More Retaliation Claims Surface In Montgomery Co.

There have been so many stories about corruption and retaliation at Montgomery County Schools involving superintendent Joshua Powell that it’s tough to keep track of everything. If you’ve got a lot of time to kill and want to get caught up, you may do so by clicking here. We’ll assume you’re caught up with the myriad scandals as we move on.

Like former high school principal Jim Dusso, who was wrongfully terminated for refusing to alter a teacher’s evaluation, today’s story deals with that particular scandal. Dusso, you’ll recall, refused to lie on a teacher’s evaluation at the direction of Powell because Powell allegedly wanted to fire her. Dusso was then terminated. He lawyered up, we ran scandalous details of the story and he was coincidentally re-hired by the school district. Surprising, we know.

First: There are rumors floating around that former middle school principal Russel Halsey was threatened with termination for refusing to alter an evaluation. He allegedly refused, telling Powell to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine, and he went to Johnson County to become an assistant principal there. We reached out to Halsey for comment but have not heard back. This story isn’t about him but we wanted to get that out of the way.

Two of the three high school assistant principals in Montgomery County left at the end of the school year. One of them was pink-slipped and the other forced into retirement. Why? The Jim Dusso scandal. They refused to participate in Powell’s illegal scheme by lying about what took place during an administrative meeting at the high school on December 2, 2013. That’s where Powell allegedly told the school administration that he wanted a teacher’s evaluations altered to make it easier to fire her and deny her tenure.

The guy who was pink-slipped had been a curriculum specialist prior to being moved to an administrative job and had received glowing evaluations. After refusing to back up the Powell scheme, he was informed that there was a curriculum crisis and it was his fault. Powell moved him to the main office to be (we assume) watched by Dusso’s replacement, the double-dipping Shannon White. White, it should be noted, wasn’t certified to evaluate personnel because that certification had expired. Best we can tell, that certification has not been renewed. Back to the story… Once the guy was moved to the main office, he was informed that he’d be in classrooms for the remainder of the school year.


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So after doing a great job, receiving stellar reviews, he was pink-slipped. Retaliated against for not playing along. Fortunately for this guy, he very quickly landed a job as a principal in Fleming County and fled. Amazing that someone Powell claimed was terrible was picked up in a better job.

The other guy who refused to lie was an assistant principal and athletic director. When he refused to play Powell’s game? You guessed it — retaliation. He’d attended the athletic directors conference in California later that month but when the state conference in Louisville came up in April, he wasn’t permitted to attend. He wasn’t allowed to go to the state wrestling tournament to support his team and his coach. He was iced out. Not surprisingly, both his evaluation for assistant principal and athletic director were excellent.

Athletics Director:


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Assistant Principal:


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In late April, after the retaliation began, he was asked by Shannon White if he’d considered retirement. If not, it was suggested that he should very strongly think about it because he wouldn’t be recommended back the following year. The reasoning White (who was then merely interim principal with no authority to evaluate or make personnel decisions like that) provided was that the new principal should be able to pick their own assistants. Of course, anyone with common sense would think an incoming principal unfamiliar with the school would want as many experienced hands on deck as possible for his first year.

White told this guy he had a week to decide. On May 8, he received a two-page letter from Joshua Powell telling him he would be demoted to being a teacher. Listed in the letter were 26 reasons (7 related to being assistant principal, 19 related to athletics) for a reduction in responsibilities.

The letter:


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Unfortunately for Powell, we’ve seen documentation to dispute nearly all of those claims.

So why the retirement? There’s a school board policy (the legality of which is repeatedly questioned) that says if an employee doesn’t notify the district they plan to retire by April 1, the district can choose not to pay them their accrued sick leave. That’s 30% of their days. Since this was taking place in May and the deadline had passed, Powell could have decided not to pay the guy what was owed to him. He took retirement a year short of the recommended 27 to avoid taking that risk.

The policy:


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With that over his head, Powell agreed to rescind the demotion and papers were filed.

Here’s Powell’s letter rescinding the demotion:


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It’s safe to assume all of those 26 items weren’t serious if they could so easily and so quickly be withdrawn and wiped from consideration. Much like when Jim Dusso’s firing was rescinded.

It’s quite obvious that this was a swap to get him out. No one with just a year to go in a cakewalk of a job would retire early. And it doesn’t help matters that he’d moved twice to work for Powell. He was previously in Union County and moved to Montgomery County at Powell’s request. His failure to cooperate with Powell’s scheme very clearly led to this retaliation. And it seems no one is safe.

Meanwhile, the school board turns a blind eye to Powell’s shenanigans. They pay his hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees while at the same time paying an attorney for the board. They allow all of this retaliation to go on with no consequence. When he gets caught (Dusso), they act as if it’s all out of sight, out of mind.

And you wonder why nothing happens when we uncover serious mess after serious mess.

It’s all about them controlling the jobs in the county. It’s about power. It’s about money.

Montgomery County loses as a result.