If you missed it last night, Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell was fired by the school board. In a 5-0 vote and sixteen pages of charges, the board moved to terminate Powell’s contract with cause.
Last evening’s meeting:
The district now awaits approval from Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday, who is expected to give his blessing.
What started as an email annoyance two years ago has turned into one of the most scandalous stories I’ve covered or read.
We uncovered so much that it’s impossible to remember everything. Domestic violence, EPOs, alleged child abuse, financial mismanagement, nepotism, bullying, psychopathic threats, double-dipping, testing fraud, guns, whistleblower retaliation, blatant disregard for the law, ego, gossip, trash talk, workplace sexual affairs, law enforcement intimidation and cover ups, special audit investigations, potential Medicaid fraud, special education fraud, sexual harassment, discrimination, open records violations, Title IX violations, death threats, school board corruption, break-ins, stalking, dead animals found on doorsteps, vandalism, a multitude of lawsuits, childcare scandals, bid rigging, public relations scams, resignations, terminations, legislative weakness and inconsistency, potential insurance fraud (more on that soon), shady sheriffs, 911 calls, drugs, marshals, incompetence, corruption left and right. That’s just scratching the surface. It played out in a small town school district, of all places.
This story also led me to North Carolina for several months to get a better understanding of Kentucky’s current Commissioner of Education, who was ensnared in our Powell investigation and has since resigned. Two years early. Walking away from hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just coincidentally as we were wrapping things up on him.
At times it’s been so crazy behind the scenes that I wasn’t certain it was wise to continue investigating or reporting. But the Montgomery County mess was an eye-opener for many around the state experiencing similar corruption in local government. Every time I tried to walk away, a more severe scandal than the last would surface. Many people were undeniably suffering and the sense of helplessness everyone — from students to members of the school board — seemed to exhibit just drove me to dig.
Now all I can think about is how badly the General Assembly needs to act on the educational accountability front. With a sense of urgency. School superintendents and school boards should not be permitted to run amok with little accountability. Kentucky’s educational system cannot continue down this path of being another good old boy club. Governors like Steve Beshear can no longer be permitted to appoint incompetent people to educational agencies like the Education Professional Standards Board (the current EPSB chair was charged and such by the EPSB! Now she’s chair, trying to shut the agency down out of corrupt spite. Yes, digging into the EPSB next.) and the Kentucky Board of Education. We, as a Commonwealth, cannot sit idly by as our children and our future are harmed by unchecked small town fiefdoms. Left to fend for themselves in the face of greed and corrupt politics.
Sadly for Montgomery County and those suffering (including the Powell Family), it’s not over. There are more lawsuits to come. The EPSB hearing will wrap up in about a month. Additional EPSB cases will be opened. There will be more audits. You can expect forensic accounting and testing investigations to begin. Heads are rolling.
You may not like me and this coverage may have made you uncomfortable but it’s been backed up with documentation you can examine for yourself. Government documents, police reports, videos, audio recordings, public records that cannot be refuted.
Pretty sure I’ve proved what can happen when a community feels empowered, when it’s given a voice.
There’s more to come.