Montgomery Co. Superintendent’s Intimidation Mess Continues, Now Involves Entire School Board

WARNING: This one’s long but worth it. Especially if you need a jolt of corruption+insanity for your first day back at the office.

Over the weekend, Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell ratcheted up the intimidation. Not just serving EPSB trial witnesses with subpoenas in potentially illegal ways. But using his right hand, Richard Hughes, to send whackadoo emails to Terry Holliday, the folks at EPSB and to the entire Montgomery County Board of Education. The situation in Montgomery County has gotten so out-of-hand that one board member has contacted law enforcement and another demanded Hughes cease all communication with them.

Lest anyone suggest otherwise, these messages were obtained via Open Records Request from two government agencies and I received a heads-up about them from six (6) recipients. That’s how outrageous today’s story is.

Cutting right to the chase… here’s the email Hughes sent to the board:

Dear Members of the Montgomery County Board of Education:

Below and attached please find a letter and some attachments that I just sent to Dr. Holliday and to Mr. Robert Brown, Director of the Educational Professional Standards Board; and Alicia Sneed, Counsel for EPSB. It will take you less than 20 minutes to read the letter and all attachments and I hope you will read them.

Exhibits 4 & 5, though just two one page job descriptions, will be sent under separate cover.

My Best to you as you lead the exceedingly important public education enterprise in Montgomery County.

Happy New Year!

Respectfully,
Richard

Here’s one of the emails he forward to them — the one he also sent to the EPSB’s executive director and chief counsel:

From: Richard Hughes
Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2015 5:54 PM
To: terry.holliday@education.ky.gov
Cc: Powell, Josh
Subject: Case for the Exoneration of Dr. Joshua Powell

Dear Dr. Holliday,

(The letter below and the short attachments require less than 19 minutes of the reader’s time. Exhibits 4 & 5, both one pagers, will be sent under separate cover.)

“Fools do not change their minds but wise people do; and when wise people change their minds it is NOT because of external pressure but because of internal principles. The internal principles of wise people may change because of additional information, facts or additional data which might result in a change of a previous made decision.” Anonymous

The record will show that during my career in public education which began in 1968, I have never attempted to get anyone to make a decision—or to change a decision—by exerting political or any other kind of external pressure. Yet, innumerable have been the times that I have attempted to impact decision making by providing information, facts, and data to influence in a positive way the internal principles of decision makers.

In my comments below and the supportive documents which I have attached, I believe that I present compelling evidence for you to consider dropping the charges against Dr. Josh Powell and cancelling the meeting scheduled before the Educational Professional Standards Board hearing officer in January 2015.

Josh Powell never, from three years ago when I met him until now, asked me to help him. And when I first went to his office, it was not to help him in the educational realm, but rather the spiritual. Thereafter we would meet occasionally for lunch, just to talk. Then about a year or so ago when it appeared that what I considered to be false, exaggerated, unfair claims were being levied against him by “Page One” (social media) and adults in the community with an axe to grind, I would from time to time ask him if it would be okay if I contacted certain people on his behalf, and most of the time he said yes. And I made it clear to him and the community (by way of a full page advertisement in the local paper), that he was not my first priority when it came to educational issues but the students, staff, and community were, followed by my concern for Dr. Powell and his family. Losing this family from the community would be a huge loss for everyone.

You, Sir, are quite familiar with the success Dr. Powell has had in leading districts to high level student academic achievement, providing a safe and orderly climate for students, and displaying astuteness in the handling of financial resources. Thus, I will not elaborate on these again other than to say they figure into the equation that should be considered for his exoneration. It is almost unheard of that superintendents experience success to the extent he has. You all may be able to list some, but though I entered the educational profession in 1968 and have served as a superintendent in two districts, I cannot name you one superintendent who has achieved success to the level that Dr. Powell has in ALL of the three most important areas: student achievement, safe and orderly climate, and sound—even exemplary—financial practices.

One cannot, in my opinion, experience as much progress as Dr. Powell has so quickly without:

1. Alienating some of the adults in the environment because of the tough decisions relating to them;

2. Activating social media of the kind that is accountable to no one and is perpetuated by adults, often those outside the school environment, who are disgruntled for various reasons and who show absolutely no evidence of putting students, and what is best for students, first;

3. Giving the impression that his leadership style is more related to that found in business and industry than education; and

4. Getting out in front of his board and failing to appropriately advise its members, neglecting to keep them in the loop, and failing to listen to them and respond to their leadership even if such slows down progress for a considerable amount of time.

The Montgomery County Board of Education that hired Dr. Powell in 2011 was plenty capable of providing strong leadership for him but, again in my opinion, inadvertently did not. This board (three members supported his appointment; one of these three was the board chair at the time; another is the chair now) included a banker with 30 years of experience; a businessman and manager with over twenty years of experience, and two educators, each with nearly 40 years of experience. Two members of the board that hired Dr. Powell were defeated in the Election of 2012 by two former school employees who had issues with Dr. Powell. Two decided—because of the disruptions and problems caused by a small minority–not to seek reelection in 2014.

When the new board convenes in January 2015, it will include four past employees of the Montgomery County School District; two aggrieved and two unduly influenced, I believe, by negative adults in the community, particularly those associated with Page One, what I believe to be a bizarre and unfair (against Dr. Powell) website. If Mary Alice Collier had defeated Dr. Jon Kelly Johnson in the most recent board race, a very close one, ALL FIVE MEMBERS OF THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION WOULD HAVE BEEN PAST EMPLOYEES OF THE BOARD; AND THREE AGGRIEVED because of decisions Dr. Powell made regarding them while they were still board employees.

Within the past few days, I have made it a point to communicate with three of the board members who were on the board when Dr. Powell was hired; one the chair at the time, one the chair now; and the other who has been in the corporate (Lexmark) world for over a decade, all three of whom would represent a majority if they were still on the board on or about January 15, 2015 when a new contract will be considered for Dr. Powell. I asked these board members this question:

“If you were to be on the Montgomery County Board of Education when it convenes in January 2015 to discuss contract renewal for Dr. Powell, would you be in favor of granting him a new four year contract?”

Here is the current board chairman’s response (her more lengthy statement—Exhibit 7–is attached for Mrs. Sneed and Mr. Brown):

“Based upon the improvements seen during Dr. Powell’s first contract I could support another contract. When he was hired the board discussed a three year turn-around plan. Going into a new contract, I think it would be wise to have a similar conversation on district goals centered on continued improvements with more focus on stability and continuity. This is not the same district as three years ago and its needs are different. Let me know if you would like anything else.”

Here is the response of the board chair at the time Dr. Powell was hired and who was defeated in the election of 2012:

“Dr. Powell did the right thing in focusing on improving academic achievement for students while not leaving out sports, clubs, and various extracurricular activities; he focused on these also. I would support another contract, but it would be a limited one, maybe one to two years to make sure he focused on improving his people skills. He needs to interact more with the community. When people get to know him, they like him. Going forward I would want it to be clear in his contract that professional development would be expected in the area of improving his people skills.”

Here is what the third board member, the one who would constitute the majority to give Dr. Powell a new contract if these three who were on the board when he was hired were to still be on it in January of 2015:

“Without question I would vote to give Dr. Powell a new contract. It is unbelievable what he has accomplished for the students and our school districts. He is a great person with a great mind and the kind of person we need to be our superintendent. It is unfortunate that just a very few people have caused him so much aggravation, most of them looking out for themselves and not appreciative of what Dr. Powell has done for kids. I am solidly behind him; he has earned my full support and respect.”

The above represents more powerful evidence that Dr. Powell should be exonerated and that the discussions about taking his certification should cease. Here we have first hand, empirical evidence that those who have been in the trenches with Dr. Powell for 2-3 1/2 years; those who suffered through the criticism and public humiliation consistently demonstrated at board meetings by the disgruntled minority; those who know about both sides of all the charges brought by Alicia Sneed against Dr. Powell, are still on his team and continue to want him to keep his certificate and serve in Montgomery County. Their sentiments are echoed by the writer who has been associated with the Montgomery County School System since 1953, has been a superintendent, has evaluated superintendents in KDE’s Superintendent Assessment Centers, and has trained superintendent candidates at MSU for the past eight years. Should the opinion of one person, Alicia Sneed (whom a reputable source says is “obsessed with revoking Dr. Powell’s certificate” but of course may not be the case) prevail over the five individuals referenced in this paragraph?

If revoking Dr. Powell’s certificate truly is an obsession of Mrs. Sneed’s, I still do not think she is ill-intended. I just think she has been misinformed, that she has heard just one side and to her it sounds convincing. But when everything is carefully and comprehensively considered–Dr. Powell’s total body of work–then his “side” is compelling and would, in my opinion, prevail before any fair judge or jury.

Though I highly respect the three members of the board of education referenced above, here is an example—conveyed in a message I sent one of the newly elected board members–of them not providing strong leadership for Dr. Powell:

The superintendent cannot change a job description! Only the board can do that! And when you look at the original job description pertaining to his wife, it did NOT need to be changed. It provided that the person selected for the position report to the superintendent or his designee. All Dr. Powell had to do was follow that by letting “his designee” supervisor her. The original job description said in the realm of supervision, this person would supervise “Staff members as assigned.” All Dr. Powell had to do here was NOT assign Anna anyone to supervise. The original job description allowed that the person could be “assigned other tasks and assumes such other responsibilities as may be assigned by the Superintendent/designee.” With this in mind, the board did not have to change the job description in order for Dr. Anna Powell to assume extra responsibilities because of her educational preparation and experiences; the original job description already allows that.

In my message to this newly elected board member, I continued:

In fact, I hope that the new board at its January meeting will rescind the new job description under discussion and defer to the original. Such in no way would impact Anna Powell’s employment situation and would stop some of the madness, the foolishness in my opinion, related to her. Dr. Josh Powell acted legally by KRS statutes and Kentucky Administrative Regulations, and local board of education policy/job description when he hired his wife. Whether he should have done that in view of local politics or perception, is for another discussion, on another day.

Pertaining to Dr. Powell’s hiring of his wife, I am attaching a copy of KRS 160.380(2)(e) (Exhibit 1) which supports he acted legally. Too, I am attaching a letter (Exhibit 2) Kenneth J. Henry, Director of the Office of Education Accountability (OEA), wrote in December of 2001 to Sam Sanders, prospective (at the time and later) superintendent of LaRue County Schools; and another Mr. Henry wrote on the same subject Exhibit 3) in July of 2012 to Linda Parker, Editor of the LaRue County Herald News which supports that a superintendent can hire his wife, use an existing job description similar to the original one relating to Anna Powell, and even recommend changing job descriptions of others to have them report to someone other than the person targeted (in the LaRue case, Mrs. Sam Sanders; in the Montgomery County Case, Dr. Anna Powell).

In summarizing the case involving Anna Powell, the bottom line is that perhaps nothing has caused more furor in Montgomery County and perhaps in the mind of Mrs. Alicia Sneed, as the hiring of Anna Powell. Yet, Dr. Powell acted legally under current KRS Statutes and under the job description at the time. At the origination of the furor, the superintendent did not change the job description; the board did and in so doing acquiesced to pressure which did not reflect strong leadership for their superintendent. The job description under discussion should not have been changed! I have attached copies of the original and revised job descriptions (Exhibits 4 & 5). Neither the job descriptions nor the appointment of Anna Powell should have ever become an issue in Montgomery County. The job description for “Director of Special Projects” in play at the time of her application for the position should have remained intact. And here is an interesting question: If someone is to be disciplined for changing a job description, who should it be? Would it not be the board of education? Should Mrs. Sneed see to this, to their being disciplined?

Here is another reason Dr. Powell should be exonerated and not have to appear in January 2015 before the hearing officer: He started teaching in 2000, has worked under three different boards of education, been a superintendent in three different districts, and has NEVER been disciplined by a board. I have never said anything negative about Alicia Sneed; I told Dr. Powell that in my opinion she is a highly capable, conscientious person who is just trying to do her job, yet if EPSB is not careful, it will allow what appears to be unlimited power vested in one person to allow her to violate the constitutional rights of people without really intending to.

I was at the EPSB meeting in Frankfort on Monday, December 10, 2014 and heard multiple attorneys and teachers advise the board that unwarranted claims against teachers are made by highly biased individuals who because of either a loose link or missing link in the system create havoc and unfairness for too many teachers/administrators. Perhaps that weakness in the system relates to one person—regardless of how well-meaning she is—having too much power to flag certificates, levy charges, get professional educators before a hearing officer and then before the entire EPS Board, all of which is a long, drawn out process, particularly if they are faced with taking their cases to the Franklin County Circuit Court. Once one person, Alicia Sneed, acts as the Grand Jury, it does not matter if charges have been brought by naysayers who are as apt to lie as Alicia is to tell the truth, who will tell lies as convincingly as Alicia will tell the truth, the case still will go forward if Alicia thinks the person is guilty.

Surely, “One side sounds convincing until you hear the other side!” This was stunningly brought home to me when our daughter participated in state champion “Mock Trial” programs at Montgomery County High School in Mt. Sterling and at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Her Mother and I, of course, followed the teams and on the same day it was not unusual for our team to present the case for the prosecution in the morning, and defend the same case in the afternoon. Wow! What a revelation!

I cite this example because Dr. Josh Powell’s career is being threatened right now because Alicia Sneed has essentially heard one side. No one has adequately presented to the Grand Jury (Alicia Sneed) the full story regarding Dr. Powell. I tried but was told my involvement would taint the process, that Mrs. Sneed could not discuss the case with me. I know about all the charges brought by EPSP against Dr. Powell; I have heard them discussed in the presence of his current Board of Education Chairman, Kenny Gulley, two reliable Montgomery County Schools administrators with whom I worked when I was superintendent there, and in the presence of one of Montgomery County’s leading businessmen who has an intense and genuine interest in the school system. None of us thinks that the charges rise to a level that should be handled by the EPSB. If Josh Powell has done something(s) warranting discipline, it should come from his Board of Education! Too, as you have learned from the information above, the majority of the board that hired Dr. Powell would vote in January 2015 to give him a new contract.

Dr. Powell should be exonerated before having to appear in January 2015 before the hearing officer because NO STUDENT HAS SUFFERED UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP! The individual who used to mow the grass at all Montgomery County Schools before Dr. Powell became superintendent has suffered a decrease in business revenue after Dr. Powell decided the district could perform this function more efficiently and economically. This individual has from what I have been told teamed up with other naysayers and Page One; and even with the previous superintendent who has suffered because Dr. Powell boldly advertised how low academic achievement was in the district (bottom 24% statewide; now it is at the top, 91%), to appear at board meetings to give Dr. Powell a hard time.

Not only have STUDENTS NOT SUFFERED, they have THRIVED because of the hiring of more teachers in their Montgomery County Schools, a reduction in the student/teacher ratio, the advent of new academic and extracurricular programs for students, and other positive changes Dr. Powell has made in the district during the 3 ½ years he has been superintendent.

Though the reasons why Dr. Powell should be exonerated are innumerable, to prevent this document from expanding any further, I will site just one more: It may very well be that Mrs. Sneed under the auspices of Mr. Robert Brown and the entire Educational Professional Standards Board may be violating constitutional rights. In America we don’t have any rights unless we KNOW what they are and are willing to DEFEND them. Let me use a real case that was presented in part to the EPSB on Monday, December 8 by a teacher. After the meeting, I asked if she would email her story to me. She did. Then I asked if I could use it going forward and she said that I could. After eliminating names, I have attached it for your consideration (Exhibit 6). Read it carefully after first and foremost assuming she is telling the truth—and I think she is. After all, do we not in this country believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty? I do not believe this person is guilty. She is in trouble with EPSB today because she did NOT KNOW her rights and she did NOT DEFEND them.

This teacher, as you will see, trusted an assistant superintendent who gave her bad advice, did not stick to her word, got the teacher’s certificate flagged by EPSB, caused her immense agony and pain, and essentially ended her teaching career. If from the outset this teacher had hired a superb attorney, we would not be engaged in this portion of this conversation! Why is that assistant superintendent not in trouble with EPSB? What she did to this teacher is far more serious than what Josh Powell has ever done! In every case regarding the EPSB charges brought against Dr. Powell which relate to disciplinary action he took with employees, in EVERY case he gave the employees a way out; he did not seek to do anything that would end their careers.

And I believe the record will show that he granted all of them due process in his attempt to help his students by conveying clearly to some employees that they were not teaching/working effectively in Montgomery County. Yet, he communicated to them that what they did wrong, or what they were not demonstrating competency in doing right, did not rise to the level of molesting a child; so he gave them an opportunity to resign and start over somewhere else. This is not what EPSB (Mrs. Sneed at this point) is offering the teacher whose story I share (See Attached) and Dr. Powell.

In conclusion, Dr. Holliday, please be reminded that I am not advocating for Dr. Powell only, but for the students, teachers and staff of Montgomery County, the citizens of Montgomery County, and/or the students, faculty, teachers and staff and the citizens of other school systems and educational enterprises where Dr. Powell will serve in the future. This man is worth saving to our profession. He can and will work effectively with future boards of education. His potential for good is enormous. My hope is that you three will weigh seriously the concerns expressed by one who does not have a hidden agenda, who has been associated with Montgomery County schools since 1953 as a student, teacher, coach, principal, superintendent; who started in this profession in 1968, and who is sincerely hoping Dr. Powell will be exonerated before having to appear before a hearing officer in January 2015.

If you would like to discuss this face to face, please contact me:

R.Hughes@moreheadstate.edu

(859) 940-3265

Respectfully,

Richard Hughes, Ed.D.

Exhibits:
1. 1. KRS 160.380 (2)€
2. 2. OEA Letter, December 14, 2001
3. 3. OEA Letter, July 31, 2002
4. 4. Original MC Board of Education Job Description
5. 5. Revised MC Board of Education Job Description
6. 6. Redacted Teacher Letter
7.
My Best,

Richard Hughes, EdD
Instructor, Foundational and Graduate Studies in Education
Morehead State University
Morehead, Kentucky 40351
Phone: (859) 940-3265
“Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:8 “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” Psalm 127: 2
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” II Chronicles 16:9

Where to begin? I’ll be blunt but you can still form your own opinion: The man is crazier than a shit house rat and Morehead State ought to fire him for using their taxpayer-funded systems to push this nonsense, to intimidate elected officials and attempt to undermine the legal process. Let’s start there.

Page One being social media? We’ll give him a pass because he’s under the influence of someone currently facing multiple investigations and countless lawsuits for harassment, discrimination and good old fashioned corruption. And we were around before social media became a thing. But “false, exaggerated, unfair claims”? Police reports, 911 calls, dozens of lawsuits, thousands and thousands of pages of government documents, emails sent to and from Powell and several thousand dollars worth of Open Records Requests are hardly false, exaggerated or unfair. It takes a real piece of work to push a talking point about it being fabricated and exaggerated. They know their goose is cooked.

For both Hughes and Powell to be fixated on Alicia Sneed — the lead attorney at the EPSB — is a serious tell. It’s obvious neither have ever played poker. It’s a sign that they know she and the EPSB (a sizable organization backs her, along with a board, so it’s not just one woman on a mission) have more than enough evidence to end a handful of careers. How could they possibly know what Sneed or others believe? They don’t. They only know what’s documented beyond belief.

Hughes is in so deep that he, as he revealed above, was in meetings with Powell and former board chair, Kenney Gulley. Gulley, you may recall, denied having any knowledge of Powell being charged by the EPSB. He swore during an open school board meeting and during private deliberations. Gulley violated the law by not informing the board. Hughes makes that clear.

It’s further fascinating that, rather than discussing matters with the board of education, Powell chose to hold meetings about it to discuss it with individuals who are not on the board. And in the case of Hughes, people who don’t even live in the county. Fascinating that it was those folks who decided none of Powell’s charges rise to a level that should be handled by the EPSB. Because of course they’d decide that.

Those two “administrators” he worked with? Their names are Phil Rison, who is also charged by the EPSB, and Jacqui Johnston.

That lawn mower, Bruce Walters? Never heard from the guy. But I have heard from more than 160 people in Montgomery County and more than 100 of those are or were school district employees. The first person I heard from in early 2013 still works for Powell and feeds me information from the central office on a regular basis. How do you think I know when to file extremely specific records requests?

These people are becoming crazier and crazier. The threats and intimidation more extreme. Yes, what Hughes has done and continues to do is part of that intimidation. He went over the head of the local board to make his bizarre plea and he wanted them to know it — that’s why he forwarded his emails to them.

The claim that he was never asked by Powell to help him? We’ve already published dozens of messages that prove they were working hand-in-hand and scheming together. Doesn’t really matter if he was asked to help because Powell welcomed the assistance and participated willingly, discussing what should and shouldn’t be used in a disinformation campaign against the EPSB, giving final approval. There’s no reason to believe they didn’t do the same thing here, as Powell was carbon copied on all of Hughes’ messages.

After being warned by officials involved in the investigation that attempting to get involved would taint the process, Hughes moved forward with tainting that process. The audacity of these people boggles the mind. No one can be that stupid.

Test scores? The ones that KDE says can’t be compared to previous years? Please.

Test scores in Powell’s previous districts? In both Cloverport and Union County, test scores miraculously rose when he arrived. Soon after he departed each place, scores dropped out of the blue — back roughly to where they were prior to his arrival. Students don’t simultaneously get super-intelligent and receive higher test scores out of the blue. And they don’t all the sudden lose intelligence and test taking ability only to have test scores bottom out when a superintendent leaves. This whole test score nonsense Powell and people like him push is some Peter Pan-style fantasy, to say the least.

These loons can attack the messenger all they want. They can attempt to demonize and undermine government investigations until they’re blue in the face. They can spend your tax dollars for as long as they want. But the facts speak for themselves. Powell’s time as superintendent will shortly come to an end and the cleanup will begin. Even if it is too little and too late.

This long, drawn-out coverage of Montgomery County should infuriate everyone reading. It’s a look at how screwed up Kentucky’s education system is today. It’s a sad glimpse at how Frankfort turns a blind eye to corruption, waste, fraud, abuse perpetrated by the people responsible for your children and their future. And, more importantly, it’s a look at what can occur when a community joins together to fight back.

What a fustercluck.