The Commissioner of Education Was Deposed In Joshua Powell’s Termination Case, Not Good For Powell

Current Commissioner of Education, Terry Holliday, is leaving the Commonwealth of Kentucky with hundreds of thousands of dollars remaining on his contract. Coincidentally, after all of the shenanigans involving Joshua Powell came to light, causing him more drama than he’s previously experienced.

Since Holliday has been a more than trivial player in the Powell saga, thanks in part to Powell involving him, he was deposed by Powell’s attorney, Ed Massey, several weeks ago.

So let’s review some highlights from that deposition.

The questioner (Q) is Massey. The individual answering is Holliday (A).

Told ya Holliday had solid sources from Montgomery County:

Q. Now, have you discussed this matter — I know you said you haven’t talked about it with anybody. I know that Mr. Floyd, Tommy Floyd, was, at one time, in Montgomery County. Have you had any discussions with Mr. Floyd regarding Josh Powell at any time?

A. Yes, as I would with all local superintendents. Dr. Floyd’s my chief of staff.

Despite barely knowing Joshua Powell, Holliday recommended him for the job in Montgomery County. He conveniently forgets a few things:

Q. Now, at one time, when Dr. Powell was applying for the job at Montgomery County, did you write a board letter to a Steve Osborne, do you recall that?

MS. DEENER: Object to form.

A. I recall having communication with a board member in Montgomery about — as a reference for Dr. Powell, I believe. I don’t recall — it may have been a letter, but I thought it was more a phone call. My memory is not serving me well.

Q. Well, I’m going to — if you don’t mind, I’m going to show you what we’re going to mark as Plaintiff’s Exhibit 1.

A. Uh-huh.

-SNIP-

A. Oh, yeah. So it was both, yeah, my conversation on May 10, and then — him moving two schools forward, yes. Yes, I did write that letter.

Here’s where Powell got schooled by the board’s attorney, Elizabeth Deener:

Q. And what two districts did he move forward?

A. I believe it was Union. And, before that, it was the small district — help me remember the district before that. I believe I went down there and recognized them as a Blue Ribbon winner, in — near Meade County. What’s the name of that district? Somebody will have to help me here.

DR. POWELL: Cloverport.

A. Cloverport. Oh, yeah. Cloverport.

MS. DEENER: You may not speak. I’m sorry.

DR. POWELL: I may not speak?

MS. DEENER: No.

You may recall that the OEA’s suggestion/action/recommendation were for Terry Holliday to oversee Powell:

Q. Okay. Now, in this letter, it talks about KDE reviewing an OEA report about allegations in Union County.

MS. DEENER: Objection to form.

Q. Do you recall what that is?

A. Vaguely, I recall an OEA report concerning some activities in Union County, but it did not rise to the level of the Commissioner or the state board taking any action.

-Lots of back-and-forth about how Powell’s attorney sucks at depositions-

Q. What is the OEA?

A. Office of Education Accountability.

Q. And what do they investigate?

A. Well, they investigated some hiring issues, I believe, in Union County. But I’d have to go back and pull the full report, because that’s been a number of years.

Q. Do you know if Dr. Powell was suspended from Union County?

A. Not that I’m aware of.

Massey attempted to hang some responsibility in Holliday’s closet:

Q. During the time that Dr. Powell was the superintendent of Montgomery County, did you have oversight of his work as superintendent?

A. Oversight? We’re responsible to ensure compliance with federal and state laws.

“Oversight” is a broad term. I don’t do the daily oversight of any school district. Mainly, our offices provide support and monitoring for compliance.

The claims by Powell and company in the past that he was close with Holliday?

Q. How would you describe your relationship with Dr. Powell?

A. Like all superintendents, supportive and encouraging.

Q. Have you ever mentored him?

A. It depends on your definition of mentoring. I think Dr. Powell and I have had numbers of conversations about leadership and how to — you know, his long-term plans for the future and the work he’s done in his districts. It was very similar to what I would do with any superintendent.

Reiterating that the school board has the power when it comes to reprimanding, suspending, firing Joshua Powell:

Q. Have you seen any evaluations of Dr. Powell?

A. Other than the documentation that our legal team reviewed, that’s all I’ve seen.

Q. Who performs the evaluation of superintendents?

A. The local boards.

Q. Does the KDE have anything to do with that process?

A. No, hopefully not.

A bit about the ratings change just before Powell took over in Montgomery County. It’s more confirmation of what we’ve previously reported — that the scoring system changed, Powell didn’t just miraculously improve things overnight:

Q. All right. How are schools rated in Kentucky?

A. The accountability mode, based on the requirements of Senate Bill 1 (2009), charged the state board to come up with those components, and they were developed in 2009 and 2010, and began to be implemented at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

As we’ve reported on several occasions, he was well-aware prior to 2014:

Q. Okay. Thank you. When did you first become aware that there was a problem with Dr. Powell in Montgomery County?

A. I think I drove through Montgomery County and saw a road sign that said “Dump Powell.” And that was probably in early ’14, maybe.

Holliday’s own staff told us he was subpoenaed, as did folks in Powell’s crew. He definitely knew and you can tell that he knew based on the way his attorney interjected:

Q. When did you first become aware of the Education Professional Standards Board involvement with Dr. Powell?

A. I think Dr. Powell and I had a meeting here and he told me about it, in maybe the spring of ’14. I can’t remember the date.

Q. Were you in any way involved in those hearings or proceedings?

A. No.

Q. Were you subpoenaed to testify?

THE WITNESS: Was I?

A. I was, but I think —

MR. ALLEN: If you don’t know, you can say you don’t know.

A. I don’t remember. I think I was, but I don’t remember.

On learning of Powell’s suspension:

Q. Understood. When did you first become aware of the suspension of Dr. Powell?

A. I think when we received the letter from the board attorney. Our staff, Kevin Brown, informed me that we had received that letter.

-SNIP-

Q. Is there any policy within KDE concerning a superintendent’s suspension?

A. As I understand our staff and Kevin Brown, in the letter that he sent you, we have a longstanding interpretation that a local board could suspend a superintendent.

On termination — the school board has all the power:

Q. And what’s your role when there’s a recommendation by a local board for termination?

A. As I understand my role, our staff would do the investigation and then approve a due process hearing. We don’t make any determination as to whether a superintendent should be dismissed. That’s the local board’s authority. What we do is the process that has been laid out in the letter to you. We basically review it, and if there’s one issue that could merit a hearing, then we recommend the board go ahead with the hearing.

Holliday said there was a lot of supporting information for terminating Powell:

Q. And you indicated within your letter about competent materials. How do you know whether an investigation is a valid investigation or not?

MS. DEENER: Objection to form.

A. You know, I don’t have any answer to that one. That’s up to the local board in their due process hearing and the finding of facts, and eventually, you know, the court system would make those final determinations. But there was a lot of supporting information in this report.

Here Holliday says the OEA investigated personnel matters, suggesting that he knows more than he admitted in the beginning of the deposition:

Q. Okay. Now, on this report, the first page talks about personnel matters. Are you aware of problems with personnel matters in Montgomery County?

A. Yes, yes.

-SNIP-

Q. Do you know of EOA(sic) has investigated the personnel matters?

A. I believe so, yes.

Q. Do you know if any action has been taken by KDE or OEA regarding personnel matters?

A. No. We were waiting on the EPSB hearing results.

On the Anna Powell shenanigans:

Q. Now, one of the things in the personnel matters was the hiring of Anna Powell. So the question I want to ask is, what prohibitions are there on hiring a spouse within a district?

-ATTORNEY JIBJAB-

A. Well, from a practical standpoint, it’s never smart to do that. But, as I understand it, if the spouse has been working there for a period of eight years or longer, then the spouse could continue. But there can be no direct supervisor relationship, and the spouse cannot have any evaluation ability or supervision ability over staff.

Q. Okay. So would it be fair to say there are requirements you have to meet?

A. Yes. There’s statutory requirements, yeah.

Tip-toeing around Phil Rison and bid-rigging with Big Ass Fans:

Q. And, more specifically, on in the report, it talks about ceiling fans at a gym and renovations of the district maintenance building. Are you familiar with any of those things?

MS. DEENER: Objection.

A. Just what I read.

Either Holliday’s lying here (he’s lying) or his legal team does everything, keeping him in the dark (they don’t keep him in the dark, they do extremely solid jobs). Nearly every person Powell terminated that we’ve interviewed or investigated sent letters to Holliday. Some attorneys for those individuals sent requests for due process hearings directly to Holliday.

Q. Are you aware of any specific instances of Dr. Powell exhibiting poor management in his dealing with district personnel?

A. No.

MS. DEENER: Objection to form.

Q. Are you aware of any retaliatory actions against personnel taken by Dr. Powell?

A. No.

On people in Anna Powell’s now-eliminated and illegally-obtained position’s responsibilities:

Q. Do you know what position Anna Powell was hired for?

A. It appeared, from what little bit I read, that she was the Director of Special Education.

Q. Okay. Do you have any knowledge of what those job duties are within Montgomery County?

A. No. Just statewide.

Q. Okay. Do you know if that job description requires supervisory authority?

A. In most cases, it does.

He may not know these individuals but he is certainly aware of all of them:

Q. All right. Now, with regards to the report, do you know Jennifer Hall? And if you don’t, that’s fine.

A. No. I mean, I may, if I saw her face. But I have, the older I get, trouble with names.

Q. Okay. And I assume, based on your prior answers, you haven’t interviewed any of those people?

A. Oh, no. No.

Q. Do you know a Kristi Carter?

A. No.

Q. A Kathy Boyd?

A. No.

Q. A Mike Martin?

A. No.

Note: Kathy Boyd is/was a receptionist. One of the individuals Kristi Carter pulled into the iPad mess.

Cough:

Q. And I know that you have counsel and you can’t give legal opinions, but are you aware of any legal actions against the district in Montgomery County?

A. Only through secondhand information.

Even though he says the only things he knows about Powell’s work is what he’s seen at back-to-school events:

Q. I’ll just ask you to look over that, and, if you can, tell me what that is.

A. Yes. I wrote a recommendation to Josh for AASA Superintendent of the Year, based on his work in Union and Cloverport, and his early work in Montgomery.

Fascinating:

Q. Do you know any of the Montgomery County School Board members personally?

A. There’s one member that serves on my local school board advisory committee, a Donna — I can’t remember her name right now, Ed. But, yes, she’s — I see her about three times a year.

Q. Okay. But that’s the extent of it?

A. That’s the extent, yes.

No wonder Powell tried to keep Donna Wilson in his circle. Until she had an awakening and realized she was being manipulated.

Powell’s crew attempted to claim that he hadn’t met with Holliday when we originally reported it. Holliday confirmed that he told Powell more than a year ago to start looking for another job:

Q. Have you had any occasion to talk with Dr. Powell about this investigation or any of these things?

A. Yes.

Q. When did that occur, and how did it occur?

A. Dr. Powell asked for a meeting and he came to my office. I believe it was early — sometime in the early part of ’14. And my counsel was that he should look for other employment.

Q. Okay. All right. Who attended that meeting, was it just yourself and Dr. Powell, or was there anybody else?

A. Just me and Dr. Powell.

Holliday says Powell didn’t do what the Auditor told him to do:

Q. The Auditor of Public Accounts, are they within the realm of the KDE, or is it a separate entity?

A. It’s an elected official, and that office is independent of KDE.

Q. Understood. With regards to Charge 1 — I’m going to go through a few of these, but not in great detail. But with regards to Charge 1, there’s some reference to taking corrective action. What did you mean by that?

A. I believe the auditor found that these changes were not consistent with the posted job title or district documentation, and it was referring to the auditor had findings and recommendations but Dr. Powell had taken no action.

The SBDM charge was about Amanda Reffitt, not hiring a principal:

Q. Now, does that include the hiring of principals, is that part of that process with site-based councils?

A. Oh, yes.

Reffitt’s the woman who had an affair with Barrier, Powell allegedly retaliated against her, feel free to dig through the archives.

Holliday says he took Powell at his word regarding the misdemeanor. Powell told him he didn’t think it had been documented, so it’s fascinating that he told EPSB a couple years ago that he was aware — long before he met with Holliday in 2014:

Q. Okay. All right. And then, lastly, the charge with this misdemeanor conviction that wasn’t on his application. Prior to receiving this report, did you know anything about that?

A. Yeah. Josh had told me about the incident, and he thought it had never been documented. He told me that in — I believe in a one-on-one interview back in last spring, the spring of ’14.

Q. Okay. Did that cause you any concern or alarm?

A. I didn’t have any reason to be alarmed. I took what Josh told me at face value.

What was that, again, about not reading Page One?

Q. Okay. All right. All of this information that you received, or your team received, was any of this new information that you didn’t already know?

MS. DEENER: Object to form.

A. We didn’t know the details. This was much more detailed. We knew there were issues between the board and Dr. Powell.

Q. Did you know before you received this letter of termination and this investigative information that he had hired his wife?

A. Oh, yes.

Q. Did you know before you received this investigation that there had been allegations that he asserted improper influence over site-based councils?

A. I did not know that detail.

Q. Did you know about personnel problems within Montgomery County before you received this information?

A. Only through Blogosphere and the EPSB hearing, yes.

Q. Page one, right?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. And did you know about the misdemeanor, did that conversation about the misdemeanor happen before this?

A. Oh, yeah. Way, way before this. Only through personal telling of it by Dr. Powell to me in a conference.

Powell lied to him.

You’ll recall that Holliday and his team were so worked up about the special education mess that they investigated, finding Phil Rison had mucked things up:

Q. Now, one thing I did want to ask you about, when you got to your report where it talks about educational performance of the students, there were some comments there about unusual growth in an area. What did you mean by that?

A. Typically, we know what the state average growth is for each subgroup of students. And, in this particular case, this subgroup of students was significantly — I believe it was above the — let me see.

(Witness examining document.)

A. “Has been increasing disproportionally compared to the region” — yeah. So students with disabilities was increasing in achieve levels fast than surrounding counties in the state, and you need to dig a little deeper to find out, you know, why. And we love to find out why, and, if that’s a good thing, share it with everybody else.

KDE sources tell us they’re still unofficially examining special education in Montgomery County.

It’s still hot on the board’s radar. It’s not going away.

Now for a bit of cross-examination by Elizabeth Deener, representing the school board…

Deener called Massey out for ignoring Charge 3:

Q. Mr. Holliday, Mr. Massey went through several of the charges listed in the May 11, letter, but I did not hear Charge 3. If you’ll look at page three of the May 11 letter, do you see where it has Charge 3, the first —

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. And Charge 3 was one of the charges where the determination was the board relied on competent, relevant evidence and did not abuse its discretion in formulating a charge against Dr. Powell; is that correct?

A. Yes.

More on the misdemeanor Powell has attempted to cover up/hide/deny/spin:

Q. … [Y]ou stated that Dr. Powell himself told you sometime in 2014 of his undisclosed misdemeanor conviction. Do you recall that?

A. Yes.

Q. What was the contents of that conversation?

A. He told me that, you know, that was all a big mistake, that he never knew that there were any charges filed. And it seemed a plausible explanation at the time.

As you can see, the case doesn’t appear to be going the way Joshua Powell wants it to go. Holliday certainly isn’t on his side — he’s on the side of the facts. Government documents, police reports, recordings, videos, open records, legal proceedings.

Click here (WARNING: PDF LINK) to review the entire deposition for yourself.

Just wait til you get to experience the nine hour deposition of Powell himself.