Read Terry Holliday’s Big Powell Letter

Yesterday you saw video of the Montgomery County Board of Education revealing that Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday affirmed its decision to fire Joshua Powell as superintendent.

What was not apparent at the time was how absolutely damning letter Holliday sent to the board. It proves yet again he agrees that there’s evidence to oust Powell but he continues to defend him in at least one instance.

You’ve got to read it:



Having reviewed the charges and related information, I conclude that the Board has set forth competent and relevant evidence of a substantial nature supporting at least one ground for removal of Dr. Powell. It does not appear that the Board abused its discretion in setting forth at least one ground for Dr. Powell’s removal.


KRS 160.390(1) makes clear that the superintendent is “responsible for all personnel actions, including hiring, assignments, transfers, dismissal, suspension, reinstatement, promotion, and demotion and reporting the actions to the local board.” Therefore, Dr. Powell is responsible for the hiring of his wife, as well as the failure to correct the situation as recommended by the Auditor. This charge relates to and affects the administration of Dr. Powell’s office. The issues involved are of a substantial nature and affect the rights and interests of the public. The Board relied on competent, relevant evidence and did not abuse its discretion in formulating this charge against Powell.


Details regarding the principal’s involvement in this decision are not included in the information provided by the Board. Based on this information, it cannot be said that this charge states a cause for removal which is substantial in nature or relating to and affecting the administration of Dr. Powell’s office.


It appears that the Board reviewed and relied upon significant, repeated personnel management issues affecting numerous employees and not isolated incidents of disgruntled personnel. The management issues described in support of this charge state a cause for removal which is substantial in nature and relating to and affecting the administration of Dr. Powell’s office. The Board relied on competent, relevant evidence and did not abuse its discretion in formulating this charge against Dr. Powell.


Accurate reporting of criminal history by district applicants is critical to all school districts in order to ensure the safety and well-being of students and other staff. Despite Dr. Powell’s arguments that his misdemeanor conviction is no more serious than a minor traffic violation, the issue is not the severity of the offense, but the fact that he failed to disclose relevant information on his employment application, which could serve as the basis for termination of any district employee. This charge is of a substantial nature and related to the administration of Dr. Powell’s office. The Board relied on competent, relevant evidence and did not abuse its discretion in formulating this charge against Dr. Powell.

Education Performance of the Students

As for the educational performance of the students, the district accountability summary shows improvement in almost every area of accountability, including Achievement, Gap and Growth from 2012 to 2014. There has been unusual growth in some specific areas, compared to the state averages at the elementary and middle school levels. The percentage of students with disabilities in Montgomery County, compared to the total population of students in Montgomery County, has been increasing disproportionately compared to the region of the state. Additional consideration of the methods, systems, processes, instructional practices, and interventions in place in Montgomery County may be beneficial to explaining these high levels of performance as well as the increased number of students identified with learning disabilities. Improvement in most every area of accountability benefits the students of the Montgomery County Public Schools. However, standing alone, accountability improvements do not compel the rejection of the Board’s request to remove Dr. Powell when other factors are present.


As a result of investigating the accuracy of the charges made, the evaluation of Dr. Powell’s overall performance during his appointment, and consideration of the educational performance of students in the district, I approve the Board’s request to proceed with removal of Dr. Powell for cause.

Buried in a footnote:

Dr. Powell indicated in a May 1, 2015 e-mail message that he is in possession of evidence to “successfully defend, with a significant amount of reliable and valid data, every charge that has been issued.” He explained that he would submit this evidence to KDE on or before May 5, 2015. During the afternoon of May 8, 2015, Dr. Powell submitted a 65-page letter refuting the charges against him. In his letter, Dr. Powell complains he has been denied due process.

Yep, you’ll get to read that 65-page document quite soon.

Fascinating to see Holliday have to affirm everything the board submitted. Even more eye-opening to see KDE acknowledge that Powell’s special education push is the reason test scores have improved.

At this point, even if Powell continues to fight in court, he faces not just a small town school district but the massive entity called the Kentucky Department of Education and the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

By “quite soon”? You get to read the massive 65-page letter Joshua Powell sent to Terry Holliday on Friday. Right now.

Here’s part of his opener:

I have endured numerous investigations and immeasurable criticism, yet I have prevailed in turning around three school districts by simply setting high expectations, increasing accountability, putting the right people in the right places, and basing every decision on student achievement. Not once have I succumbed to political pressure nor have I practiced in any unethical or unprofessional manner.

I am fighting essentially for my career and livelihood that I have sacrificed for over the last nine years. I always believed, and continue to believe, that doing what is right will win in the end, despite the hellacious road I have traveled.


Even though the sacrifice has been substantial, student success has made it worthwhile, despite the sleepless nights and the mental and emotional anguish that comes with the territory of school improvement.


Contrary to the report issued by the hired firm Sturgill, Turnery, Barker and Maloney, which lacks substance, is biased and clearly an extension of the retaliatory, unethical, and illegal activity of the Montgomery County Board of Education and individual members, I offer reliable and valid data to both refute the claims and substantiate the great work that I have been able to lead.

That isn’t too crazy, no. But the other SIXTY-FIVE PAGES? That’s crazy.

Here you go:


He claims he was fired because of a handful of disgruntled employees, he argues about the definition of “cause”, says there’s no statute that allows for him to be suspended (despite a judge saying otherwise), acts as if he understands legislative intent, complains about discrimination, attempts to say the State Auditor of Public Accounts lied during its investigation, he goes on for page after page.

Some things to keep in mind: When he talks about KSBA’s attorney? She’s allegedly close friends with Anna Powell. Those KEA reps? One was removed because of the Powell situation.

Here are a couple gems that stand out:

To date, the Board has hidden all attorney bills and has not received an invoice from any firm since December 2014. The District has exhausted its insurance coverage…

Actually, it’s Joshua Powell who hid legal billings, as we’ve repeatedly reported and proved with documentation. And it’s him, via Mike Owsley, who exhausted the district’s legal insurance coverage.

Under my leadership, the District has maintained the three largest fund balances in recent history of the Montgomery County School District…

Yet another mistruth. His own people (Jacqui Johnston) reveal that fund balances have dropped by millions and millions of dollars despite increasing revenues.

(c) Board Had My Background Checked, Prior to Voting to Hire Me

The Board and/or the Kentucky School Board Association’s Superintendent Search firm representative, Mike Oder, required me to undergo an extensive criminal background check, prior to the Board approved and offered me the job. If the Board had any concerns about my criminal record, they certainly had the opportunity not to hire me.

You already know that’s not true at all. At 2:00 P.M. today, we’ll shed even more light on just how big a lie that is. It’s damning. Hint: it involves the Office of the Attorney General siding with me. Again. Forcing Montgomery County’s hand. Update: here’s the 2:00 P.M. story.

Clearly, attorneys Josh Salisbury and Katherine Coleman prostituted themselves to the Montgomery County Board of Education and compromised integrity and common sense.

Yes, he actually called them whores.

You’ve got to read it. There’s all kinds of hot mess contained in the manifesto.