The Curious Case Of Joshua Powell’s Missing Personnel Records

In light of former Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell’s recent termination, we thought it’d be a good idea to examine his personnel file.

So let’s kick things off with a look at his cover letter, resume and application.

Cover Letter


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March 3, 2011

Montgomery County Superintendent Search
Kentucky School Board Association
260 Democrat Drive
Frankfort, KY 40601

Board Members:

I would like to apply for the superintendent position for Montgomery County Schools. With my diverse administrative experience in P-12 education, my history of unprecedented results as a leader, and my desire to achieve excellence in every endeavor, I believe that I am a perfect fit for the Montgomery County school system.

Serving five years as superintendent, I have established my reputation as a leader known for both bringing about increases and maintaining high levels of student achievement, as evidenced by both districts of which I have been superintendent posting the largest academic gains in the state.

While at Union County, I successfully applied innovative strategies in the various areas of student achievement and school finance. Union County was one of only three districts in the state to implement raises for employees last year and only one of twelve to offer a progressive 401K employer match incentive. With this, I significantly increased the number of employees and programs, while finishing with an increase in my fund balance in both the first and second year. I am especially proud of this accomplishment in light of the difficult economic times in which we are living as well as having a continued, significant decrease in funding.

I feel compelled, as a school superintendent, to lead my district to be state and nationally competitive, as well as globally competitive. I am progressive-minded and have brought many programs, including elementary Chinese language programs, to both of my districts.

I know that being a superintendent comes with its challenges and I have gained valuable experience in handling difficult situations. Furthermore, I have successfully navigated through the various obstacles associated with continuous improvement, which has added invaluable experience.

I have spent the last five years preparing for an opportunity such as this. I have three young children that provide substantial motivation and am looking for a district that meets the needs of my family so that I can make a long-term commitment. My children are about to enter school and I want to create a solid foundation in which I make substantial investments in the community, including church, housing, and involvement in a social network. Montgomery County is one of the best places to live in Kentucky and I would love for my family to call it home.

Montgomery County is known for a sincere desire to be the best, which makes this the perfect district for a leader with my drive for excellence. I clearly see the potential of Montgomery County to be among the elite, and if selected for this position, I can lead the charge. I have a desire to not only continue the success of Montgomery County Schools, but to take it to the next level. I believe that my education, experience, and proven leadership ability is suitably matched for this opportunity.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Joshua E. Powell.

Resume


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Application


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You’ll note that he claimed he was leaving Union County Schools in order to be closer to family. Reality, as we’ve since learned, was quite different. The Union County School Board wasn’t going to renew his contract and the district was on the verge of firing him. Powell also claimed he had no convictions which we’ve also learned is not based in reality.

Contract Tidbits

Powell’s original contract, prepared by the board and the board attorney is here:



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But he refused to sign it. This was stuck to the top of it:


POWELL’S STICKY NOTE

And replaced with this:



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Something tells us the board won’t be allowing its new superintendent to create their own contract at any point in the near future.

The really juicy material in Powell’s file? It’s really what’s not there.

Here’s a list of items that were required to be part of his personnel record prior to the start of his employment in Montgomery County:


PERSONNEL DOCUMENTS

PERSONNEL REQUIREMENTS

It was such a big deal that Jacqui Johnston emailed him on May 26, 2011 to tell him the documentation needed to be complete:

JACQUI JOHNSTON’S EMAIL TO JOSHUA POWELL

You catch what wasn’t returned? His physical. A drug test A HIPAA form. His fingerprints. His driving record.

Then there’s this:

JOSHUA POWELL’S HEALTH RELEASE FORM

Powell refused to give the board approval to receive his required physical. No one ever questioned it.

Which means there’s no baseline for his health at the start of his employment.

Contrary to Powell’s claim, it is legal. Though not required by statute, the school district can legally require a superintendent to undergo a physical. It’s common practice across the state and there’s probably not an executive-level job anywhere in the country one can get without undergoing a visit with a doctor.

We hear through the grapevine he also didn’t have an actual background check – merely the publicly available report from the Administrative Office of the Courts. Which would explain why his conviction was never uncovered. Note: Jacqui Johnston apparently is unaware that she can’t redact or withhold the AOC report.

Quite a fascinating look at what he kept from the board.

Our sources at the Kentucky Department of Education (along with sources within the district who don’t want to be identified for fear of retaliation) say this means Powell did not meet the requirements for him to hold the job of superintendent. Which makes it even more difficult for commissioner of education Terry Holliday to fight the school board in reinstating Powell.