• Tag Archives Joseph Graves
  • Blue Ribbon Panel Meeting Now; Consensus Crucial to Beating Back Bad Ideas

    The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students is meeting in Pierre right now. You can listen online as the panel tries to produce solid recommendations for improving K-12 funding in its final meeting.

    Steve O’Brien, one of only two teachers sitting on the 26-member panel, remains hopeful that the panel will act to raise teacher pay:

    “We know it’s not the only issue. It’s not the only reason people go into education. It’s not the only reason people leave education but it is the elephant in the room,” O’Brien said.

    …He says members have also noted that other states with higher salaries are also facing shrinking teacher applicant numbers.

    “But it’s unique to South Dakota because as the lowest paying state, we are becoming the pool that other states can easily fish in,” O’Brien said.

    O’Brien is pleased with discussion so far and is hopeful they’ll lead to solutions. In his opinion, there have been clear differences with this committee that could lead to more results than committees in the past.

    “We started it with the support of the public. We started it by bringing more than just legislators to the panel,” O’Brien said [Erich Schaffhauser, “Teacher Discusses Task Force Ahead of Final Meeting,” KELO-TV, 2015.10.28].

    Blue Ribbon co-chair Senator Deb Soholt (R-14/Sioux Falls) puts a price tag on competitive teacher salaries:

    Soholt says the panel finds that, on average, South Dakota teachers are $8,000 to $10,000 out of market.

    “And certainly it’s more than just pay that brings somebody into education, but we are spending a lot of time looking at that slice of the pie, because we don’t want pay to be the barrier,” Soholt says. “So in order to move us from where we are to be competitive with our neighbors, we’re probably talking about something about infusing somewhere between $50 million to $70 million new dollars into our education system in order to accomplish that move” [Kealey Bultena, “Final Blue Ribbon Education Task Force Meeting Thursday,” SDPB Radio, 2015.10.28].

    Given that we have 9,362 K-12 teachers, $50 million to $70 million means $5,340 to $7,480 more per teacher, meaning Senator Soholt is assuming that South Dakota can compete for talented teachers by still hanging back more than $2,000 from the prevailing wages in neighboring states.

    In the hearing just now, Senator Soholt said her target would be to increase the statewide average teacher salary from $40,000 to $48,000, placing us at 39th in the nation.

    Alas, Senator Soholt seems to be bracing us for something less than a resounding, unified call for action:

    Soholt says task force members must set recommendations for Governor Dennis Daugaard on options for increasing teacher pay. The state senator says the group may not come to consensus, so the final report may include multiple ideas from different stakeholders [Bultena, 2015.10.28].

    Mitchell Superintendent Joseph Graves, who’s really good at increasing (if not remembering and explaining) his own pay, offers no specific plan for increasing teacher pay, but huffs and puffs that we are at a historic moment of political possibility in which South Dakota might buck its resistance to higher taxes and its fiscal negligence of public education:

    Yet, just now, there seems to be at least the possibility that such a supermajority could be mustered to raises taxes in order to improve teacher pay. In my memory, I can remember no other time in which this was the case. We talked about low teacher pay in the past. We lamented it. We despaired over it. We vilified it. But we never really thought there was anything much that could be done about it.

    Until now. The window is open.

    But it may not be open for long and it may not be as wide open as some people seem to think. Therefore, we need to move deliberately and expeditiously to make the best use of the current political will to raise teacher salaries [Joseph Graves, “Teacher Pay: Fix It Now—Finally,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2015.10.27].

    Given Graves’s sycophancy to the GOP regime, perhaps his well-timed op-ed is really a signal that the Daugaard regime is ready to act. But notice the wedge Graves throws into his argument for bad ideas:

    First, we need to work with our legislators and the Daugaard Administration to find those compromises necessary to approve a very significant increase in teacher salaries. This may mean accepting some things we don’t want. So be it. Enhancing teacher compensation in South Dakota is too important to flounder on the rocks of even the most sacred of cows [Graves, 2015.10.27].

    Like Rep. Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown), Superintendent Graves seems to think it necessary to pry the door open for bad ideas instead of focusing strictly on convincing people of the one good idea South Dakota schools really, really need right now: competitive wages for teachers.

    Rise up, Steve O’Brien. Sit your fellow panelists down for lunch, tell them that your consensus today on one focused, straightforward plan is crucial to beating back the naysayers, the saboteurs, and the opportunists who would turn a teacher pay raise into a vehicle for who knows how many bad ideas.



  • Graves Lowballs MCEC Grant Stipend in KELO Defense, Dismisses Moonlighting Clause

    My report on Mitchell superintendent Joe Graves’s six-figure moonlighting as Teaching American History grant coordinator for Mid-Central Educational Cooperative got him some ink in the Mitchell paper. Now it’s gotten him some electrons on KELO-TV, where Angela Kennecke asks him about his extra work:

    “I always looked at it that I administered the grant for about $30,000 a year.  Not bad.  No, it’s good pay. I didn’t pursue it for the money.  I pursued it because I was interested in the area, but I was also happy with the dollars,” Graves said [Angela Kennecke, “Mitchell Superintendent Defends ‘Second Job’,” KELO-TV, 2015.10.05].

    Boy, there must be something about earning six figures from MCEC that makes administrators bad at remembering money. From June 2011 to July 2014, Graves drew $157,500 in TAHG stipends. That’s a little more than three years of documented payments, and a little more than $50,000 for each of those years. If you want to get technical and go by calendar year, the MCEC minutes available online show Graves receiving TAHG stipends totaling $37,500 in 2011, $62,500 in 2012, $42,500 in 2013, and $20,000 in 2014, an average of $40,625 in each calendar year. (And we’re not even counting the $19,502.69 in expenses for which MCEC reimbursed Graves.)

    Neither $40,000 nor more certainly $50,000 is “about $30,000.” Why is it so hard for these administrators associated with MCEC to just say what they made?

    Graves does offer a pretty remarkable argument against the legal validity of the moonlighting clause in his contract. Kennecke raises a contractual question first raised on Dakota Free Press by Mitchell resident and former school board member Rod Hall. Consider Clause #6 of his current $128,550 contract with the Mitchell School District:

    Mitchell School District superintendent's contract, Clause 6, issued 2015.06.09.
    Mitchell School District superintendent’s contract, Clause 6, issued 2015.06.09.

    Graves goes linguistic and says the clause he signed is absurd and unenforceable:

    “Right, and that contract as in existence from the very beginning; item number 6.  So I sat down with the board member who presented that to me at the time and said, ‘You know, the language here is a little odd–basically in that–could you sleep?  Well no–you can’t because it’s your entire time,'” Graves said [Kennecke, 2015.10.05].

    Graves has an interesting “right-to-work” point: How can an employer lay claim to an employee’s “entire time”? As long as an employee shows up and gets things done, who is the boss to forbid an employee from holding down a second job?

    But the question remains just how much work Graves did to earn more than a typical teacher’s salary coordinating grant money and arranging trips for history teachers (and, according to his comments to Kennecke, getting to go on those trips himself). 18% administrative overhead, all going into one guy’s pocket? That still seems inefficient to me.



  • Graves Responds with All-Staff E-Mail to “Unfortunate” Blog Post About His Federal-Grant Windfall

    Yesterday I reported that Mitchell school superintendent Joseph Graves pocketed $157,500 administering a federal history-teaching grant funneled through the accountability-challenged Mid-Central Educational Cooperative. Today Superintendent Graves takes to the Mitchell paper to call that blog post “unfortunate“:

    Graves said he found out about the blog post from a friend Tuesday, and described it as “unfortunate.”

    “There were no issues here,” he said. “This whole thing that occurred at Mid-Central was a tragic and troubling incident, but it really had nothing to do with this” [Candy DenOuden, “Graves Defends Work with Federal Grant Program,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2015.09.30].

    Graves found my report so unfortunate that he felt compelled to send all Mitchell school district staff (but not this blog, strangely enough) an e-mail explaining the work he did for that money:

    …Graves said his administrative duties included negotiating contracts with the universities, arranging for speakers and forums over the course of the year and facilitating trips to “historically important sites” in places like Boston, Washington, D.C., and the South.

    “Frankly, I’m proud of the job I did on these grants and the many teachers I assisted over the years,” he wrote to school officials. “Thus, I did not feel then nor do I feel now that I did anything wrong” [DenOuden, 2015.09.30].

    Blog readers and critics should note that while Graves may find my report “unfortunate,” he can’t find it wrong. Nothing in DenOuden’s report calls into question any of the facts I reported yesterday, including the most salient fact, that Dr. Graves found a way to squeeze at least 16% of a million-dollar federal grant into administrative overhead.



  • Graves Pocketed $157,500 from Federal History Teaching Grant via Mid-Central Educational Coop

    Add Dr. Joseph Graves of Mitchell to the list of establishment cronies (Melmer, Phelps,…) who made good money off grants flowing through the audit-flagged Mid-Central Educational Cooperative. A review of the MCEC minutes back to June 2011 (the only minutes available online) finds that from June 2011 to July 2014, the Mitchell school superintendent received 63 stipend payments of $2,500, totaling $157,500. MCEC also reimbursed Superintendent Graves for $19,502.69 in supplies, travel, and postage.

    Graves received these payments for work on a three-year federal Teaching American History Grant awarded to MCEC in 2010:

    The Teaching American History grant program aims to enhance teachers’ understanding of American history through intensive professional development, including study trips to historic sites and mentoring with professional historians and other experts. Projects are required to partner with organizations that have broad knowledge of American history, such as libraries, museums, nonprofit historical or humanities organizations, and higher education institutions [“Education Secretary Duncan Announces $115.3 Million for 124 Grants to Improve Teaching of American History,” U.S. Department of Education, 2010.08.06].

    The federal Department of Education gave MCEC $964,871 to help history teachers refine their craft. More than 18% of that money went to Dr. Graves’s administrative overhead.

    Graves has been a frequent, vocal supporter of SDGOP establishment policies, even when that has meant arguing against teachers. Apparently in handling the Teaching American History Grant for MCEC, Graves found a way to make sure that even when teachers do extra work he has called for to improve their skills and earn their pay, he could get a juicy cut.

    Date Check Number Vendor Account Number Description Amount
    06/13/11 139245 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 319 850 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    06/13/11 139245 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 319 850 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 2,371.42
    06/13/11 139245 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 319 850 TAHG STIPEND 2,500.00
    07/08/11 139448 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 319 850 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    07/08/11 139448 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 319 850 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    07/08/11 139448 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 419 850 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 17.56
    08/04/11 135783 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 319 850 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    08/04/11 135783 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 319 850 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    08/04/11 135783 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 419 850 TAHG POSTAGE 60.46
    08/04/11 135783 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 419 850 TAHG SUPPLIES 137.74
    09/13/11 136011 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 319 850 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    09/13/11 136011 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 319 850 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    09/13/11 136011 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 334 850 TAHG 1 TRAVEL 837.62
    09/13/11 136011 GRAVES, JOSEPH 17 2490 000 419 850 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 47.84
    11/10/11 136447 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    11/10/11 136447 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    11/10/11 136447 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    11/10/11 136447 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    11/10/11 136447 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 2,425.18
    12/12/11 136632 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    12/12/11 136632 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    12/12/11 136632 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 56.61
    01/10/12 136945 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    01/10/12 136945 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    01/10/12 136945 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 26.96
    01/10/12 136945 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 341 TAHG 2 POSTAGE 118.61
    02/08/12 137030 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    02/08/12 137030 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    02/08/12 137030 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 11.45
    03/14/12 137206 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    03/14/12 137206 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    03/14/12 137206 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 288.10
    04/10/12 137387 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    04/10/12 137387 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    05/15/12 139662 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    05/15/12 139662 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    05/15/12 139662 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 334 TAHG 1 TRAVEL 147.00
    05/15/12 139662 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 1 SUPPLIES 9.00
    05/15/12 139662 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 9.00
    05/15/12 139662 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 424.90
    06/11/12 139870 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    06/11/12 139870 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    07/10/12 140054 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    07/10/12 140054 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    07/10/12 140054 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 334 TAHG 2 TRAVEL 781.30
    07/10/12 140054 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 334 TAHG 2 TRAVEL 200.00
    08/14/12 140189 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    08/14/12 140189 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    08/14/12 140189 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 44.77
    09/10/12 140361 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    09/10/12 140361 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    09/10/12 140361 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 15.97
    10/09/12 140560 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    10/09/12 140560 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    10/09/12 140560 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 341 TAHG 2 POSTAGE 5.15
    11/12/12 140774 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    11/12/12 140774 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    11/12/12 140774 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 2,781.62
    12/11/12 141012 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    12/11/12 141012 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    12/11/12 141012 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 527.60
    02/12/13 141394 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    02/12/13 141394 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    03/12/13 141613 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    03/12/13 141613 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 1 SUPPLIES 1,314.50
    03/12/13 141613 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    03/12/13 141613 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 3,547.56
    04/11/13 141784 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    04/11/13 141784 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    04/11/13 141784 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 13.89
    05/09/13 142014 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    05/09/13 142014 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    05/09/13 142014 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 334 TAHG 2 TRAVEL 432.00
    05/09/13 142014 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 9.80
    06/10/13 142290 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    06/10/13 142290 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 1 SUPPLIES 46.00
    06/10/13 142290 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    06/10/13 142290 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 2,457.59
    07/09/13 142490 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    07/09/13 142490 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 334 TAHG 1 TRAVEL 133.50
    07/09/13 142490 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    07/09/13 142490 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 341 TAHG 2 POSTAGE 44.73
    08/12/13 142695 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 1 STIPEND 2,500.00
    08/12/13 142695 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    09/09/13 143109 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    10/15/13 143202 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    11/13/13 143507 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    01/10/14 143785 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    01/10/14 143785 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 70.12
    02/10/14 143928 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    03/06/14 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    04/11/14 144225 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 STIPEND 2,500.00
    04/11/14 144225 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 419 TAHG 2 SUPPLIES 69.99
    05/08/14 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 PAYMENT 2,500.00
    06/12/14 144543 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG PAYMENT 2,500.00
    07/10/14 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 PAYMENT 2,500.00
    07/10/14 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 341 TAHG 2 POSTAGE 17.15
    07/10/14 GRAVES, JOSEPH 12 2495 000 319 TAHG 2 PAYMENT 2,500.00
    total stipend 157,500.00
            total other TAHG 19,502.69
            total TAHG to Graves 177,002.69

    xx