Joshua Powell Could Be Violating More State Laws

Is Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell violating KRS 160.800 (Warning: External PDF Link)? That appears to be a possibility.

161.800 — Suspension of contracts on reducing number of teachers.

When by reason of decreased enrollment of pupils, or by reason of suspension of schools or territorial changes affecting the district, a local superintendent decides that it shall be necessary to reduce the number of teachers, he shall have full authority to make reasonable reduction. But, in making such reduction, the local superintendent shall, within each teaching field affected, give preference to teachers on continuing contracts and to teachers who have greater seniority. Teachers whose continuing contracts are suspended shall have the right of restoration in continuing service status in the order of seniority of service in the district if teaching positions become vacant or are created for which any of the teachers are or become qualified.

Pay close attention to that first part: by reason of decreased enrollment of pupils, or by reason of suspension of schools or territorial changes affecting the district.

Powell has been reducing the number of certified staff (teachers) while administrative positions have remained the same. His reason? Budgetary restrictions. Despite, of course, trying to give his wife and friends gigantic raises. The reduction in the high school is 4.5 despite similar enrollment. Specifically an increase of 7 despite the projected dropout number being roughly double what was realistic, based upon this and previous years. This appears to violate KRS 161.800 because the statute does not list “budget” as a valid reason. It only lists reduced enrollment or school closing/consolidation as valid.

We compiled information using data from the school district.


ENROLLMENT — CLICK FOR PDF


OUR COMPILATION

Pay close attention to the allocations for Section 7 staff for the high school compared to years past.

Section 7 is essentially what Powell recommends (along with board approval) go to schools. His reasoning for pink slipping/non-renewals is reduced funding — specifically from Section 7.

In 2011-12, you’ll see 67 positions. The number of students that year was 106 less than the 2014-15 projection. Yet in 2014-15, only 65.5 positions are approved. That’s worse than 2010-11.

Powell cutting Section 7 funding denies schools resources they need. It’s interesting because he told the Mt. Sterling Advocate on August 29, 2013 that he’s created all kinds of jobs (written by Afton Fairchild Spencer, of course):

“We have endured financial cuts, yet we were able to increase the number of jobs, improve test scores and finish the year with a 34 percent carryover fund balance, which was the largest in the history of Montgomery County Schools,” Powell said.

In addition to that, Powell wrote a letter to the editor on April 25, 2013 that made some interesting claims:

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.

-SNIP-

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.

-SNIP-

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.

-SNIP-

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.

Riiight.

Ignore all of the above for a moment. Let’s take that out of consideration. Let’s say he truly were able to base everything on the budget that he creates. Let’s say it’s all about money.

Because he can propose several hundred thousand dollars in bonuses for his wife and friends:


PROPOSED BONUSES — CLICK TO ENLARGE

But can’t afford to pay essential employees.

Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

Additionally, quite a few folks in Frankfort are beginning to question the necessity of some administrative jobs — those highlighted:


CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Montgomery County mess has finally spiraled outta control and is the hot topic of conversation in Frankfort.

Some bonus information about when the board actually approved Section 7 funds — during a May 8, 2014 Special Meeting at 6:30 P.M.

An excerpt:

V. Discussion/Approval of Personnel Matters (Continued) — … Dr. Powell stated that he did not anticipate the Board approving a tax increase this year. Therefore, several items on the personnel agenda for approval are being recommended as a cost savings measure in order to operate at or near a zero-based budget.

Mrs. Smith-Breiner expressed concern regarding computer assistant positions being re-classified to special education assistants. She asked how computer teachers would be able to attend PLC meetings if they did not have an assistant to cover class during that time. Dr. Powell advised that teachers should not be leaving their classes under the supervision of an assistant to attend PLC meetings.

Jacqui Johnston discussed with the Board the proposal to centralize school accounting. The proposal is estimated to save the district approximately $143,468.02. Mrs. Smith-Breiner asked about employees currently in the school bookkeeper positions, including Bonita Scott at the high school. Mrs. Johnston advised that Bonita Scott was retiring this year. Several other bookkeepers will be transferred to other secretarial positions in the schools. A few will be non-renewed. The new positions created will be posted, applications will be reviewed, and the best candidates will be hired. Any existing school employees can apply for the positions, if interested.

Mrs. Smith-Breiner asked Dr. Powell why he was proposing all of the cost savings measures. Regarding the proposal to reclassify 6 library assistant positions to special education assistants, she asked Dr. Powell if he wanted libraries to teach or to check out books.

-SNIP-

Regarding MCHS Section 7 requests, Mrs. Anderson questioned the need for a SAM position in addition to three Assistant Principal positions.

-SNIP-

Order #2013-14:95: – Primary Motion Passed. Upon a motion by Mrs. Anderson, seconded by Mrs. Smith-Breiner, the nursing services proposal by St. Joseph Mt. Sterling and the Section 7 requests for the 2014-15 school year were approved. It was noted that the SAM position at the high school was not included in the recommended and/or approved Section 7 requests.

Mr. Kenney Gulley — Yes

Mr. Kelly Murphy — Yes

Mrs. Alice Anderson — Yes

Mrs. Smith-Breiner — Yes

Mrs. Donna Wilson — Yes

Note: If anyone in Montgomery County received a non-renewal letter dated May 7 or prior, please get in touch with Jake.