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Schopp Saw Incompetence at Mid-Central for Three Years, Responded with “Technical Support”

Education Secretary Melody Schopp rejects Rep. Lance Russell’s call for her to resign over the Mid-Central/GEAR UP scandal. She tells Dana Ferguson that good leaders don’t “back away from problems” but step up and “see them through.”

Evidently Secretary Schopp’s “leadership” also means letting incompetent accountants waste multi-million-dollar federal grants for three years:

The Department of Education began tracking what she described as “incompetence” with the group’s financial record-keeping in early 2012. The department offered technical support to Mid-Central managers to help bring its accounting up to standards but became frustrated with the lack of improvement, Schopp said.

…After about three years of working with Mid-Central staff on the problems, Schopp said her employees didn’t see improvement in its work. A 2014 state legislative audit revealed ongoing problems, she said. Mid-Central employees weren’t properly documenting work they’d done and the group continued to expense “unallowable’ purchases.

“Those are some of the things that we just continued to have frustrations about,” Schopp said [Dana Ferguson, “Schopp: GEAR UP Reviews Didn’t Spot Financial Crimes,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.11.10].

If I hire a contractor to paint my house and his crew starts tearing off my siding with the power washer, I won’t just sit there continuing to have frustrations. I won’t spend three days offering them technical support. I’ll say, “Do the job I hired you to do or get off my property!” One more mistake, and they’re done, and I get out my own ladder.

Why didn’t Schopp show that kind of leadership?

“I didn’t think there was anything criminal,” South Dakota Education Secretary Melody Schopp said in an interview [Ferguson, 2015.11.10].

You don’t have to be a criminal to be a cock-up. But it took to feds to get Dear Leader Schopp to Mid-Central out of our misery:

Schopp said she contacted U.S. Department of Education officials in early September and was told the state could terminate its Gear Up contract with Mid-Central if they acted before Sept. 25. Federal officials recommended she find another group to administer the federal funds [Ferguson, 2015.11.10].

Holy cow. Leadership is letting millions of dollars flow to incompetent and apparently incorrigible contractors for three years, asking the feds what to do?

Dang. Maybe Rep. Russell should ask the feds what we should do with our Secretary of Education.

Related Reading: Libertarian blogger Ken Santema looks at Rep. Russell’s call for Schopp to resign and wonders if “it is time the heads of other state agencies are asked to do the same” for the sake of good stewardship of our tax dollars. Santema also worries (?) that conservative leaders could use the lack of confidence in the Department of Education as justification to torpedo any proposals from the Blue Ribbon K-12 panel.


  1. crossgrain 2015-11-10

    Maybe Madam Secretary doesn’t realize the game is over? Let’s give her a participant ribbon, a juice box, and a healthy snack.

    When the Secretary of Education can’t be held accountable, what business has she in holding students, teachers, and administrators accountable? Anyone for a hunger strike? I hear that works well these days.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2015-11-10

    Why hasn’t Governor Daugaard asked for or demanded Schopp’s resignation, that is what a leader would do.

    By the way, when will Daugaard address the citizens of this state about the corruption that has been going on? How long can he hide out?

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-10

    Cross, if we staged a hunger strike, she’d send us technical support for three years before doing anything.

    It’s not just that the Secretary of Education can’t be held accountable; it’s that she apparently can’t hold her contractors accountable. That’s not a fox guarding the henhouse; that’s a sloth. (Anyone have a better metaphor?)

  4. Donald Pay 2015-11-10

    Some people should go, but I wonder whether that would do much to improve the situation. Isn’t he real problem systemic and related to one party rule and the Republican’s philosophy of governance, which is really a policy of “non-governance because we’re better than you?” These problems repeat and repeat in just slightly different ways in South Dakota, but they seem to be escalating. You can get rid of Schoop, but there’s always another flunky in line, or some good guy who won’t be given the budget or the authority to go after the crooks.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-10

    Roger, I’m trying to imagine the conversation with the boss:

    We had these millions of dollars flowing to this subcontractor. I saw they were screwing up the books three years ago. I kept sending them the millions of dollars and sent some extra help… for three years.

    In how many offices does the boss respond with, job well done?

  6. grudznick 2015-11-10

    People who stage hunger strikes should be ignored like children who hold their breath. As for young Ms. Schopp, maybe she should be rolling some heads in her own education department. Maybe she has already rolled those heads and simply can’t talk about it since it would be a personnel issue only discussed in executive session.

  7. Straight outta ridge 2015-11-10

    One wonders if Schopp had acted sooner, if there would be 6 individuals going forward with their lives as we speak? Maybe not all in the same household but alive and overcoming a much smaller problem. Schopp’s inaction contributed to a situation that was insurmountable in the mind of the head of house hold. I would have trouble sleeping if this happened on my watch.

  8. mike from iowa 2015-11-10

    Mid-Central employees weren’t properly documenting work they’d done and the group continued to expense “unallowable’ purchases.

    Whose fault is that? Could it be……Satan? Nope,prolly Obama and Demoncrats.

  9. mike from iowa 2015-11-10

    Good one,Grudz. Dakota needs to bring back the guilllotine and make real heads roll.

  10. Rorschach 2015-11-10

    In other news about incompetents running state government, it used to be that when you bought a car it took the state 20-30 days to mail you the title. That time is now extended to about 45 days because, according to the County Treasurer’s Office, the state has had some people leave. A 50% increase in title processing time under Gov. Daugaard’s watch should result in some accountability.

  11. Rorschach 2015-11-10

    As to Schopp, she claims she saw incompetence. What she should have seen was conflicts of interest, excessive administrative expenses, double dipping, violations of federal GearUP regulations by state contractors and by the Department of Education itself – farming out duties it was supposed to retain.

    Schopp’s own admission that she didn’t see any of these things means that she has failed to engage in proper oversight of contractors and of her own department. She needs to go.

  12. Rod Hall 2015-11-10

    The potential presidents of the US claim that they will keep us safe. In SD, public education is mandated by our Constitution. We elect a Governor whose responsibility is to keep us safe. Yes, Gov. Daugaard that is you! Your people let this “cancer” grow in Platte and four innocent children were murdered on your watch. Rather than write for The Daily Republic, you better know what your people are doing or not doing. It is long past time for citizens to be able to ask questions and get honest answers. How many unanswered questions about goings on at Platte were hushed up? Did no person ever wonder? A good leader is on the ball before $millions are lost and school children murdered.

    When lives are lost, many times Democratic President Obama, has offered sincere condolences. Would it be fair to expect Republican Governor Daugaard to do something significant, like going to Platte and apologize for what happened and assure the people of Platte that this will never happen again, anywhere!

  13. The King 2015-11-10

    Let’s not forget the large payouts paid to Melmer and Moore for ‘consulting’ that occurred under the not-so watchful eye of Secretary Schopp, nor that the Gear Up Director was sitting on her State Board of Education while all of these shenanigans were going on. What Lance Russell said.

  14. Disgusted Dakotan 2015-11-10

    Wow! Anyone ask her how long she was going to allow things to roll along messed up?

    WTH? Someone needs to ask Chicago lawyer Denny Daugaard how many years is acceptable for things to be run so poorly? 3 years?! Wow! Just let it ride Melody, no worries! Just some poor Native kids’ futures you weren’t concerned about.

  15. grudznick 2015-11-10

    I think we should hear from Messrs. Melmer and Moore. MMM, as they will become known, should be hauled into a room of the legislatures and made to answer some good questions by Mr. Tidemann and even that nice Ms. Gibson lady. Toast their toes a little bit.

  16. Rorschach 2015-11-10

    More people died than Benghazi. BENGHAZI!! BEN …GHA…ZI!!! My God, if Benghazi is a scandal than this one is huge! How many investigations will our legislature have? How many millions will our legislature spend investigating? How many years will all of the legislative investigations go on?

  17. Rorschach 2015-11-10

    It’s time to drop the word “gate” from government scandals. I christen this scandal “Gear Up Ghazi”.

    Borrowing from the GOP playbook we need multiple and unending investigations of GearUpGhazi right through to the 2016 elections. Money is no object – it’s about getting the truth. Where are the SD Republicans who are calling for investigations of GearUpGhazi? Noem. Noem. Noem?

  18. grudznick 2015-11-10

    grudznick support the use of the term Ghazi.

  19. Francis Schaffer 2015-11-10

    I like the quote; ‘I didn’t think there was anything criminal’? I am not even sure what to add. My question is, ‘Who has fiduciary accountability to the taxpayers’?

  20. lesliengland 2015-11-10

    we all know prosecution and justice move slowly, or in SD under Jackley, not at all if republicans are in the ___site.

  21. Donald Pay 2015-11-10

    At first I thought Rorschach was just scoring political points, but there is truth to what he says, “More people died than Benghazi.” I think we do owe those children who were murdered, and the Indian children who got screwed out of money for college (because it went to the South Dakota Republican criminal syndicate) a real investigation into why this financial chicanery was allowed to go on unchecked for years. Shouldn’t Melmer and the other entitled scammers who made off with the money have to engage in some restorative justice, and cough up the money they took? And what about the Republican Party and Republican candidates who may have accepted campaign donations from those folks? Maybe they need to restore that money to the folks it was meant to educate.

  22. grudznick 2015-11-10

    Mr. Pay, I don’t know if it is just you getting closer in age to me or me getting closer in age to death but you make more sense every day. You, sir, are becoming a swell fellow.

  23. mike from iowa 2015-11-11

    My sincerest condolences yo you and your family,Mr Pay. After Grudz put his hex on you,please consider me as a beneficiary of your enormous life insurance policy. I’m open to sharing,just not with Grudz.

  24. The King 2015-11-11

    Read Schopp’s response to questions from Angie on 10/22 pasted below. Wow. What Lance Russell said.

    Angela Kennecke: You’re the head of the Department of Education. And I need some kind of comment in this story-this was all going on.
    Schopp: I don’t know what the situation is. I just know right now because there are concerns, they just don’t want people–they don’t know if it’s even tied. But if that had not come out today, I don’t even think there would be concerns.

    At that point Schopp took off her mic, and left the interview to make a phone call.

    Kennecke: Can you tell me anything about this legislative audit and the GEAR UP program?
    Schopp: I would just ask that you contact the governor’s office. They have a lot more information than I can provide.

  25. BOHICA 2015-11-11

    “The department offered technical support to Mid-Central managers to help bring its accounting up to standards but became frustrated with the lack of improvement, Schopp said.”

    Technical support?…who provided this technical support, on what accounting standards, when was the technical support provided, what relevant qualifications did the ‘Technical Supporters’ have?

    You know that the Department of Education manages a lot of other monies other than the Gear Up program. What makes us think the oversight on those funds were/are any better than this?

  26. Disgusted Dakotan 2015-11-11

    AG Jackley! How about going after actual malfeasance?! EB5 now this? And still no one held accountable?!

  27. mike from iowa 2015-11-11

    From Fortune Magazine article on the 10 most corrupt states- The researchers also found that for 9 out of the 10 of the most corrupt states, overall state spending was higher than in less corrupt states (South Dakota was the only exception). Attacking corruption, the researchers argue, could be a good way to bring down state spending without hurting services that people need.

    Goodness-gawd fearing kristian wingnuts were stealing from the poorest in South Dakota. That’ll look good at the Pearly Gates.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-11

    Francis, next time I get some parent unhappy with her or his child’s progress in my classroom asking why I didn’t help Junior learn, I’m going to say, “I didn’t see anything criminal.”

    Next time dishes pile up on the cupboard and my wife asks why I didn’t load the dishwasher, I’m going to say, “I didn’t see anything criminal.”

    I invite further turns of that phrase.

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-11

    And BOHICA, how did that technical support not get through MCEC’s thick skulls?

  30. Joe 2015-11-11

    I’m fine giving an organization a little leeway and some help but 3 years worth? Are we serious? This what should have happened, they should have been put on alert and given 6 months to fix it, give a little help and if they don’t fix it, they lose the contract. It’s that simple. And incompetence is a violation of the law and of the grant

  31. CLCJM 2015-11-11

    If Schopp even thinks about telling the truth or admitting what she knew, could she meet with an accident or suddenly become suicidal?? No wonder she isn’t being forthcoming with information or admitting what she knows/knew!!!
    Love the comparison to BEN GHA ZI! Should be having at least as many hearings about South Dakota’s scandals as the Republicans have had over a non-scandal! Not only have SD scandals caused more deaths but they’ve resulted in the murder of FOUR innocent children!! But Jackly is giving out his usual obfuscation to make sure the public never knows the real truth!!

  32. Mr. Sol 2015-11-11

    In a small town – people talk. I wouldn’t be surprised if all this MCEC crap hadn’t reached Pierre many years before this three year time period in question.

  33. Francis Schaffer 2015-11-11

    Cory sounds like someone from ‘Hogan’s Heroes’. So an audit was done by whom? When will those results be released?

  34. Mr. Sol 2015-11-11

    Sargent Schultz in Pierre? I see nothing ….

  35. mike from iowa 2015-11-11

    Only works if you attribute quote directly to Jankley. Be sure to keep that article were it can’t be wiped. Jankley is sure to deny saying anything.

  36. Spike 2015-11-11


    How bout..when my inebriated Coyotes throw a dead jackrabbit on the field this weekend at the annual board meeting, I will emphatically state “you democrats voted for it”

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