At this past Tuesday's (3-4-14) Scott School Board work session, with Board Chair Roger Ward absent, the issue we brought up in the post below this was discussed. Under the direction of vice-chair JoAnna Fryman, the Board agreed to have the Superintendent contact County Clerk Rebecca Johnson, (the same Clerk Roger Ward offended recently concerning her handling of the recall petition) and solicit Mrs. Johnson's help in redistricting the School Board districts.
We are encouraged that the Board now agrees with us that this important redistricting occur, but are disappointed with their deadline to accomplish it of July 1st. As we recommended in our last post, if the Board cannot get the redistricting completed by the election official's desire of the primary elections in early May, then it should be postponed until after the November general elections. Shame on Mr. Ward for not allowing this to have already been accomplished.
We stand by our recommendation. July 1st, a scant 5 weeks before the filing deadline for Board elections, only confuses the election process, doesn't allow enough time to educate the public to the new districts and for all the other reasons we mentioned in our previous post effectively tampers with the election. Either complete the redistricting by the primary election in early May, or postpone the redistricting until after the general election in November.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
It was at the May 14th, 2013 Scott County School Board meeting that Board Member Haley Conway shared with the Board our local election official’s concerns that Scott County School Board Districts needed realignment to fix the disproportionate population numbers the current districts have. Those election officials had hoped to have had redrawn Board Districts by this May’s primary elections, a full year after their appeal, so as to affect them at the same time as they were affecting state and magisterial redistricting and minimize the complications the resultant “split precincts” would bring.
For whatever reason or reasons, the School Board once again ignored Mr. Conway and has failed to address this important issue. Important because of how it impacts the election process and important because constituents deserve proportionate representation on the School Board. Let us speculate a possible reason, in hopes of pre-empting should our speculation be correct. Speculation, we remind you, would not be necessary were this a transparent School Board.
Consider what could happen and be completely legal. With School Board Chair Roger Ward’s and sidekick Becky Sam’s seats up this November, Roger, in his capacity as Board Chair, can choose to wait until after the School Board Candidate filing deadline of August 12 to redistrict. Doing so could allow him a peek at the opposition for his and Becky’s seats, then could allow him to gerrymander that opposition out of contention for their seats. Don’t put such a bold move past the faction, desperate as they are to retain Roger and Becky’s influence on the Board.
Board election rules require that a candidate for a particular district’s Board seat must live in that district. Election rules allow redistricting right up until the general election in November. It would be but a simple matter in a community whose newspaper turns a blind eye to School Board shenanigans to redistrict any competition for Roger and Becky’s seats right out of contention.
Another potential circumstance would have a worthy candidate who wishes they could run against either Roger or Becky, but can’t because they do not live in either of those districts, discovering after the filing deadline that they now do live in one of those districts.
Whatever the reason for the Board not affecting redistricting in a timely manner, it at the very least casts a chilling effect on the election process by the suspicion and confusion it adds. Our recommendation, again in School Board Agenda format:
SCHOOL BOARD REDISTRICTING – Recommendation: the Board either get busy and present election officials with redistricted School Board district maps that proportion populations amongst districts by the Primary Election date in May AND publicize those maps to the community, OR postpone any redistricting efforts until after the November General Elections AND communicate this decision to the community.
Anything less, in our opinion, constitutes election tampering.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
As planned and as we predicted, Roger Ward is poised to foist upon this community the single high school faction’s “satellite overflow building” and can now claim that Bubba Public, by recalling his tax increase, has left him no other choice. Only one thing stands in Roger’s way, and he attempted to overcome that obstacle at Tuesday evening’s Scott County School Board meeting. And the fireworks flew!
“What”, you say? “Fireworks? Why, I read the school district’s summary of the meeting and there was no mention of any fireworks, nor any mention of obstacles. I’m still waiting to read the News Graphic account.”
Well, unless the News Graphic views the video, there will be no account, because of all Board meetings to miss, they “chose” this one. Hmmm! And were it not for the tireless efforts of Brad and Carol Landry, neither would you hear it here. Brad and Carol attended their first Scott School Board meeting well after the infamous Valentine Day 2012 meeting, but after comparing what they observed at their first meeting with what was published by the district in its Board Summary and what was published in the local paper, Brad and Carol resolved to video record each meeting since. And boy, are we thankful!
Here’s the set up. Recall that we alerted the School Board in our October 19th post that they had been hoodwinked into filing a District Facility Plan with Frankfort, supposedly as a “placeholder” so they could get started right away with construction of a second high school after passing their tax increase. We pointed out though that this “placeholder” in actuality described the satellite building proposed the previous fall, the one if constructed would guarantee Scott County would not see a second high school for the foreseeable future. Having the public balk at their “doomed by design” tax increase allows the faction to move ahead with this satellite project (they will call it a phase I of a second high school just as they called ECS a phase I of a second high school), claiming Bubba Public has left them no other option. On Tuesday night’s Agenda was a curious item that read – “DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION ON A GENERAL CONTRACTOR OR CONSTRUCTION MANAGER”. This item was deep in the agenda as Item #23.
Before any KY school board can proceed with any agenda action items it must first, as a Board, vote to approve the agenda for the meeting. The process goes like this – the Board Chair calls for a motion, then a second, then opens the floor for discussion amongst the Board members after which they vote. Never in the history of Scott School Boards has this taken more than say, 10 seconds. Not so on Tuesday.
After calling for a motion and receiving one from his sidekick Becky Sams, Roger called for a second, but only received silence. He quickly seconded Becky’s motion himself and opened the floor for fireworks, oops, we mean discussion. Jennifer Holbert spoke right away and boldly questioned the appropriateness of Item #23 being on the regular meeting agenda and moved to amend the agenda by dropping Item #23 and placing it instead on a future work session agenda. Roger did what he always does when things don’t go as choreographed, he gazed to his Superintendent for direction. Mrs. Putty said she thought it would be wrong to drop the item as a guest was scheduled to arrive later to join in the discussion component of Item #23. Ms. Holbert expressed her regrets for the unknown to her guest and said had someone responded to her concern about this agenda item four days previous, this would have all been unnecessary. Mrs. Putty then chastised Ms. Holbert to “read your policy”, obviously confusing the policy requirement that Board members must submit additions to the agenda at least 7 days prior to the meeting. Ms. Holbert did not want to add an item, she wanted to delete one. The policy reads “ The agenda of a regular meeting may be amended at the meeting upon affirmative vote of at least three (3) members”. Nevermind. Mrs. Putty repeated her admonition several more times to Ms. Holbert to “read your policy”.
Folks, it may not sound like fireworks as you read it here, but Mr. Landry’s camera caught the eyes and facial expressions of these two, and we assure you it was hot! At about this time fellow Board member JoAnna Fryman spoke up in agreement with Jennifer. That’s when Roger Ward, sounding like Elmer Fudd, began trying to salvage the precious Agenda item. Too late. With third member Haley Conway in agreement, and per Board policy, Jennifer, JoAnna and Haley forced a vote to amend with Roger and Becky the predictable no votes.
Here’s what’s important though. We don’t know if these three realized the full gravity of their bold vote or were just acting out of common sense. But it’s important that they understand that the only thing preventing Roger Ward, in his capacity as Board Chair from proceeding with the satellite building as described in the District Facility Plan and approved by the state, is getting Board approval of someone to build it, as he was hoping to sneak past the Board in the form of Agenda Item #23.
Yes, Scott County High School students needed a second high school the day before yesterday, but considering the hidden agenda to circumvent it, here’s our recommendation in School Board meeting agenda format – JUST SAY NO – Recommendation – the Board vote no on any item that even remotely resembles a construction project until after the November elections and a new Board is seated.
Yes, that’s another nine months, and we regret it, but it the only way to assure the right thing has a chance to be done for Scott County. The Board was initially poised to wait until then for a recall vote anyway and our bonding potential will also grow during this time (if not continued to be used for General Fund wishes), allowing the newly seated Board a better circumstance in which to make a proper decision.
Know that the clock is ticking for the faction and their string pullers. They must get construction started on their satellite building, thus assuring no second high school, before the November elections remove their remaining influence on the School Board. Please, Jennifer, JoAnna and Haley, join together and just say “NO” to any attempts to approve a builder (construction manager or general contractor). It’s your only leverage.
Monday, February 3, 2014
And with those two words, Scott County Clerk Rebecca Johnson set School Board Chair Roger Ward straight.
Unless you’ve attended the last decade or so of Scott County School Board meetings, you can’t know just how agenda driven and secretive these Board’s have been. We sat in frustration at these poorly attended meetings, with no local media holding them accountable, and watched as they ignored what was “best for the kids” and executed their single high school agenda. Not until we bought a billboard and established a website did we get a turnout at the February 14th, 2012 School Board meeting. The eyes of those in attendance that Valentine Day were opened to a dismissive and arrogant School Board not accustomed to hearing from its constituency.
But even after voting out Board Chair Phyllis Young and Member Luther Mason in November of that year, the audience at last Tuesday’s meeting were just as aghast at how this Board treats the public it supposedly serves. Scott Fiscal Court Magistrate David Livingston became so enraged at the Board’s dismissive behavior that he interrupted the meeting and said as much. He also posted his feelings on facebook. We commend David.
But don’t expect the tax dollars you’ve just spent putting up all five School Board members (and who knows who else) at the unrequired KY School Boards Association (KSBA) annual gala at the Galt House in Louisville this past week-end to improve anything. Our Scott School Boards have been making this annual pilgrimage (to be schmoozed and such in overpriced private suites rented by architectural firms such as Scott County’s perennial architect, Sherman, Carter, and Barnhart) for as long as anyone can remember. Yet they continue making inexplicable facility decisions such as the recent $2 million, 2700 sq. feet of open air space called a cafeteria expansion and exhausting our bonding potential on two phases of an elementary school when the data and the community screamed for a second high school. Yes, here we are in 2014, with all that invaluable knowledge gained at these KSBA Galas, and we’re back at square one with no second high school in sight. Dollars well spent indeed.
Make no mistake, but for the actions and inactions of past and present School Boards and their agendas, we would already have built a second high school. Their own 2006 state approved District Facility Plan (DFP) promised a second high school, as did a 2008 Georgetown News Graphic article quoting Scott Schools Facilities Director Mike Luscher. But no one on the Board will discuss these facts, much less explain them.
And now, with typical arrogance, Board Chair Roger Ward, in a prepared statement read at last Tuesday’s Board meeting about a considered challenge to the overwhelming recall petition, had the unmitigated gall to assert, “We don't want to fight and we don't want to sue”. What?
Actually if you read the entire prepared statement found by clicking on “Board Meeting Summary – Jan 28” on the district’s home page at scott.kyschools.us, you will see Roger probably really did want to fight and sue, he just COULDN’T FIND AN ATTORNEY STUPID ENOUGH TO TRY! Certainly not the Board’s own attorney, because stupid he’s not. But, expensive he is, and it would be interesting to see just how many billable hours were charged pursuing Roger’s pipe dream.
Roger’s rhetoric did not go unnoticed by Scott County Clerk Rebecca Johnson (the official charged with certifying the recall petition and the target of Roger’s “sueing”) as evidenced by her carefully measured defense published on page 4 in Saturday’s News Graphic. After the School Board filed an open records request for the recall petition (a move intended to intimidate and discourage signatures on any future recall petitions by letting the public know the School Board is watching who signs) and criticizing the Clerk’s work, Ms. Johnson concludes her commentary by dismissing Roger’s juvenile antics thusly - “The duty set before me and the staff of this office was to certify to the public whether or not a number totaling at least 2081 signatures were valid. They were.” Ouch!
Now, we know all this plays into the string puller’s desire to maintain a single high school and Roger admits as much in the close of his prepared statement when referencing his motion for the Board to rescind the 27% tax increase. He states “this allows us to spend our efforts on moving forward with the process of designing and planning the high school with funds we currently have available”. Interpretation - start building a satellite building that will insure a single high school for the foreseeable future.
Schstoobig has recognized since its inception that because of the actions and inactions of Scott County School Boards, past and present, a moderate tax increase in the range of 5% to 7 %, with a sunset provision, would unfortunately be necessary to construct Phase II of the second high school as promised in the 2006 DFP. The bonding capacity such an increase would sustain along with the current bonding potential of $10 million or so and the gains the school district is expected to receive as our local tax base continues to expand, and the district’s future annual 4% tax increases can finish that Phase II, attached as planned to the north elevation of ECS, in time to open in the summer of 2016. But our support has become conditional.
Because the School Board dishonored our reluctant support of the tax increase it proposed at its public forums by unilaterally increasing that already high increase another 18% along with dropping discussion of a sunset provision, and because it continues to allow Roger Ward to disenfranchise its constituency, schstoobig will oppose any tax increase or any phased building program until either Mr. Ward voluntarily steps down as Board Chair or the balance of the Board removes him as such. He simply is doing too much damage in his capacity as School Board Chairman as he continues to embarrass and erode the Board’s integrity and trustworthiness. Do the right thing “for the kids”, Mr. Chairman, and step down!
They were. Ha!
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
To all those visiting: We will publish a proper post as soon as we can wrap our brains around what happened at last night's School Board Meeting. In short - we were not surprised that, as we predicted, the tax increase was rescinded. This is bittersweet for us though as it may well be the string puller's plan, and certainly appears so with Roger Ward and Becky Sams voting WITH Haley Conway (the only pure vote of the five) to rescind. What was surprising and has us somewhat stymied is that the two new Board Members for who we opened the door to get elected, both voted to keep the tax increase. Stay tuned.
Friday, January 17, 2014
The school district posts on its website at scott.kyschools.us what it calls a “Board Meeting Summary” after each of its regularly scheduled School Board meetings. Initiated by our new school Board members as a way to better communicate with the public, this device has been co-opted and edited to the point of censor. The censor is in the selective and slanted reporting of what occurs at these meetings. The effect of the censor is most striking when first reading the summary and then immediately watching the video tape. Obvious.
And such was the case with the most recent (January 14,2014) School Board meeting, what with pedantic despot Board Chair Roger Ward dutifully doing the string puller’s bidding and shutting down any public discourse. As usual, the most compelling events of the meeting were scrubbed from the “summary”, but it was what occurred after last Tuesday’s meeting that broke our spirits. And this didn’t make the video.
Installed Board Chair Roger is getting smarter though. This time he waited until after the newspaper left and after the camera stopped rolling to attack his perceived nemesis and fellow Board Member, Haley Conway. Those left there amongst us could only hang our heads in shame as Roger blatantly and loudly attacked Mr. Conway, and the f-bombs began to unfurl.
With the County Clerk today certifying the recall petition, Roger has waited too late to rescind the absurd tax increase and expect any credibility for so doing. A despot has no need to be politically savvy and the waiting for the Clerk’s certification has shown Roger’s despot heart, all the while and probably by design, failing in his capacity to move forward a plan to help our overcrowded high school. If not by design, what else can explain him sitting silent after hearing loud and clear from the community that they refuse this time to bail out the Board for its blunderings. Had Roger listened when Mr. Conway called for the Board to first demonstrate to the community a respect for its tax dollars before forcing on them a 27% tax increase, maybe there could have been a different outcome. Had Roger listened to Mr. Conway that the community deserved a sunset provision for whatever tax it proposed, maybe there could have been a different outcome.
But no. Roger can only lash out at Mr. Conway in his frustration that Mr. Conway has been correct on all these accounts. In Roger’s arrogant mind, how dare such a lower intellect suppose to know what is best? Only the elitist Roger can know what is best for the masses, and he will take us all down, high school students and all, to prove it.
So what’s it going to be Roger? You own this second high school debacle now. You gonna swell up, take your ball home and wait till November to punish us all?
We were critical of the corrupt installation of Roger Ward as School Board Chair that occurred over a year ago now, and for good reason. Each passing day and each passing School Board meeting affirms our concerns. The clock has quit ticking. Time is out. For the good of our community and for the possibility of any help for our high schoolers, please School Board, please, remove Roger. Then and only then will you have a chance to gain the community’s trust and support.
Friday, January 3, 2014
Were they listening, they wouldn’t waste another day. But then, were they listening, they would not have attempted a 27% tax increase, or at least not without putting it first before the voters.
So that you know how this works, state law allows school districts to levy their own taxes, a questionable practice itself according to State Auditor Adam Edelen. That law allows school districts to raise taxes a maximum of 4% a year with no questions asked, and Scott County levies this 4% each and every year. Why a 4% max? Because 4% is a lot. Don’t you wish you could get an automatic 4% raise each year? To raise taxes above this amount is a big deal and the law recognizes this by subjecting any such attempt to a voter recall.
Now a School Board attempting a 5%, 7%, or wow, even a 10% increase, has the option to respect their constituency and volunteer it first be approved by that constituency by placing it on the ballot.
The Scott County Board of Education went beyond bold in attempting an unheard of 27% tax increase, and chose to not allow its constituency a vote. The increase amounts to 27% because the BOE took its annual 4% back in August and the extra 23% approved in November must be summed. Now, not only was the BOE bold, they (or someone) were also calculating. The law requires any voter initiated recall effort to first form a 5 member petition committee. That committee is then given only 45 days to gather a minimum amount of registered voter signatures equal to 10% of the votes cast in the county’s last presidential election. Our last presidential produced a large turnout requiring 2080 signatures be collected. The calculation considered that each and every one of those 2080 signatures must be recorded on a page titled with that voter’s voting precinct to be considered valid, an unnecessary technicality. The calculation further considered the 45 days would occur during a busy Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season with dark coming as early as 5:30 pm, making week day door to door collecting impossible.
So how did 5 intrepid individuals collect 3800 signatures and have them turned in to the County Clerk with three days to spare? 27% folks! This is our BOE’s solution to every problem – more money! We don’t need to go to the trouble of voting a five member School Board into office if the fix to every problem is to just raise taxes and throw more money at it. Five Otis’s could do that - it’s pure laziness. Where’s the effort? Where’s the imagination? Where’s true boldness? Sorry, but to attempt to raise taxes an absurd 27%, and to do so without allowing the voters a voice is an insult. And now, BOE, you have been rebuked!
Do you suppose the BOE is listening now? Absolutely NOT! Were they, not another day would be squandered waiting for the Clerk’s certification. Why no urgency to help the high school? The high school’s overcrowding was the seminal issue that swept new school board members on to this School Board a full year ago, and this is what we have to show for it - waiting for the Clerk to verify that the public has expectations of you? Why wait BOE? By not rescinding the ill concieved and now doomed tax increase, you are telling us you would further ignore the constituency should some technicality invalidate 1700 of those signatures. Are you even awake? You chose not to place this ridiculous tax increase before the voters, and if you were made of anything you would acknowledge your mistake, acknowledge your constituency and pledge to roll up your sleeves and help our high schoolers. TODAY! And please not another stale proposal that promises to someday be a second high school, we’re seeing through that, you know. Shame the effort you spent in this calculation wasn’t rather spent solving the problem. Or was that part of the calculation?
All this from a School Board who has recently taken upwards of a million dollars from the fund intended for school construction, and transferred it to a General Fund that annually spends 84% of its budget on payroll. The state recommends payroll consume no more than 79% of the General Fund budget and our extra 5% costs the General Fund and the taxpayers an unnecessary $2 million each and every year. How does our city and county governments keep their payroll around 60% of their respective budgets? But the school district has to keep those double dippers fat and happy, no matter how crowded our high school.
The ball is in your court, BOE, and you put it there. Every day that passes without you stepping up and rescinding the tax increase further reveals the heart that didn't allow this issue to go before the voters in the first place. Is anybody listening?