Saturday, February 6, 2016

STAND DOWN SCOTT UNITED.....'ve had your Superintendents. The current one came with the cooperation of the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA).

                                             Installment #2    Feb 12

Scott County United, or Scott United's 501(c)(6) IRS tax exempt status claims the group's program service is to promote "Economic Development and Coordinate Private and Public Efforts To Stimulate Economic Growth". That sounds plenty high minded, but what explains a non-profit with such a haughty purpose having zero web presence? Hmmm? Non-profits are tax exempt under the presumption they are agents of good. So why, do tell, in the year 2016, would an agent of good not have a website to promote the good they wish to do? What explains a stealth non-profit?

Recall our February 22, 2015 post asking the question "Who is the Scott Education and Community Foundation?". We asked that after this separate non-profit went silent, having no 501(c)(3) 990 tax return recorded on since the year 2010, then sprang to life 5 years later last January to sponsor a $1,300 billboard promoting Scott County Schools. How expending funds to promote the local school district aligned with the Foundation's tax exempt program service to promote the Yuko-En, KY-Japan Friendship Garden is beyond us and frankly quite a stretch, particularly considering the organization's ending fund balance of $387,403 was last reported for the tax year 2010. Where did the $387,403 go and where did the $1300 come from?

What does one non-profit have to do with the other, besides a special interest in the Scott County School District? A similar cast of characters, that's what. One John P. Cooper in particular.

                                                 Installment #3     Feb 19

If you don't know the most influential man in Scott County, you might count your blessings. But rest assured each and every connected individual here does, regardless of John P.'s stealthiness. John Cooper founded and is managing partner of Capital Links Consultants, a Frankfort lobbying firm and owns and runs John P. Cooper and Associates from his Quail Run Circle home here in Georgetown. And he peddles his influence on almost every going on of any importance in Scott County.

It was John Cooper that Scott School's Superintendent Patricia Putty appointed as Chairman of the school district's 2010 iteration of its Local Planning Committee (LPC). Mr. Cooper promptly executed Mrs. Putty's plan to remove a second high school as the district's #1 priority on its District Facility Plan (DFP) and replace it with Lemons Mill Elementary. Why do the dirty deed? Most likely a "tit for tat" arrangement for Mrs. Putty's vote on the local Tax Increment Financing (TIF) board on which he had her appointed. Her vote would help secure TIF financing of the I75 interchange to be constructed out by Toyota that would allow Mr. Cooper's client to develop a regional shopping center there. Maybe that arrangement would have more appropriately been called a "tit for tif". Whatever, it was certainly a tit for something.

Turns out Mr. Cooper is a principal on both Scott County United (Vice-President) and the Scott Education and Community Foundation (President), whose other principals include Patricia Putty as a Director.

What's most curious about Scott United, whose other principals and members include the Chamber of Commerce's Jack Conner, local insurance man and appraiser Mike Hockensmith and Toyota's Kim Menke, is that of the approximate $70,000 the non-profit expends each year, about $55,000 is recorded on its tax form as a "management fee".  Hmmm?  Almost 80% of its revenue is spent managing itself. Now there's a non-profit doing some kind of good indeed. Good for itself! But what else does Scott United involve itself in? 

                                                      Installment #4  February 23

Tonight our School Board receives 5 recommendations from the Superintendent Selection Committee, an effort facilitated by the KY School Boards Association. The 5 applicants are those the committee thinks warrants the Board's consideration, winnowed from a pool of 21. We won't be privy to who those 5 applicants are, but the 5 presented will be the Board's first indication whether outside influence got to the Committee. 

While we have been calling for Scott United to stand down, we have also been calling for certain other individuals to STAND UP.  By these individuals not standing up and rebuking influence attempts publicly during this period leaves open a charge of taint. 

These individual's silence will be something they will have to live with regardless of the final selection of a Superintendent, and it won't be until that final selection that will we know whether outside influence was effective. Our hope is the Board's final selection will ultimately make moot the taint so we can all move forward with cleansing our school district. 

We will come back to this as we wait, but let's in the meantime revisit in our next installment what happened in 2008, when our school district last sought a new Superintendent with the help of the KY School Boards Association.

                                                  Installment #5   February 26

This week-end your School Board attends the 80th annual Kentucky School Boards Association gala at the Galt House in Louisville. And they do so on your dime.

And that's ok. KSBA will provide valuable training. But KSBA will also provide an agenda. As long as our Board absorbs KSBA's training through an agenda filter, they may well bring some good info home. It is a shame though that this "conference" is only a thinly veiled facade to bring those in command of a community's school district coffers together with those with their eyes on those coffers. KSBA promotes this week-end's event stating "nearly 1000 board members, superintendents, exhibitors and speakers" will show for the shindig. Yes, there will be the requisite training sessions and such, but the real goings on will be in the private suites upstairs, hosted by everyone from janitorial suppliers to architects. Stay downstairs Scott Board!!! School business is big business folks, and much of it occurs at this annual event sponsored by the KSBA. 

Ah...the Kentucky School Boards Association. It would be easy to confuse this quasi-governmental organization with an actual government agency, but it is what its name states - an "association". No School Board is required to participate and spend their taxpayer's money to do so. Mostly it is an association of like minded ex-school district administrators and school board members whose main goal (much like the Kentucky Department of Education's, an actual government agency), is to perpetuate a system that provides them all a very comfortable living. To that end their goal is to keep the ugly as quiet as possible, keep the "right" individuals in influential positions (such as local Superintendents), maintain the status quo, and by so doing, keep the money flowing. What do you bet that every KY school district crying about recently proposed state budget cuts belongs to KSBA?

The KSBA provides many services to paid member school districts such as Scott County Schools, and even provides the KDE with some contract work. One of those services is to "facilitate" a local school district's search for a new Superintendent.

We can't remember if the KSBA assisted the Scott County School Board when it hired Dallas Blankenship in the early 1990's, but suspect they did. That School Board's Chairman, Ron Wilhite,  was a big-wig at Kentucky Utilities at the time, promoting their energy programs. It came as no surprise back then to those paying attention that Superintendent Blankenship would soon create a new position and hire his daughter's father in law to fill it and then use the School District to promote KU's energy programs. And now Ron, retired from KU, finds himself on KSBA's payroll as their "Energy Grant Project Director".  Funny how these things work out, huh? And funny how Scott County Schools will be awarded yet another energy award soon in Washingon, D.C.

It's understandable that most taxpayers, what with their busy lives and all, pay little attention to school district affairs. It is after all "the school district", that wholesome "all about the kids" agency that only has the best interest of the children at heart. While that may be true for the rank and file teachers and employees of a district, keep in mind that your local school district administrators and Scott School Board command an annual budget the size of your city and county government combined ($58,000,000) and a construction bonding capacity of an additional $100 million.

Those kind of numbers place a big target on a school district, particularly one with as complacent a school board as Scott County had during the entire tenure of the Board Chair who replaced Mr. Wilhite, Becky Sams. "But not to worry" thinks the average citizen, "should anything really be up, our local newspaper will let us know".  Yeah, right. The goings on all these years at the administrative and Board level at Scott County Schools could not have occurred without our newspaper's silence.

Recall the 2008 KSBA "facilitated" Superintendent search process in Scott County. That search produced 26 viable candidates who all completed the extensive application process and presented their applications to the Board before the Board's imposed "deadline". The KSBA "facilitated" Superintendent Screening Committee winnowed those 26 down to a worthy 5 to present to the School Board (some with PHd's and Superintendent experience) just as occurred last Tuesday for the current search.

It has yet to be explained, and certainly not reported by the Georgetown News Graphic, what happened next back in 2008. After failing to name a Superintendent by its own imposed deadline, and after the school year had completed in 2008, School Board Chair Becky Sams introduced Mrs. Patricia Putty as Scott County School's new Superintendent at a June 2008 School Board meeting. Georgetown News Graphic publisher Mike Scogin gushed in his editorials about what an excellent pick the Board had made. Never did he tell this dirty little secret.

Mrs. Patricia Putty did NOT submit an application to be Superintendent at Scott County Schools, unlike the 26 who did and who met the deadline to do so. No, rather Becky Sams installed Patricia Putty, who turned out to be the KSBA's search facilitator Mike Oder's colleague from when he was Superintendent at Woodford County Schools. How about that? We hired the buddy of the guy we hired to conduct a search process, the buddy whose name never came up in that search process! Just as Becky Sams doubled down on her disasterious mistake by extending Patricia Putty's contract for 4 more years in 2012, (and soon to follow, a 15% raise)  the KSBA retains Mr. Oder's services to this day. But they aren't stupid. They didn't dare send Mr. Oder back to facilitate Scott's search this time.

But now there is reason to believe there have been attempts to influence KSBA's current facilitator and his screening committee, and that they both chose to keep quiet about it. And this week-end they all wine and dine in Louisville at the KSBA'a annual gala. Convenient that we armed our Board members with the names presented by the selection committee just in time for the KSBA gala. We bet that not only will Ron be in attendance, but that he will be seen chatting up Scott United's John Cooper. It's so comforting to know that "it's all about the kids".

                                             Final Installment   March 7

And in walked Scott United's emissary - Kim Menke. And before you could say boo, he was sidled up by Patricia Putty.

Only time will tell if Kim Menke and his Scott United have their man in Scott County School's Superintendent-Elect Dr. Kevin Hub. We simply can't know, but odds are (if no fix is in) Dr. Hub heard from Toyota's Kim boy before bedtime tonight. You see, tonight the Scott County Board announced they were entering into contract negotiations with Dr. Hub, with an official public vote to come soon.

Scott United has attempted inappropriate contact with those engaged in the search for a new Scott Schools Superintendent throughout the search process. And Scott United knew their attempts were inappropriate. They cared not that their contact could easily have compromised the process and even those contacted. They simply didn't care. And it is that demonstrated desperation that gives us hope that Scott United neither had a plant to survive the Search Committee's due diligence or that they were able to learn who did survive. Hence Kim boy's presence at tonight's announcement. But again, only time will tell.

In the meantime, we want to give benefit of doubt and celebrate tonight's announcement. It has been an exhausting process and an exhausting wait, and we appreciate the Board not dilly-dallying with the announcement. Let's all cross our fingers that the contract negotiations go well.

We also want to applaud what appears an excellent effort from the Superintendent Selection Committee. The accolades bestowed on this hard working group of six from their KSBA facilitator and from Board Chair Haley Conway seem validated in what the Board described as 4 excellent candidates from which they could make their choice. 

Good luck and godspeed Dr. Hub. You've got your work cut out for you. No one expects that you can avoid the influence attempts from our community's string pullers, but the community will delight if you are in fact the "real deal" and you focus on what's best for the school district, its students, and employees. If that is truly where your heart is, prepare it for the next four months of what are sure to be "the wrath of Patricia Putty".  And her buddies, like Kim tonight?  Don't be surprised if they attempt to upset this apple cart.

STAND DOWN SCOTT UNITED. We are watching your actions, your tax returns, and those pesky "management fees". 


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