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.