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.

 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

IF YOU CAN'T SAY SOMETHING NICE....


 

 ....then don't show for the meeting!

Consider the following quote from Scott Judge Executive George Lusby in Saturday's Georgetown News Graphic, regarding his desire that his next year's budget not exceed expected revenues.

 

 “My hope is that come January

we will be in the position to say

revenue is coming in more (than

projected) and we can do some

things that we haven’t done, that

we did not have in the original

budget,” he said. “If the revenue

is not there, we may have to postpone

it.”

Now juxtapose Judge Lusby’s proven successful budgetary approach to Scott County School’s approach.  At this past Thursday's regular meeting of the Scott County School Board, Director of Finance Randy Cutright had to defend Superintendent Patricia Putty's proposal from last November to expand the current half day kindergarten program to full day based on a hope that future tax assessments will increase a sufficient amount to fund full day kindergarten. Shame prayer is forbidden because a hope AND a prayer would be much more comforting.

Just because everyone agrees Scott County is long remiss in not providing full day kindergarten, and without exception everyone wants it, doesn't excuse instituting it without exploring how we fund the recurring costs of the program. New Scott School Board member Kevin Kidwell was not yet seated on the Board last November when the Board sloberingly voted unanimously to expand the kindergarten program, but he is left to figure out how to fund it.  Mr. Kidwell obviously desires full day kindergarten as much as anyone, but brings a buzz-kill to the discussion by asking if full day will cause elementary schools to rob Peter to pay Paul. Now why does he want to go sticking his nose where his predecessors dared never?  Because he, like Lusby above, has a clue.

Get this.  When asking the one elementary school Principal in attendance at last Thursday's meeting whether she had any concerns if full day would take funding from other school programs, Lemons Mill Elementary’s Lori Beth Mays replied that she and her staff were so excited for full day that she hadn’t considered the funding implications. Isn't that special?  And where were the other Principals?  We heard that at Tuesday’s Principal’s meeting the Superintendent instructed the Principals not to attend Thursday's Board meeting if they could not keep quiet about how funding full day impacts other programs in their budgets, the same sort of unfunded mandate the Board is always complaining that the State is always imposing on them!  We cannot confirm if this is true, but with only one Principal of eight elementary schools in attendance at the Board meeting, it would seem the other Principals received some sort of message?  And the one that did show is from the Patricia Putty inspired Lemons Mill Elementary?

Patricia Putty is not responsible that Scott County is one of only ten school districts statewide to not provide full day kindergarten.  That legacy lies with previous Superintendent Dallas Blankenship, who was never lost for a whim on which to spend the second half of a full day’s kindergarten funding, and his enabler- Becky Sams.  But in what appeared as an attempt to steal newly elected Board member Stephanie Powers her campaign promise to initiate full day, Mrs. Putty gambled on unguaranteed future funding to do so. What do you bet we would be in this same shape even if we had allowed Roger Ward's Board to extort the 28% tax increase a year and a half ago?  Remember that?  Oh, they were so broke they wouldn't even consider a sunset clause on the 28% so as not to hobble future Boards!  Yeah, right. Some want to spend, just as Blankenship and Sams did, on any and everything with no regard for the bilking the taxpayers suffer once the bills come in.  

WWLD? (what would Lusby do?)

Maybe the tax assessments will increase (something no one can know) and cover the increased costs as Mr. Cutright hopes.  But we need leaders in our school district like Judge Lusby, ones that won’t gamble with funds we can’t know we will receive.  We may have just that in new member Kevin Kidwell.

 

P.S.  –  There is enough money being wasted annually in our school district to fund full day. Mr. Kidwell seems to be on to this, but boy do his questions about it get the run-around!  Even from another Board member! Keep digging, Mr. Kidwell. The Board shouldn't even be allowed to take its provided by law yearly 4% increase until it cleans up the waste. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

"THE VIDEOS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES"


Roger Ward is quoted in last Tuesday’s News Graphic as saying “the letter speaks for itself”, referencing his recent letter of complaint against current School Board Chairman Haley Conway.  Mr. Conway replaced Ward as Chair after Ward lost his District 5 race in last November’s election by a two to one margin.  In the same edition, Georgetown News Graphic Editor Mike Scogin responded to our previous post’s request for editorial context to the letter with an editorial that also “speaks for itself”.  And that editorial speaks volumes.  But fellas – nothing speaks like video.  And there is plenty of video disputing the both of you.

In his libelous rant to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)  and the Office of Education Accountability (OEA), Roger can’t “recall the exact date” that he claims he “witnessed” a conversation in which Board Member Haley Conway told two other Board members “If you will vote for (the other firm) when we have our meeting I will join you.”   In his Tuesday editorial, Mike Scogin called this exchange “The most damning accusation” of those in Roger’s letter of complaint to the KDE and OEA.  

Well good.  Because it amounts to nothing.  At worst, and this of course requires that the conversation actually happened as Roger claims, Mr. Conway only offered his vote, not “persuade board members Jennifer Holbert and Jo Anna Fryman to vote for a competing firm” as spun by Mr. Scogin in his editorial.

The exact date of the meeting Roger Ward couldn’t recall but supposedly “witnessed” the conversation   was June 28, 2014.  Why do we know that and you don’t, Roger?  BECAUSE IT IS ON VIDEO!!!!  The comment you reference from Haley Conway to identify the meeting is clear as a bell on this June 28th video, so we know we are viewing the correct meeting. And guess what?  That video shows that you leave the meeting right after you adjourned it! The video continues for another fifteen minutes or so after your departure in which the only conversation involving Mr. Conway and two other Board members also involved the Superintendent.  By the way – how do you “witness” a conversation, Roger? You can witness a conversation being held, and even that requires you be present, but to know what is said you must OVERHEAR the conversation. Are you sure another Board member didn’t instead relate this supposed conversation to you, Roger?  Say, another member who is very sympathetic to your agenda, possibly?

Most troubling though is Mike Scogin’s editorial attempt to use Roger’s letter as a springboard to marginalize Haley Conway and his current School Board.  Implicit in our previous post’s request that Mr. Scogin editorialize about Roger Ward’s complaint letter is that the editorial would be an honest expose’ about the letter and its motivation, not the twisted platform from which to malign the current Board that it is.

How can the letter, which recounts past events mind you, “demonstrate more BOE dysfunction” as the editorial is titled?  The letter is not the product of the Board, but rather of a sore loser trying to undermine the Board! Is Mr. Scogin's editorial complicit in this undermining? Instead of condemning the letter for distracting the Board from their important work, Scogin’s editorial is complicit in the distraction by claiming the complaint letter “is yet another example of the ongoing dysfunction with the leadership (read – the board) of our school system.”  Then Mr. Scogin goes all poet in this bazaar statement – “Sadly, it (the letter) is another indication that, so far, among its leadership (again, read – the Board) the school system’s white hats remain unseen over the horizon.”  WHAAAAAAAT???  Again, how does a letter concerning past events condemn the current school Board?  The editorial only condemns its author and exposes an apparent complicity between the newspaper and school administration.  As we said last post – were the circumstances reversed and Conway was complaining about Ward, Scogin would excoriate Conway for distracting the Board from its matters at hand.

Roger’s letter and Scogin’s editorial also lead you to believe that during Roger’s tenure, Mr. Conway often exhibited  unprofessional conduct during Board meetings.  But two years worth of videos do not bear these assertions out.  In fact, video shows time and again Mr. Conway being attacked only to shrug it off each time.  Roger’s libelous comment that Mr. Conway attacked “Mr. Luscher two years ago accusing him of taking bribes and kickbacks” simply did not happen.  Roger should hope Mr. Conway doesn’t write his own little letter of complaint addressed to the courts.

Why all these desperate allegations and attacks on Haley Conway?  The answer is in the question – desperation.  The house of cards is crumbling and all they know to do is lash out.

There is more inanity in the editorial, but incredibly Scogin concludes with this – “We need school leaders who are focused on accomplishing the task at hand, who can rise above this pettiness and who can avoid such boorish displays of behavior.”

We conclude that we have those very leaders on this newly seated Board who can do just such – if boorish Roger and Editor Mike will let them.

Yes Roger, your letter does speak for itself.  And Mike, your editorial speaks for itself.  And shame on you both.  However, the videos also speak for themselves.  And THEY speak THE TRUTH!

 

 

P.S. – Why do you suppose no one wants to talk about the foundation?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

BURNT TOAST


                                                                   

Roger Ward was toast as soon as the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) called an unprecedented special meeting of the State School Board last summer to force him to equalize School Board voting districts.  Roger, in his position as Chair, sought to protect his cloistered district and fought off both his duty to redistrict and Haley Conway’s reminding him of that duty for years. Having witnessed Roger’s juvenile behavior throughout his School Board term, his sour grapes after the fact complaint against current Scott School Board Chair Haley Conway to the KDE (see front page of Saturday’s Georgetown News Graphic) comes as no surprise and allows even the disinterested to see why our school system is in the shape that it is today.  With his complaint, the man who was toast is now burnt toast. He was always only about Roger and this proves it was never “about the kids” for him. His legacy of disgrace is now guaranteed.

Even with Roger now irrelevant, his complaint does help us to further illustrate another disgrace – the effective facilitating of the decline of Scott County Schools by who should have been the watchdog instead of the lapdog, the editorial board of the Georgetown News Graphic.

The “editorial board” of the News Graphic is the paper’s editor and publisher, Mike Scogin.  Mr. Scogin solely decides what is and what is not worthy of editorial opinion.  It is editorial opinion that watchdog newspapers use to provide context of front page reports so the community receives the “rest of the story” that reporting isn’t intended to provide. Long time watchers of the News Graphic under the helm of Mr. Scogin have watched that editorializing more and more avoid those entities whose hand feeds a failing paper media.  It explains why most editorials are reprints of other community’s newspaper  editorials, and the few original content editorials that are published concern people and issues that don’t affect the paper’s revenue stream.  Just ask Brad Penn!

Case in point.  Saturday’s Georgetown News Graphic front page lead headline concerning Roger Ward’s complaint filed against  current School Board Chair Haley Conway drew no editorial attention from Mr. Scogin.  Had it been the other way around and Mr. Conway had filed a complaint against Mr. Ward, you can rest assured Mr. Scogin would have editorialized eloquently about how such an action only selfishly serves to distract the School Board from its important mission of “doing what is best for the kids”.  But then, Mr. Conway is a demonstrated non-friend of the Superintendent who presides over the non-Site Based Decision Making Elkhorn Crossing School that hired Mr. Scogin’s wife at a very nice indeed entry level salary.

Without a watchdog overseeing them, the Scott County School Boards of the last twenty or so years have engaged in some questionable decisions of how best to spend the taxpayer’s money, and some questionable amounts spent and where so. The attacks and actions of Roger Ward and others do not come as a surprise now that we have seated a School Board willing to take genuine interest in and oversight of district affairs.

Sadly, district administrators who are feeling the heat, and with no other outlet, are retaliating, abusing their authority and even lying about district employees they feel have contributed to the replacing of the previous “blind eye” School Board. We as a community must not stand for this.

Mr. Conway – please continue to do as you have, stay above the fray and keep your School Board focused on the tough circumstances left you by the previous Board.  Let the KDE worry with Roger’s complaint.  Our guess is that they will see it for what it is and not bother with an investigation.  But even should they investigate, stay focused.  This community will fend for you.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

GUEST POST

 







In response to today's Georgetown News Graphic revelation that just ousted Scott School Board Chair Roger Ward has filed complaints against current Chair Haley Conway, Mr. Conway's son, Haley Conway JR submitted the post below.


Saturday, 2/28/15, 6:14 AM
 
How do you measure class? I suppose that it can be by turning the other cheek or letting things simply roll off your back. If that is the measure of class or the measure of a man then my father Haley Conway, Sr is a giant among men. He's eight feet tall and Paul Bunyan. My father ran for the Scott County School Board, in part, because he cared about his children. He was tired of his sons having to undergo shoulder surgery because their backpacks were too heavy because their high school was so crowded that they didn't have a locker. He thought it wrong that all other counties in all other states had all-day kindergarten and we did not here in Scott County. He ran simply because he wanted to make a difference like his father had thirty years before him in the same role. Since then he's taken the brunt of criticism by those that resisted change and then became a champion for a group that felt that Scott County Schools isn't quite what it could be or deserved to be. Trying to establish change when forces with their own private interests at risk can be taxing and a lesser man would throw their hands up and say "I don't need this." He probably didn't but you, the people of Scott County (and your kids) needed the change he sought. His character is now being questioned by someone with none. A bitter individual consumed with his personal image and someone as deep as a half drunken cup of coffee. Dad has once again taken this very public attack in stride from someone who has gone this despicable route before. He has once again quite literally shrugged off yet another round of attacks from an individual who appears to have more free time on his hands than integrity. I continue to look at my 8 feet tall father and just shake my head in astonishment. He continues to stand head and shoulders above those who stand on and stand for nothing. So much grief, for him, over a school board? Worth the sleepless nights or the two hour trips to Kroger that were only meant to be for milk.... To him he continues to show that its worth it. That's a man with character.