Montgomery Co. Supe Is Reality-Challenged

Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell wrote a letter to the editor of the Mt. Sterling Advocate in April. In the letter, he addressed rumors of the looming audit that was set to be released from the Auditor of Public Accounts, Adam Edelen.

The Kentucky School Boards Association archived the letter, so we’re going to republish it in its entirety here:

Addressing Audit Rumors

I want to confirm that the State Auditor’s office has requested documents from the Montgomery County School district. The request for documents, ranging from the superintendent’s contract, budgets, and various policies, was the result of anonymous complaints from individual(s) from the community. With this, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to provide evidence of the astute and unparalleled fiscal management of the Montgomery County School District during the last couple of years.

When I arrived in Montgomery County, I realized that a lot of work had to be performed instructionally, as well as fiscally. Furthermore, since I had a history of making improvements, I realized that considerable controversy would accompany my efforts. Along with several strategies to offset naysayers concerning the improvement of test scores, I implemented fiscal strategies, including but not limited to, increased training and transparency with the local board of education and requests to be intensely and frequently audited by our auditor–all for the purpose of counteracting misinformation brought about by those who are held to a more responsible and appropriate manner, both fiscally and instructionally.

Along with dramatic increases in student achievement, we made equally if not more impressive gains with finance, especially when considering that the district endured the following:

– Suffered significant budgetary cuts
– Opened a new school
– Opened Sterling School
– Assumed nurses salaries
– Increased tax collection rate to local Sherriff
– Smart Boards in every elementary classroom
– Raises for every employee resulting in approximately 900,000 per year
– Job growth–increased the number classified and certified employees (38)

Although the district has suffered significant budget cuts, we have increased spending approximately four million dollars on personnel (during the last two years), spent approximately $900,000 more on technology, had the largest job growth among every KY school district and yet we were able to finish (after year 1) with the largest reserve (34%) in at least the previous 14 years (state recommends 5%). Although we spent considerably more money on personnel, instruction, and technology for students, we were able to save much more in other areas despite funding cuts. Some examples of why we were able to increase our balance included the reduction of contractor work, consultant work, elimination of programs, and implementing an overall business approach to public education. Instead, we put our money into hiring employees, which provided benefits to families as well as promoted economic growth to the community.

The purpose of this correspondence is not to shed light on past practices but, rather, to highlight what has been accomplished during the past two years. Our auditor, whom we have had for several years, praised us for our efforts at the November 2012 board meeting saying, “You have impressed me.” He also commended the district for “aggressively investing in achieving high academic results, while utilizing a good fiscal strategy.” Additionally, we have been asked several times this year to mentor other school districts in the area of school finance.

As you can see, I take great pride in the financial practices that have been implemented during the last two years and consider our management and practice, including performance to be unmatched by most, if not all, school districts and the aforementioned information can be accessed through the district’s audited Annual Financial Report (AFR) as well as the Kentucky Department of Education’s website where historical fund balances (reserves) can be found for every district. I look forward to showcasing our fiscal responsibility and hope that Mr. Edelen commends us for our efforts. It is not every day that a public entity achieves at the level that we have and I hope that the Montgomery County School District is able to inspire others to operate in an efficient and performance-driven manner.

Joshua E. Powell
Superintendent
Montgomery County Schools

Unfortunately for Powell, reality is a bitch. He said he had requested to be frequently and intensely audited (by White and Associates in Richmond) and indicated that he had received requests from several school districts for mentoring in finance.

Guess how many audits had been done then. One. Which we discovered, thanks to open records requests.

Powell has not been frequently and intensely audited. Audits cost money. Supporting billing and payment information prove this has not occurred and will not occur.

When Powell was pressed to provide proof other school districts had requested him to mentor them on finance, he cited b
bogus claims of confidentiality. We have his letters – here’s one of them:


CLICK TO ENLARGE

According to folks in the Office of the Attorney General, didn’t exist. Because Powell disclosed the claims in his letter to the editor. The OAG told concerned citizens at the time that he could be forced to answer the open records request if necessary.

Folks in the auditor’s office say Powell also sent them his letter to the editor for some strange reason.

Powell and crew have been attempting to malign our character on various forums, have been sending us what they think/thought were anonymous threatening emails and have been (again) using their district electronic devices to plot revenge on Topix regarding our coverage. They apparently are not familiar with what went down in 2011 when Jake fought back against the Beshear/Conway/Walker butt cramps.

Just pointing all of this out because the drama in Montgomery County is palpable. And we’re just scratching the surface.