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SD GEAR UP 2005 App Lists Director Who Didn’t Direct, Evaluator Who Didn’t Evaluate…

…and Financial Priority on Consultants and Contractors, Not Scholarships

South Dakota’s original 2005 GEAR UP grant application, posted and analyzed last week by Angela Kennecke, is chock full of details and errors that deserve our attention.

As expected, we see Dr. Rick Melmer, then Secretary of Education, listed as the authorizing state official. As we all know, Secretary Melmer steered management of GEAR UP to the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative back in Platte, in his home county of Charles Mix, then, following his departure from Pierre and the renewal of the GEAR UP grant, moonlit for Mid-Central doing GEAR UP work for six figures. In other words, a former Secretary of Education approved a grant application which subsequently provided him a substantial income opportunity.

We also see Wade Pogany, Melmer’s former director of curriculum and instruction at DOE, listed in the 2005 GEAR UP app as GEAR UP point of contact and grant director:

Wade Pogany, State of South Dakota Point of Contact, is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the SD Department of Education will oversee the operation of the grant. In his current capacity as director Mr. Pogany is responsible for several federal programs as well as the management of the Governor’s 2010 Education Initiative. The GEAR UP grant will play a significant part in the Governor’s initiative in helping Native American students increase their academic achievement. The 2010 Education Initiative strives toward reform minded strategies to improve education in the state of South Dakota through three focus areas: early childhood interventions, focus on teacher retention, and training, and a strong emphasis on high school reform. His previous experience has been involved in public education as a principal and teacher [South Dakota GEAR UP grant application, 2005.04.11, p. e56].

Ah, so GEAR UP was part of Governor Mike Rounds’s 2010 Education Initiative? Well, there’s another part of Rounds’s failed legacy that saw more results in cronyism than in documentable improvements for the intended recipients.

…The South Dakota Office of Education will provide support to the grant activities through the work of a project director, Mr. Wade Pogany. Mr. Pogany will over see the preparation of Federal Reports, review and disseminate reports from the evaluation team and provide feedback to the superintendents of participating schools on a regular basis. Mr. Pogany is a full-time employee of the State of South Dakota Department of Education and will be assigned a five percent (.05) of his time to the project. This time will be considered an in-kind contribution to the grant activities [SD GEAR UP app 2005, p. e79].

Like Mines President Heather Wilson, Pogany scrambles to distance himself from this toxic scandal:

Angela Kennecke spoke with Pogany, who now heads up the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.  Pogany tells her that he was never director of the GEAR UP grant.  He says his name must have gotten attached to it when work was being done on South Dakota’s application, but that he never actually administered the grant [Angela Kennecke, “South Dakota’s Original GEAR UP Grant Application Revealed,” KELO-TV, 2016.01.11].

If Pogany didn’t do the work the state claimed he would in its application, neither did the Academy for Educational Development, AED, the entity that was supposed to conduct the external evaluation of South Dakota’s use of GEAR UP money:

The Academy for Educational Development (AED), a Washington, D.C. based non-profit organization, will serve as the external evaluators for this project under the leadership of the PI. For the last 25 years, AED’s Higher Education Management Services Center (HEMS) has evaluated federal grant programs and agencies, including GEAR UP. This project will utilize AED’s pioneering online longitudinal data collection and analysis tool, which has been used very successfully with GEAR UP projects in KY and PA [SD GEAR UP app 2005, p. e67].

Kennecke reports that the state and AED had some dust up and couldn’t work with each other… but South Dakota was able to do business with Brinda Kuhn, who apparently quit AED and moved to South Dakota just in time to become the state’s GEAR UP evaluator and make seven figures working on GEAR UP and, subsequently, other grant programs for Mid-Central. We may have come out no worse for that switch—AED got in trouble with the feds for poor controls against corruption; it now evaluates Pennsylvania’s GEAR UP under the corporate name FHI 360.

Digging through this hastily assembled application reveals a wealth of sentence fragments and other writing errors, but where the app should most blatantly flunk the public policy test is its math. Check out the dollar amounts requested from the feds and the state resources pledged to match:

Federal funds requested, SD GEAR UP app 2005, p. e3.
Federal funds requested, SD GEAR UP app 2005, p. e3.
Non-federal matching resources pledged, SD GEAR UP app 2005, p. e4.
Non-federal matching resources pledged, SD GEAR UP app 2005, p. e4.

The state planned to spend $959K of federal dollars a year on consultants and contracts and just $50K on scholarships and tuition assistance for American Indian students. Non-federal matching funds were budgeted to add $30K for consultants and contracts and just $15K to actually help kids pay for college. There’s nothing like a simple budget table to help us understand the state’s priorities.

And don’t forget: none of those priorities would have been funded with GEAR UP dollars if it hadn’t been for Mike Rounds’s signature:

Governor Mike Rounds, letter to US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, 2005.04.05, supporting South Dakota GEAR UP application, 2005.04.11, p. e21.
Governor Mike Rounds, letter to US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, 2005.04.05, supporting South Dakota GEAR UP application, 2005.04.11, p. e21.

Expect Kennecke’s next interview to be with Senator Rounds, who will explain that his name, like Pogany’s, must have gotten attached to South Dakota’s 2005 GEAR UP application by accident.


  1. Richard Schriever 2016-01-18 11:09

    Looking forward to Rounds’ version of the infamous Pelosi spin. Rounds would’ve had to read it to have known what’s in it, but to read it as anything of substance – it needed to be signed first – otherwise, it’s just so much ink on paper. He’ll assert some variation on; he just trusted his appointees to do the right thing. That’s what they were being paid for.

  2. John 2016-01-18 11:21

    It’s far worse than we thought, a ‘ridiculous’ level of corruption. 5% of the program went to scholarships . . . what a pack of jackels, apparent civil crooks. Is this what is taught in those EdPhD programs?

  3. mike from iowa 2016-01-18 11:28

    95% overhead?

  4. Michael Wyland 2016-01-18 13:14

    Look at Angela Kennecke’s report and my comments in that report. Compare the 2005 application with the 2011 final report by the SD Dept. of Ed. to the US Dept. of Ed. for significant differences between proposal and execution. Many changes to the program services and budget were made after the grant application was submitted.

    Also remember that the 2005 application was prepared on less than two weeks’ notice – very hasty for such a large program and federal grant request.

    Finally, it’s entirely possible that Governor Rounds has little or no idea what was going on with GEAR UP. The cover letter was probably drafted for his signature without his participation. I’ve seen this happen with other federal grant applications submitted by states.

  5. Mark Winegar 2016-01-18 15:59

    Can anyone explain to me how this is responsible governance?

  6. Michael Wyland 2016-01-18 16:01


    I think we’re well past that point (grin). Here’s part of what I posted recently on EVALTALK:

    “My personal belief is that the central failure was the failure of South Dakota’s Department of Education to exercise sufficient programmatic as well as fiscal oversight of the federal programs it applied for and then contracted out to Mid-Central Educational Cooperative. That doesn’t absolve others from all blame and responsibility, of course.

    “There’s a temptation to look at situations like these and say “how far up does it go?” I believe that’s the wrong question to pursue. Instead, seek to know “how far out does it go?” How many people are involved in some way, and what are their relationships? How many programs are involved, and what are their relationships? How many organizations are involved, and is there a point (pr points) of correlation that might actually be causation?

    “The state’s investigation is likely to continue for three months or more. The SD Auditor General has promised to make his final report public. He has also promised to follow the money and relationships wherever they lead, so vendors and suppliers involved with GEAR UP and other federal grants administered by Mid-Central will be scrutinized.

    “We know there is a concurrent federal investigation underway. The feds don’t comment on ongoing investigations, and they may choose to disclose – or not – the scope of their work or results of their work.”

  7. M.K. 2016-01-18 17:31

    You can’t forge a Governor’s name on a document. Even if it is an approved, stamped, copied name by office assistants; even with authorization; you are accountable for what you sign and you should know therein where the responsibility of that process extends. If it was that hasty a decision to apply for this enormous grant; maybe it wasn’t in the best interest of the state, without further investigations.

  8. Blue living in a red state 2016-01-18 18:43

    Wade is a prominent lobbyist in Pierre, he has his hands in a lot of cookie jars.

  9. Roger Elgersma 2016-01-18 21:54

    Rounds 2010 plan always was a pie in the sky positive attitude effect without any real plan. The first years there was no evidence in the budget that there was any plan at all. It just gave people the hope that there was a plan and that something somewhere would get better, it did not get better.

  10. Oldhag 2016-01-18 22:41

    Wow! Mark Winegar, you worked with these MCEC crooks years ago after you left USD and around the time you landed at MMC, tell us about how folks can so easily look the other way as long as $$$$ is filling their pockets no matter what it was meant for and who it could actually have helped. Remember that Mark?

    Glad I don’t live in SD or I’d make sure people see the real you! You fit in well with all of this.
    Did you work with Ted Hamilton too can’t recall? He’s the crony of cronies, Stacy’s mentor, and protege of the Bordeaux brothers, Leland and Roger, check that $$$ trail.

    This Gear-up grant is just a shiny object intended to distract from what really happened to the Westerhuis family.
    Someone on this blog said months ago to look into the SD Science & Technology Authority and all of the $$$$$ going into the big hole in the ground…will we ever know how many have died in all of this?
    Follow these awards that make Gear-up look like a drop in the bucket:

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-19 07:31

    Oldhag, you may have your distraction and real issue mixed up. I’m not convinced that something else really happened to the Westerhuises. The murder/suicide may be the shiny object; the real public policy issue, the thing we can do something about, is the use of public funds in the GEAR UP grant and other programs.

    Mark, can you add some perspective on the work Oldhag says you did for MCEC?

  12. 96Tears 2016-01-19 09:34

    It’s interesting that candidate Mike Rounds chose to shut down the U.S. Department of Education as one of his goals in the U.S. Senate. That would have shut off access to those federal slush fund dollars for his pals. Is this evidence he really didn’t know his choice for education secretary wasn’t on the take? Does that matter? Someone in his administration knew. How about his chief of staff?

    Folks, keep the focus on the culture of corruption which ran rampant in Rounds’ and Daugaard’s tenures as governor. If it wasn’t for the deaths of seven people, nobody would have heard of any of this. Obviously, there is an attitude that political pals can get away with theft in state government. With any luck at all, more instances of fleecing will appear.

  13. Oldhag 2016-01-19 10:12

    I’m saying I don’t think we will find the cause of the Westerhuis family due to the Gear-up grant fraud and mis-use. Angela’s report on Herrington’s involvement with AIII is good to know as well as the other AIII officer, Carlos Rodriquez, a National leader in STEM, but I don’t think the family died by their hands. I also don’t think they died embezzling grant funds as they had too many folks monitoring transactions. I do solidly agree they died due to the corruption. I completely agree with M Wyland as to how Broad this goes.

    Question, when MCEC finds a place in the State of the State address, why is the ED of MCEC still in place? He has 2 dead employees due to violation of MCEC’s own policies.

    Are their 8 people who have died with this corruption if we include,

  14. Michael Wyland 2016-01-19 10:47

    OK, maybe my math is off. The Westerhuis family included Scott, Nicole, and four children. Who is the seventh person who passed away?

    Also, the RCJ story on the physicist who committed suicide (in 2013) indicates no connection to GEAR UP, MCEC, the SD Dept. of Education, or any individual named to date in the events surrounding GEAR UP and MCEC.

  15. Curt 2016-01-19 11:03

    My guess is that the 7 deaths add the Benda suicide to the 6 Westerhuis deaths.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-19 19:17

    I still need more to see any relevance to Lemut’s suicide, Oldhag. We can compose a plausible narrative of Benda and Westerhuis profiting improperly from taxpayer dollars (remember, Westerhuis was drawing from Dept. of Ed., not GOED), being cut off from the gravy train, and ending their lives in despair. I see no such narrative yet for Lemut.

  17. leslie 2016-01-20 01:22

    I Suppose If These Things Were Obvious We’d Have Some Explanation For The Sdsm&t Suicide. Regents/glib Heather Wilson: perhaps An Association.

    Old Hag Mcc?

    96 i Agree.

    Schreiver Whats The Purpose Of Dissing Pelosi?

  18. Oldhag 2016-01-20 09:33

    Where I see a direct connection is via STEM funding coming in through both GOED and SDDOE.
    Carlos Rodriguez, PhD, Principal Investigator for STEM awards for NSF is also an officier of AIII. Stacy Phelps was STEM long before Gear-up.

    GOED has way more STEM $$$ than DOE:
    The project involves all of the colleges and universities in South Dakota, and is broadening the participation of women, Native Americans and persons with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

    I am open to the errors of my logic, but I see STEM and Economic Development as the common denominator on all shot gun suicides than just DOE and Gear-up.

    Leslie: Winegar was at Mount Marty College while he was also working with MCEC and the DIAL virtual high school moodling the $$$ away. It should have been MMC, not MCC. I apologize for any confusion.

  19. Eve Fisher 2016-01-20 16:58

    I think the most damning bit is the fact that Governor Dugaard wouldn’t let Secretary of Education Schopp be interviewed by Angela Kennecke without him present. That right there was proof that everyone has something to hide in this mess, including GDD.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-21 11:54

    So, Oldhag, what activities would Lemut have been engaged in that would have led him to kill himself, especially so soon after his arrival (it was within a year, wasn’t it)? Did he leave a note? Did anyone else ever suggest an explanation? What’s the motive here?

  21. Oldhag 2016-01-21 15:18

    Let’s put it this way, his friends and family were as shocked as the Westerhuis’s were. Read the comments, they sound like those coming out of Platte.

    The new President of SDSMT, Heather Wilson, became the president in June 2013 with Lemut’s death in Nov..

    Dr. Wilson served New Mexico in the US Congress from 1998 to 2009, where she was a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and was the chair of the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence.
    She says, “Mines President Heather Wilson said she recalled laughing and joking with Lemut just days before he died.”

    The sentiments are the same as with Scott who also seemed to be loving his work. STEM very important $$$ in SD, is there a linkage….don’t know. DIANA, or Dual Ion Accelerator for Nuclear Astrophysics is a HUGE grant with tons of $$$$, makes Gear-up tiny in comparison.

    3 events of shotgun suicides does create a trend. Maybe it’s lead in the water?

    I’m a trained mental health professional, most suicidal folks can’t laugh or work and they DO leave notes. They certainly are never so “out of it” that they throw their teenage sons into each other’s beds after killing them and teenage boys never sleep in their other teenage son’s bed. You having been a teenage boy at one time, know why!

  22. Lora Hubbel 2016-01-21 20:57

    I love following Oldhag’s comments. Another piece of the puzzle i don’t understand and is worth pursuing is the “Official” Marty Jackley keeps mentioning who made the call on the manor and cause of death. This was NOT an official. It was Chad Peters. a Deputy Coroner with no State certificate number. Deputy Coroners have no state training on crime scene investigations….I don’t even think they can issue a manner of death (I may be wrong on that, but they do not have the authority a coroner does). Really…Marty has to use a Deputy Coroner to be the go-to guy for how these deaths occurred? There is a certified coroner in Charles Mix county…but he was not used. Chad Peters was used by Marty Jackley for BOTH the Benda and Westerhuis “death certificates.”

  23. Rose Bosworth 2016-01-22 13:29

    Keep up the good work Angela!!

  24. mike from iowa 2016-01-22 15:45

    Lora Hubbel- 34-25-21. Notice to county coroner and sheriff of death without attending physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner–Preparation of medical certificate. If a death occurs without the attendance of a licensed physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner, the person in charge of the body shall notify the county coroner and sheriff of such death. Upon notification, the county coroner shall complete the medical certificate from the statement of relatives or other persons having adequate knowledge of the facts. The coroner, or deputy coroner in the absence of the coroner, shall complete, sign, and file the medical certificate with the department within five days of the date of death, unless an autopsy or investigation is pending, in which case the pending autopsy or investigation shall be noted on the medical certificate. In the absence of a coroner or deputy coroner, or if the coroner is unable to act, and only in such case, the local registrar shall prepare the medical certificate from the statement of relatives or other person having knowledge of the facts.

    Deputy coroner can file certificate of death in the absence of coroner. Question is why wasn’t the state’s ME or county coroner brought in in either so called suicide?

  25. leslie 2016-01-22 18:57

    using a not so smart fon most of the time I apologize for lack of post edits here lately.

    OH-while we wish to understand your suspicions, Winegar is a less known figure here, and MMC was what?…, a primary or secondary job? Please direct me to his back ground which cory may have previously covered here, or other information.

    Your mental health creds aside, your suicide generalizations are off the mark and perhaps misleading, based upon my own personal experience with suicide and dynamics of suicide. there is a big deal made in the state about Benda and now Westerhuis’ suicides as part of the state’s cover-up of the EB5 and likely MCEC frauds. I think the Benda gag-law protects his family and children from damaging disclosures. Many here disagree with me, but they haven’t direct experience. And of course since Jackley is in the driver’s seat; it is open season on his political hide as chief investigator/prosecutor perhaps by his own invitation, and Chad Peters use, twice, is noted, in my own experience in criminal investigation.

    Heather Wilson, and her selection by Regents (for reasons supposedly involving the semi-secret DEEP BOREHOLE nuclear waste disposal project) with their direct participation and oversight and perhaps their cover-up and lawyering in the EB5 debacle, cast dark shadows on their elite role with GOED, and NSU’s Bollen/SDRC/SDRC, Inc. office and convenient loss of records. And now Wilson has a role with tattered MCEC and Gear Up’s future.

    There are likely more shotguns in SD than anything else and as you know impulsivity and depression play heavy roles in some suicide. Her colleague’s suicide and her glib recollection of him may have some yet unclear association; but Benda and Westerhuis’ suicides, likely steeped in criminal financial fraud may differ from other clinical analysis of suicide. I do not know.

    The goal is nailing Rounds, Daugaard and Jackley and many political cronies in the state for their roles in these frauds and cover-ups. The republican administration lacks transparency and causes doubt in efficacy of law enforcement investigation, financial mismanagement and political shenanigans. Likely dealing with a stacked deck, the bastards will get away with whatever it is they are playing with a little red state. 1/50th of the problem in a big nation.

  26. Elizabeth 2016-01-26 06:55

    Wow! As a former student and worker of that program, none of this is a surprise. Not to mention they pay the workers there chump change and they hire people who are unprofessional, inexperienced and just fresh out of high school while the people who actually have college degrees and experience get treated like garbage. But yeah! Let’s pay contractors and consultants a s— load of money and give the people who are in charge of kids’ safety and monitoring only enough to feed themselves at night and that’s it.

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