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.
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.
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.
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.
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.