This Is Why Louisville Media Can’t Have Nice Things: JCPS Scandal/Non-Scandal Edition

Ready for another disjointed rant about Louisville media?

Hold on to your wigs because what you think you know about the Jefferson County Public Schools’ Every 1 Reads mess is… messy.

Turns out, Linda Duncan and Hal Heiner stirred the pot before they knew what they were talking about. Or Duncan knew and is lying about it or forgot. Heiner’s just taking this opportunity to dismiss public education.

And it appears that WDRB’s coverage was either intentionally misleading or its reporters overlooked significant details contained in documents in their possession.

From WLKY (WARNING! RIDICULOUS AUTOPLAY VIDEO WILL EAT YOUR DATA UP!):

Who knew what? That’s the question being asked in Jefferson County Public Schools, the Kentucky Department of Education and the Governor’s Office. WLKY followed the paper trail to get the answers.

-SNIP-

In the 2009-2010 school year, then Superintendent Sheldon Berman, proposed something called Every 1 Reads More. The idea was to pay for about a dozen school nurses at struggling elementary schools.

-SNIP-

Berman originally pitched the program with the hopes of gaining private funding, but that never happened. Eventually the district began using state funds, about $5.7 million in total, to pay for what it labeled the Every 1 Reads Nurse Initiative.

-SNIP-

Early this week, Board Member Linda Duncan told the Superintendent Donna Hargens that she didn’t realize that state money was being used to fund an nursing initiative. That raised the question whether JCPS was, indeed, misappropriating funds, or at least wasn’t transparent.

However, WLKY found JCBE meeting documents used to educate board members for a vote on the matter – approved by Duncan – to accept funding from the Kentucky Governor’s Office for the Every 1 Reads Nurses Initiative. That state money is funneled through the Kentucky Department of Education to JCPS.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt, responding to media requests earlier this week, said KDE couldn’t find any documentation that JCPS communicated to KDE about the nursing program.

However, WLKY obtained an email from JCPS dated Aug. 27, 2012 – between JCPS Grants & Awards Accounting Coordinator Denise Dewitt and Kristin Burton from the Kentucky Department of Education – where Burton asks Dewitt, “Your invoice has Munis 11G9-Every1Reads/Nurse Initiative?” MUNIS is a state database that is updated by school districts quarterly. Recent reports submitted by JCPS read ” Every 1 Reads Nurse Initiative.”

Duncan knew what was going on.

Heiner bought into the hype.

And WDRB had the state reports that say, essentially, “Every 1 Reads Nursing“, along with the board of education agenda items that specifically outlined the program… but chose not to reveal such a significant piece of the puzzle.

Rather than address huge discrepancies, here’s how WDRB’s education reporter reacted to WLKY’s coverage:

Passive-aggressive attacks, which seem to be the norm for Louisville media. Rather than having a friendly and professional dialogue, people resort to shady dismissals and bitter subtweets. Instead of beating around the bush when something as important as education is at stake, it makes more sense to be direct. Makes way more sense not to treat lapses in reporting as insignificant.

To dismiss WLKY’s coverage in such a manner, without taking the opportunity to add more to her story, Toni Konz is allowing her personal opinion and perception (dare I say deliberate spin?) to get in the way of great reporting. Bitterness is something that should be left to assholes like me.

At least she didn’t personally attack anyone, which also seems to be the norm for Louisville media these days.

Let’s look at the original Konz story:

Officials at the Kentucky Department of Education, as well as several Louisville-area lawmakers have told WDRB News they were surprised to learn that the Every 1 Reads funds were diverted by JCPS to nurses in 2008.

Kentucky Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Hal Heiner also says he has “serious concerns” and has spoken with Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon about it.

-SNIP-

Duncan said the MUNIS report might have said nurses and that while the JCPS board knew the money had been diverted, the state did not because the budget line simply states Every 1 Reads.

Duncan also mentioned she thought it was odd for the district to announce a re-launch of the Every 1 Reads program in 2013, under Hargens, but that there was no mention of nurses.

That just seems poorly reported after learning what WLKY has revealed. Facts that were in the possession of Konz. Facts that deeply impact the community’s understanding of what did and didn’t go wrong.

Then there’s this:

When asked for a comment after the meeting, Hargens walked by a WDRB reporter and Martin said no.

“We’ve already talked to you about this,” Martin said.

Another attempt by a reporter to ask Hargens if she thought there was a transparency problem in the district was unsuccessful.

I hear Konz was able to corner Hargens during an event recently where she also got to ask several questions. Bizarre for that not to be mentioned. Especially when WDRB advertises itself as the king of journalistic integrity.

It’s worth pointing out that WLKY didn’t steal this story from WDRB. No nefarious acts took place allowing documents to fall into the hands of WLKY’s folks. They’re certainly familiar with how the open records process works.

Unlike some lazy reporters in Louisville who are prone to swiping material and running it as their own? WLKY took the story a step further to reveal additional, significant information in documentation that is publicly available. Information that WDRB failed to report.

That’d be like me failing to report major information that I’ve uncovered about Louisville Metro Animal Services over the last decade.

This doesn’t change the reality that it’s probably insane for JCPS to use literacy funds for nurses and insane for Frankfort to allow it to occur. Doesn’t change the reality that David Jones apparently believes it’s unimportant to examine what went wrong with the previous superintendent. Doesn’t change the reality that Donna Hargens and her team are neck-deep in spin and secrecy.

You should be upset about literacy funds being redirected to fund a nursing program.

You should also be upset that such a staple of education reporting in this city appears to have deliberately ignored the facts. As WLKY’s reporting uncovered, the documentation Konz possessed proves JCPS didn’t hide anything from the Kentucky Department of Education. It also makes Linda Duncan look like a fool and proves the KDE was aware.

At a time when all eyes are on Donna Hargens and her myriad failures, Louisville deserves better.

Morning Bourbon & Needle Fun Stuff

A death investigation began shortly after a body was found in the Ohio River Tuesday morning. [WDRB]

The relocation of hundreds of government employees out of decaying office space is beginning, with the entire move expected to be completed by mid-fall. [C-J/AKN]

Eight authors who have written books about bourbon are scheduled to open a days-long event giving participants a behind-the-scenes look at Kentucky’s bourbon industry. [WHAS11]

Of course Hal Rogers opposes needle exchanges. Until his family members figure out how to profit from them, they won’t get his support. [H-L]

WARNING! RIDICULOUS AUTOPLAY VIDEO! The Louisville Waterfront Fourth of July celebration will return this year. [WLKY]

What? Coal kills? Surely not. Surely all that hype wasn’t just the Coal Association using PR hacks to claim otherwise. [HuffPo]

Two local TV station employees suffered minor injuries as a car ran a light and slammed into their live truck, flipping it onto its side. [WAVE3]

Charter Communications announced early Tuesday that it will acquire Time Warner Cable — a little over a month after a proposed deal between Comcast and Time Warner was killed by regulators. [The Hill]

The appeals period for the latest round of Louisville property tax assessments closes at the end of this month. Some appeals will be successful, but others will not. [WFPL]

Senate Republican leaders managed to scrape up enough votes just past midnight Saturday morning to put off decisive action on the NSA’s bulk collection of American phone records until next Sunday, May 31. But the hardliners — and make no mistake, they are taking an even harder and more absurd line than the NSA itself — have no endgame. [The Intercept]

Louisville leaders are encouraging foreign-born residents of Louisville to call their friends and family and tell them how much they enjoy living here. [Business First]

A Southern Indiana county at the epicenter of the worst HIV outbreak in Indiana history is seeking state permission to implement a yearlong needle exchange program. [News & Tribune]

Yes, Racism Alive And Well In Possibility City

After Louisville’s media outlets revealed that a suspect had been arrested in the St. Matthews Kroger murder case, something happened that won’t surprise anyone reading this. But that something is what a ton of people don’t want to talk about. Whenever we bring it up, we’re accused of causing drama and promoting unrest.

Here’s the deal: racism continues to be a real problem in Possibility City and it’s not taken seriously by this town we call home.

Here’s the mugshot that was released (we’re only using WDRB as an example):


FROM WDRB’S FACEBOOK PAGE

What happened next involves all local television and print outlets. WDRB, WHAS, WLKY, WAVE, C-J/AKN, et al. It’s disgusting. Not that the comments were allowed to remain but that people harbor such unbelievably awful feelings toward non-whites.

Let’s take a look at a bunch of screenshots from various outlets:





















And there was this gem:


What the hell is wrong with people?

Yes, racism is a problem everywhere. It’s not unique to Louisville. But until civic, government, media and educational leaders take this more seriously? Nothing will change in Louisville. Media outlets have a responsibility to better cover this issue – if that’s possible. Elected officials have a responsibility to discuss these issues. Schools have a responsibility. You have a responsibility.

I don’t in any stretch of the imagination believe racism can fully be eradicated but come on. The least this city should do is work hard when it comes to having a conversation about equality and ignorance like this.

It’s 2014 and idiots are making ridiculously racist remarks – publicly – using their names and photographs. Unreal.

Why Louisville Remains In The Dark: Its Media

(And some of its elected officials – but we’re focused on media today.)

The State Auditor of Public Accounts released a report on Kentucky Retirement Systems this week. While lacking and elementary as far as audits go, it was still a decent beginning. A nice start at examining the reason (KRS) the state’s finances are in shambles.

The previous auditor refused to do it and whitewashed most things. The current auditor? He’s trying to muster the courage to do important work. Emphasis on trying.

You can read all about it on Page One by clicking here. 19 serious findings of fiscal mismanagement and general corruption. It’s a report that barely scratches the surface but it’s a report nonetheless. Your local tax dollars keep KRS afloat, so it’s something you should take to heart.

Where’s your local media? Spoiler alert: absent.

  • Nothing from the Courier-Journal
  • Nothing from Business First
  • Nothing from WHAS11
  • Nothing from WLKY
  • Nothing from WDRB
  • Nothing from WAVE3

Why? Why no coverage of one of the most important audits in five or six years? Likely because most in the local media don’t understand it. Instead of attempting to digest everything in the report (mind you, it’s tiny compared to previous airport board audits and the doozy that took down the Kentucky League of Cities) and instead of doing their homework, everyone has chosen to ignore it.

Nothing to see here, move along, puppies and rainbows.

We realize that it’s mostly up to managers and news directors. They prefer to focus on blood and hype. But come on. This is a serious disservice to the entire area. Truly unbelievable.

If WHAS can cover an indictment of a county clerk 200+ miles away in Southeastern Kentucky (how many times did the previous news editor claim West Liberty was barely covered because it wasn’t in the viewing area?), there’s just no excuse.

Watch, though, when the audit of Jefferson County Public Schools is released, it’ll be all you hear about for days and days. The paper will have an early copy with three or four stories pre-prepped, Joe Arnold will be live at the central office enraged with a visible forehead vein, Connie Leonard will be mad but won’t understand why she’s upset, the kids at WLKY will foam at the mouth and will be outraged at the salaries some people receive. The report probably won’t be too deep, likely won’t uncover much that isn’t already known (we have to base this on the way the auditor has handled other school districts) and will still be treated like it’s the beginning of the end by local media.

This is why Louisville can’t have nice things.

Are You Relieved That Bus Service Is Closing?

A Jeffersonville couple catches a pair of thieves in the act, and now they want the entire neighborhood to know about it. Their solution — what’s being called the Tree of Shame. [WDRB]

Embattled school bus contractor Commonwealth Bus Service and Transportation will be closing its doors Nov. 30, company president Mary Dunaway told Jefferson County Public Schools in a hand-signed letter. [C-J/AKN]

Louisville Metro Police are investigating after two separate overnight shootings in Louisville. [WHAS11]

Here’s how Congress is making sure poor Americans are going to stay cold this winter. [HuffPo]

Remember when WDRB did this very story a couple weeks ago about GPS ankle bracelets and the jail? Turns out these folks decided to copy it. Because that’s original and exactly what the public needs. [WLKY]

Way to go, Frankfort, for being even more terrible than anyone thought possible. A central Kentucky high school principal says a new interpretation of a state regulation on school-related trips is partly to blame for the cancellation of a trip to Washington, D.C. [H-L]

The North Oldham Fire Protection District is looking for whoever dredged up an offensive posting on social media. The district has launched an investigation into the online comment that involved one of its assistant fire chiefs. [WAVE3]

Mitch McConnell says that the filibuster change is all about health care. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It’s all about HIM. [TPM]

The New Albany council opposes Indiana’s gay marriage ban amendment. A resolution was approved 7-1-1 to take a stand on the controversial legislation. [News & Tribune]

Just the news Louisville needs: a story about Greg Fischer’s holiday turkey. [WFPL]

As gamblers enjoy more options, Churchill Downs is feeling the squeeze. It’s canceling two races as growing competition draws away fans. [Business First]

Latest Fun Things We Hear From LMAS

We hear through the grapevine that Sadiqa Reynolds and Margaret Brosko are having fun at Louisville Metro Animal Services these days.

The latest? Ignoring background checks at Animal House for potential adopters as long as someone has the money to pay necessary fees. No vet checks, no landlord checks (unless it’s deemed an aggressive breed), no checks to determine an individual’s status as an animal abuser or dog fighter. The informal policy went into affect on September 26, though Brosko and crew will only confirm it to us off-the-record. They’re afraid of backlash from Reynolds and keep telling us they never receive our open records requests, despite read receipts and USPS confirmations, of course.

We’ve already discovered at least one instance of Animal House employees being forced to adopt out a Pit Bull to a guy who was drunk. None of the adoption coordinators wanted to process things so Margaret Brosko handled it herself. All of the staffers have been threatened and they’re afraid they’ll lose their jobs if they speak up or so much as express concern.

This is just a way to increase adoption rates by lowering the bar. Rather than having to do what they’re actually paid to do. Rather than promoting the facilities your tax dollars fund.

We’ve also received details about shenanigans involving WLKY. A dog hoarder’s group of animals were brought to LMAS facilities and were in need of adoption. Without promoting them, they’re obviously going to be euthanized and burned in the incinerator. But Margaret Brosko refused to allow WLKY’s Lauren Adams access to the facility. Without access, Adams’ boss (Glenn? Really? Get a grip.) refused to run a story. We also hear the story may have been pulled after pressure from Sadiqa Reynolds, which wouldn’t surprise anyone. But no one at WLKY will confirm or deny.

But here’s the real issue: LMAS is a municipal facility and cannot refuse access to taxpayers unless there’s a public health situation or the facilities are closed. And WLKY caved to pressure.

Possibility City!