's website.  But the real story remains the down quarter.  

You see, it wasn't just a down quarter - it was down a lot.  And it takes only one down quarter to illustrate the gamble the previous Board saddled this Board with.  It also validates the perfect storm we warned is being prepared for the Superintendent's departure June 30, 2016. 

Remember - full day kindergarten is entirely predicated on there not being down quarters.  Recall that the first year of full day is being financed by non-recurring contingency funds, but the budget must absorb all future years.  And those future monies must come from increased tax receipts. Isn't it interesting that should a down trend develop, the impact won't be apparent until after the Superintendent leaves?  No surprise then the ugly kickback delivered by the Superintendent to Board Member Kevin Kidwell and his attempts to save the district money? 

Yes, last Thursday's meeting revealed much.  But nothing more troubling than the Finance Director's ominous warning.  More on this troubling meeting in our next post.

Monday, April 20, 2015

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH


Houston – we have a pulse.

We will get to the Superintendent search in a moment, but first, the most profound moment of last Thursday’s Scott County School Board Work Session came once again via new vice-chair Kevin Kidwell. Not only did it result in a 4-1 vote, it actually reversed the approval recommended on the evening’s agenda.  And it wouldn’t have happened without the measure of common sense Mr. Kidwell brings. This guy gets it. And what’s further encouraging is that his common sense made good sense to 3 of the other 4 Board Members.

Common sense has long been missing on Scott County School Boards.  Consider the lack of it when the previous Board voted to choose perennial architect Sherman, Carter, Barnhart to build the 2nd high school over an admitted “just as worthy” firm?  That action confirmed the notion that competitive architects need not waste their time and resources to bid on Scott County School’s construction projects, long seemingly tied up by SCB.  The subsequent vote to continue the long suspect relationship with Construction Manager Alliance Corp. only cemented the notion.

Last Thursday’s agenda item recommendation that the Board continue its contract with the same old outside auditor however met with some common sense. Mr. Kidwell opened the discussion of this item by recalling a comment from a November meeting before he was seated on the Board. Seems the State recommends that school districts change out their required by law outside auditors every 3 to 5 years. Mr. Kidwell simply pointed out that since there was a “just as worthy” firm interested this year in Scott County’s auditing business, wouldn’t it be wise to follow the state’s recommendation while we had such a “just as worthy” firm’s interest?  No brainer – right?

With vestiges of previous common senseless college professor leadership lingering, Mr. Kidwell had to continue to stress his point. With obvious resistance to Mr. Kidwell’s rational from the Superintendent and fellow Board Member Jennifer Holbert, thankfully the balance of the Board got it.  And rather than voting the recommendation down, he instead offered up a new motion to select the new auditing firm that passed 4-1.  Profound indeed for a Scott School Board and a definite encouraging sign of life.

                                                              

                                                                    O HAPPY DAY!

David Baird from the Kentucky School Board Association (KSBA) presented the Superintendent search process to the Board. Understand that the KSBA is just that – an association – who offers services such as Superintendent searches to KY school boards. Scott County or any other KY school district have no obligation to contract for these searches, or any other service offered by the KSBA, but are wise to do so to be assured the search meets state laws and regulations. But the Board needs to make clear to the KSBA that it will not accept the debacle KSBA participated in for our last Superintendent’s search (see our February 8, 2014 post titled “Public Reprimand”) .

Board Chair Haley Conway mentioned he had also made contact with a couple of out of state search firms, and that is fine. Fayette County is using such firms to be assured its search truly is nationwide, but is also contracting with KSBA to be assured KY laws are followed.  Scott should do likewise.

                                                                             ETC.

Ex – Georgetown and Stamping Ground police officer Jim Geary also presented to the Board on this night, but for the life of us we don’t know what about.  Mr. Geary, now on extended medical leave as a Scott County school bus driver and living in former Board Chair Becky Sam's old house, was apparently recruited to speak in opposition to an excellent presentation by Christie Hawkins concerning why all other school districts provide their school bus drivers a break room.  Mr. Geary's presentation can best be described as "drivel".  It was truly bizarre.

Stay tuned for a synopsis of next Thursday’s regular Scott School Board meeting.

 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

BULLIES


Bullying is compensation. Usually the bully is compensating for an inadequacy, such as ineptness. Scott County Schools claims to have a zero tolerance policy for bullying, yet there seems to be no lack of bullies in Scott County School’s highest levels of administration.  The recent termination of school bus driver Tina Alloway has all the appearances of bullying.

Certainly there are two sides to any story, but the school district isn’t talking in this matter. Doesn’t much matter though, as we have learned time and again that what comes from the school district cannot be trusted.  Their “letter of lies” was after all, the impetus for this web and blog site, and their spin in almost all matters seems meant to deceive. Recall the district claiming the recent closure of Scott Middle School was for a lack of heat.  True enough, but the district’s spin denied you the whole truth.  The whole truth revealed the “lack of heat” was due to a natural gas leak at the middle school, but you never heard the whole truth from the district, now did you?

This particular blog post has been slow to arrive because we have attempted our best to understand and report what has occurred with Ms. Alloway’s termination. Although more forthcoming than the school district, Ms. Alloway is understandably holding her cards close, but some information is available.

As reported in the March 26th edition of the Georgetown News Graphic, a “go fund me” account has been established in anticipation of legal fees Ms. Alloway will incur, as the account claims Ms. Alloway has secured legal representation. This alone could indicate Ms. Alloway has a case, as attorneys do not risk their reputations nor their time on frivolity. We have reason to believe we know who Ms. Alloway’s attorney is, and if so, Ms. Alloway not only has a case, she has a strong case and is virtually assured a win.

Which means everyone else loses, including us taxpayers.  You see, settlements are paid by the district’s insurance carrier, but are recouped by higher and higher insurance premiums.  Scott County School ‘s insurance premiums are among the highest in the state and eat up a lot of budget that could otherwise be providing textbooks and the like. Make no mistake, it is the bullies costing us here, not Ms. Alloway.  Her hand is forced.

The “go fund me” page GOFUNDME.COM/p91dkc indicates Ms. Alloway has been terminated for an incident discovered on her bus video camera from a full month preceding, that shows Ms. Alloway, while parked for the afternoon Western Elementary School student dismissal, “stepped off the bottom step of the bus for a short confidential conversation with a teacher and a Principal, all the while maintaining physical contact with the bus.”  We found the state regulation that the school district claims this action violates in KAR 5:080 Section 27 which states – “A driver of a school bus shall be on the bus at all times students are loading or unloading.” It may appear Ms. Alloway violated the “letter” of this regulation, but a lawsuit will involve the “spirit” of not only the law, but also the “spirit” of those that brought about Ms. Alloway’s termination.

Let us make a technical correction here. Ms. Alloway may very well have been told she was terminated in a meeting for that very purpose early last week, but really she was placed in a status of “suspension without pay” awaiting termination.  You see, there are procedures and those procedures allow those intended to be terminated six calendar days to appeal for an arbitration process to hear the matter. At the end of those six days, if either the individual has not responded to the offer or refuses the offer, they are then officially terminated. If instead they choose arbitration, they remain on suspension without pay until the arbitrator’s decision. This may be a distinction without a difference but technically Ms. Alloway is on suspension without pay.

Ah, but there is this. Bringing an employee back to an active status is possible from “suspension without pay” and isn’t possible without rehire from termination.  This little distinction allows a school district to rethink their decision once they learn if and who a suspended employee might retain for legal representation.  This might very well happen in Ms. Alloway’s case, but even if so, does not repair the damage the school district has done to her reputation.  It will be interesting indeed.

We would love to give you the details of the retaliations and discriminations Ms. Alloway’s “go fund me” page alludes to, and they are plentiful, but to do so would give up her hand.  But here is all you need to know, and is the point this post wishes to make.

WE KNOW, as does every current or retired KY public school superintendent, that a Superintendent absolutely avoids, unless “required” by law to do so, the terminating of any district employee UNLESS  trying to make a statement or are acting in retaliation.  The reason this is true is that Superintendent’s have a much cleaner process to be rid of an employee – that by simply not renewing the employee’s contract.

All certified and classified employees of KY public school districts are employed on an annual contract.  That contract must be renewed for their employment to continue.  The “law” that Ms. Alloway is claimed to have violated does not REQUIRE her dismissal, as would say, the law governing a school bus driver found to be driving a school bus under the influence (and even that law allows reassignment of duties, not absolute termination). No, this attempt to terminate the employment contract between Tina Alloway and the Scott County School Board smacks of continued retaliation, and will most likely be proven to be so.

And everyone loses, including the students, particularly those who were fortunate to have Ms. Alloway as their school bus driver. No, Scott County Schools doesn’t need rid of Tina Alloway.  Scott County Schools needs rid of its compensating bullies.