State Board of Education Member Duncan Got Pay from Mid-Central, Led GEAR UP Evaluation

The 2015 SD GEAR UP Program Evaluation conducted by the USD Government Research Bureau issued in August 2015 concluded that South Dakota wasn’t getting much demonstrable bang for the federal bucks it spent. Offering classroom enrichment activities throughout the school year and a six-week academic summer camp at the School of Mines (as well as hefty windfalls to cronies and tricksters who knew how to make themselves look useful amidst obvious incompetence), GEAR UP was supposed to help South Dakota’s Indian students get ready for post-secondary education. As Bob Mercer reported on October 29, USD’s evaluation of the program found no clear evidence the SD GEAR UP achieved that goal.

Dr. Kelly Duncan (photo from NSU)
Dr. Kelly Duncan (photo from NSU)

At the time, Mercer noted that a member of the state Board of Education, Kelly Duncan, was one of the principal investigators from USD. Duncan has since become Dean of Education at Northern State University. She has served on the Board of Education since November 1996.

A review of the board minutes of the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative that ran SD GEAR UP reveals that, from June 2011 through December 2012, Duncan received $51,000 in stipends from MCEC for work on the College Access federal grant, which MCEC runs under contract with the Department of Education.*

Governor Dennis Daugaard would say the conflict of interest between serving on the state Board of Education and drawing a check from a federal grant secured by the Department of Education is no worse than that of Stacy Phelps, who resigned from the Board to avoid being a “distraction” from the Board’s work. The financial benefits Duncan drew from MCEC’s implementation of one federal grant didn’t prevent her from directing an evaluation that found MCEC’s implementation of another federal grant producing little evidence of expected results for Indian students.

But the fact that a member of the state Board of Education could draw a paycheck from the contractor in charge of a federal grant won by the Department of Education, then lead an evaluation of another grant run by the same contractor, reflects the nearly incestuous relationships that permeate South Dakota government. That’s all the more reason that we need greater transparency and accountability in South Dakota’s use of taxpayer money.

*Update 2015.11.12 05:59 CST: According to this summary of federal grant access programs discussed by the state Board of Education at its August 24, 2015, meeting, South Dakota’s College Access grant runs out this year. The feds cut us off in 2013 because Governor Dennis Daugaard cut too much from our higher education budget.

21 Responses to State Board of Education Member Duncan Got Pay from Mid-Central, Led GEAR UP Evaluation

  1. One of the hogs at the trough was asked to investigate the trough activity. Munch munch. No conflict here. Munch munch. Nothing to see. Munch munch. Move along. Munch munch munch.

    This is sloppy, completely amateur governance from the Governor on down. They imply that there are no other people among 800,000 South Dakotans who are qualified to conduct an evaluation of a grant program and who don’t have a direct conflict of interest.

    Daugaard et al should be impeached, if not for criminal activities, at least for baldfaced incompetence.

  2. This is the second Board of Education member that has been the recipient of Department of Education funding. Cory…how many more might there be?

  3. Francis Schaffer

    I wonder about the hiring practices of MCEC. Where these positions posted? Who were the other applicants? What are the requirements of the grant; EEOC, conflict of interest rules, fiduciary accountability, etc?

  4. Not to worry folks … Dr Schopp is going to remain at the helm and steer us through this storm.

  5. Francis Schaffer

    Thanks for the comforting words. I can sleep at night now.

  6. David Newquist

    As is shown by the EB-5 fraud and the MCEC embezzlements, the higher education system has been fully integrated into the main business of state government: graft. The faculty, whose disciplinary and professional organizations promote standards designed to keep the processes of generating and transmitting knowledge free of the taint of corruption, are disturbingly silent. Many of my colleagues in the system avoid becoming part of the coterie of graft and quietly do their jobs in research and teaching. And they insure that their own children go to college elsewhere.

  7. mike from iowa

    Wingnut entitlements aren’t tracked as closely as welfare benefits. Maybe gubmint grants in South Dakota have riders attached that allows for seizures of grant money for emergency situations like basketball courts,vacations,padding nest eggs,etc.

  8. BOHICA, I see no sign of other members of the Board of Education in the available MCEC financials since June 2011. But board member Julie Mathiesen also earns good money working for TIE under the Black Hills Special Services Cooperative.

  9. David and Cory,

    There are accrediting organizations who monitor universities and colleges to make sure standards are adhered to. Shouldn’t they also be aware of and concerned for the ethical and legal violations committed within the regents system? I’ve often wondered how any research involving SDSU could be taken seriously when the university president receives a lot of money for sitting on the board of directors of Monsanto. The EB-5 swindles should send red flags shooting up someplace. I don’t understand how education programs can pass the smell test with national accrediting organizations whose job is to police the institutions and protect the public interest.

  10. Lanny V Stricherz

    And 96 Tears, that SDSU President gets paid (I won’t say earns, although he does in Monsanto’s eyes) more than double what we pay him as a state to be that president. David Chicoine is just an example of the cancer that runs rampant in anything to do with State government in SD. It also amazes me that no one has brought a bill forward in the legislature to end this conflict of interest by State employees.

  11. wow. think of the Kochs’ participation on niversity boards (George Mason University, among several others) and influencing higher ed.

  12. It all goes something like this……

    “We all you know South Dakota is a very small state and everyone knows everyone else, plus we want to make sure we have a quality group involved. Do you think ‘fill in the name here’ can remain unbiased and still participate?” (this is all said while ‘fill in the name here’ remains in the room)

    This question results in a lot of nodding heads, with no vote taken or anything resembling Robert’s Rules of Order occurring.

    “Ok then, we all agree that ‘fill in the name here’ should remain on this committee.”

  13. I’ve been on various boards (church, not for profit, city) and they all had time limits for how long you could be on the board, usually 4-6 years max. Almost 20 years on a board seems like a long time. However, I think most “state” boards have no time limits.

  14. drey samuelson

    Hmmm… maybe it’s time to forget this initiative stuff and run for the State Board of Education! ;-)

  15. “The SD GEAR UP program may want to consider how they can provide future evaluators with access to the data along with student level state test scores so that true quantification of the results can be completed …”

    Millions and millions spent, yet no quantitative assessment is available. Quite telling. Numbers don’t lie.

  16. george wilson

    at least 50% of gear up funds should be used for scholarships—–actually zero % was given out in direct scholarships. this program is needed but terribly mismanaged, thanks a lot south dakota. i believe the tribal chairpersons in south dakota should demand a forensic audit of the gear up program and hold someone accountable. our young people are suffering, i have 2 granddaughters in college now that have a hell of a time getting help for their tuition, books, living expenses, etc.. yet these gear up people are living high on the hog.

  17. Drey, the examples of Phelps and Duncan suggest that you at least have a better chance of making money as a Board of Education member than as a ballot measure initiator. :-)

    King, good point! I wonder if that evaluation fulfills some federal obligation, even though it lacked the data necessary to be really indicative and useful.

    George, I agree, SD should never have asked for that waiver. It’s like the GI Bill: sure, veterans can maybe use some other help to get into and through college, but paying their tuition is the biggest help we can offer.

  18. As a USD (State of South Dakota) employee Dr. Duncan would have a contact for employment that would been for full time employment. The President of USD would have had to approve a waiver for additional employment outside USD. Each employee is also required to sign a conflict of interest disclosure. Perhaps she is also only worked for MidCentral on holidays and weekends so she did not double dip our tax dollars.

  19. Jason Sebern

    I think KELO should start paying Cory for all his research. Unbelievable job uncovering this hot mess!!!

  20. Thanks, Jason! But if they paid me, they’d probably make me come to meetings and do stories on the first snow.

    But if Angela Kennecke would like to drop some cash in my tip jar in the sidebar, I won’t tell! :-)

  21. kc-(my fav place in the universe!) Dr. Duncan (nice ring to her title)-no non-work related (your other job) phone calls at your desk!! haha