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Republican Legislator Calls for Secretary Schopp to Resign over GEAR UP Scandal

Rep. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs) takes a look at the Mid-Central/GEAR UP scandal and comes to an obvious conclusion: Melody Schopp should resign as Secretary of Education:

Rep. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs)
Rep. Russell: Schopp should resign over lack of oversight.

Republican State Representative Lance Russell of Hot Springs recently sent a letter to South Dakota Secretary of Education Melody Schopp, saying that the management of the GEAR UP grants concern him greatly.

…Russell adds that the utter lack of oversight of millions of dollars that were flowing through the Department with almost no accountability for a number of years is unacceptable.

…Russell’s letter to Schopp… states that he respectfully requests that Schopp resign her position of Secretary for the South Dakota Department of Education [Kevin Larsen, “Republican State Representative Asks for Education Secretary’s Resignation,” KCCR Radio, 2015.11.05].

Even the Democratic leadership in its response to Attorney General Marty Jackley’s failed attempt at press-conference closure Tuesday didn’t go as far as Rep. Russell. Minority Leaders Senator Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke) and Rep. Spence Hawley (D-7/Brookings) didn’t mention Secretary Schopp specifically; they stuck with general statements about the corruption that inevitably blooms under one-party rule.

The Department of Education rebuts Rep. Russell’s claim that they have exercised no oversight:

Ed. Sec. Melody Schopp
Ed. Sec. Melody Schopp: What do you mean, oversight? I’ve been overlooking corruption for years….

Secretary Schopp exercised oversight when she canceled the GEAR UP management contract because of her concerns with its administration. She is staying on the job and will continue to oversee this program. She is looking forward to the new partnership with the Board of Regents [Mary Stadick Smith, Department of Education spokesperson, e-mail to KCCR Radio, in Larsen, 2015.11.05].

That’s kind of like if Bill Clinton had said, I’ve stopped having sexual relations with that woman in the Oval Office, so you have no reason to say I’m not fit for the job. Rep. Russell cites a lack of oversight that went on for years and enriched GOP cronies. Secretary Schopp didn’t notice or didn’t want to notice anything was wrong until the Department of Legislative Audit dropped so much evidence in her lap that she had to act.

Secretary Schopp also oversaw the 2011 application that freed up far more money from GEAR UP to flow somewhere other than directly to Indian students it was intended to help:

[Grant expert Michael] Wyland also points out that the state’s objectives for the program are vague and hard to measure.  And we discovered in the application that South Dakota applied for a waiver from having to use any of the money for college scholarships for Native American students.

“50 to 75 percent of GEAR UP funds are designed to be spent on scholarships. South Dakota requested a waiver to spend no money on scholarships, but rather to spend 100 percent of the grant on college preparedness and college readiness.  And so that was a major departure from the original intent of the federal law,” Wyland said [Angela Kennecke, “SD GEAR UP Grant Application,” KELO-TV, 2015.11].

There’s a lot less money to disappear into “overhead” and “consulting” and big dang houses with two security systems if we’re writing checks directly to Indian kids or the colleges they choose to attend.

Rep. Russell is an occasional thorn in the side of the Republican establishment, so expect the GOP spin blog to accuse Rep. Russell along with Senator Sutton and Rep. Hawley of dancing on children’s graves. But Rep. Russell is calling for one of the basic actions of a true leader: to take responsibility for mistakes and, when those mistakes are sufficiently grave, to step down and let new leadership set things right.


  1. larry kurtz 2015-11-06 06:42

    Melody Schopp is the Skyler White of Pierre.

  2. mike from iowa 2015-11-06 07:22

    Clinton was elected to handle gubmintal affairs and might I add he rates at least an A for effort. His choice of partners rates a F minus. Clinton gets extra credit for driving scumbag wingnuts crazy for not resigning in the face of all their hypocrisies.

    Gingrich,Bob Livingston,Henry Hyde,Dennis Hastert,Tom Delay and a rogue’s gallery of other wingnut Lotharios suck balls.

  3. Rorschach 2015-11-06 09:26

    Rep. Russell has done some stuff he should have resigned for too, but he didn’t resign. His bosses (the voters) didn’t fire him either. Melody Schopp’s boss should fire her.

  4. MC 2015-11-06 09:29

    There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before I would recommend someone resigning.

  5. The King 2015-11-06 09:34

    A careful read of Schopp’s bio reveals some interesting things:

    1. She has worked within the Dept. Education prior to becoming Secretary, specifically, serving as Deputy Secretary.

    Take home message, she was there when the corruption started with Melmer and continued to hear no evil and see no evil until the audit was dropped on her desk.

    2. One of her children is employed with Black Hills Special Services Coop in Rapid City, and her daughter in-law is employed by the BOR.

    Take home message, Schopp has conflicts of interest with yet another educational cooperative and with the group (BOR) she wants to hand the Gear Up program over to.

    Russell is the first red guy with the gnards to break the code of silence.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-06 09:36

    Questions like what, MC? Tell us, and let’s see if we’ve already answered them, or if we can come up with an answer from what we already know.

    King, who’s that daughter-in-law?

  7. Rorschach 2015-11-06 09:36

    Nonsense! The state had a lot of the answers already when it terminated the Gear Up contract. It’s just the public that doesn’t have the answers. But even the public has enough to see that Melody Schopp kicked these federal dollars out the door without adequate oversight – or any oversight.

  8. mike from iowa 2015-11-06 09:52

    Schopp also was a teacher for a number of years and seems to like getting the state to pay her. Maybe it is time for a change of employment where she is off the gubmint teat.

  9. 90 Schilling 2015-11-06 10:13

    Resign? Or possibly be fired and prosecuted?

  10. Disgusted Dakotan 2015-11-06 10:17

    Expect the Daugaard machine to come after Rep Russell. Let’s just hope he doesn’t go “hunting” in Charles Mix County alone.

    MC appears to be telegraphing to Daugaard that he will play ball no matter how obvious and public the corruption becomes known.

  11. Francis Schaffer 2015-11-06 10:31

    MC, questions answered or answered truthfully?

  12. kingleon 2015-11-06 11:05

    I hadn’t looked too closely at the grant application dissection you’d linked to before. I wonder if the original intent of the federal GEARUP program means we’ll see SDBOR transition SD GEARUP toward being mainly a scholarship program for Native American student, rather than the summer preparedness program at SDSMT. Its seems like something the BOR may consider, as it would require a lot less effort to pull off given the previous people involved have been disbanded…

  13. LK Burghardt 2015-11-06 11:25

    It’s about time someone call for Melody Schopp’s resignation! The Gear Up program gets kids off the reservation and allows them to study and learn in a safe environment. My son taught at Gear Up this past summer and he was impressed with how his freshman students worked so hard over their summer break. He was able to take them to the public universities throughout South Dakota so they could become familiar with some of their options. The kids didn’t treat their learning like summer camp. They really got into the subject matter. Let’s get rid of EVERYONE who took money away from these kids! First and foremost, Melody Schopp needs to go! Then, let’s also get rid of any who accepted consultant fees that further robbed the kids!

  14. jerry 2015-11-06 12:25

    Skyler White indeed, good one Mr. Kurtz.

  15. larry kurtz 2015-11-06 12:41

    Lance Russell is the Saul Goodman of Custer.

  16. 96Tears 2015-11-06 13:44

    DD – Daugaard may be relieved to have a wild-eyed ape like Russell push for Schopp’s head on a plate. He can be the nice guy, help her resign and get her another job … maybe with Lawrence & Shill. End of controversy.

  17. Roger Cornelius 2015-11-06 14:37

    If Daugaard had an ounce of integrity, he would ask for Schopp’s resignation or fire her and anybody associated with the whole GEAR UP scam.

    By the way, why haven’t we heard personally from the governor on any of these corruption issues? Don’t South Dakotans deserve to hear from our governor on such vital issues?

  18. Sally 2015-11-06 16:29

    The person I’d like some answers from is Dan Guericke. He acts clueless about millions being skimmed yet was johnny-on-the-spot when it came to cancelling the Westerhuis cell phone contracts. Can you find out more about him, Cory?

  19. Porter Lansing 2015-11-07 03:25

    A requested waiver to deny scholarships from money granted to provide scholarships? All anecdotes point to hard work by students preparing for college. Diverting their designated scholarship money to administrative costs is overtly racist, elitist and highly unethical.

  20. O 2015-11-07 12:40

    Isn’t there a hint of hypocrisy here? The far-right rails against government intrusion and regulation – especially in the area of education (how many GOP candidates call for the destruction of the DOE?); then wail at the “lack of oversight.”

    Come on! If the expectation is oversight, support and fund the infrastructure to provide it. When that infrastructure is not provided, don’t fain shock and surprise when corruption rears its ugly head.

    There is a deliberate oversimplification of the complexity and scope of Sec. Schopp’s job (and for that matter how much is on the plate of the SD DOE in general).

    Should there be a call for “respectfully asking for the resignation of Rep Russell (and his co-signers)” for not creating and promoting the infrastructure to provide oversight for these dollars? Where should the buck reasonably stop? Does this most recent tragedy point to an individual failing or a systemic rot?

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-07 13:34

    Good question, Roger! When’s the last time the Governor had anyone’s head for errors like this? Why don’t we hear for more calls for resignation when government screws up like this?

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-07 13:34

    O, I’ll happily retire the whole bunch next year, if voters will help.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-07 13:35

    Sally, I’m keeping an eye out. If Melody Schopp should go, so should Guericke.

  24. leslie 2015-11-07 13:44

    king, nepotism runs from the gov. on down…

    96-wild eyed ape-funy

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