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Guericke to Quit Mid-Central; Board Sees No Need for Change; Staff Drive Constantly

Dan Guericke, owner, G & N School Bus Driver Training
Dan Guericke, owner, G & N School Bus Driver Training

Mid-Central Educational Cooperative appears to be cleaning house. Executive director Dan Guericke, who hasn’t made any substantive public statement since shortly after the Westerhuis murder-arson-suicide launched the GEAR UP scandal into the headlines, announced at yesterday’s MCEC board meeting that he will retire June 30.

In his retirement notice, Guericke proudly lists MCEC’s top achievements but says nothing about GEAR UP, the multi-million-dollar program that MCEC mismanaged for years with the Department of Education’s knowledge before Secretary Melody Schopp felt compelled to cancel that contract last September. His only acknowledgment of the troubles that have dragged MCEC into the spotlight is an oblique comment that “This is a time of important transformation for MCEC and I believe that MCEC is well-positioned for the opportunities and challenges ahead.”

Transformation likely refers to all the staff MCEC has axed since double-dipping business manager Scott Westerhuis killed himself and his wife and MCEC assistant business manager Nicole Westerhuis on September 17. That transformation includes the termination of everyone who ran GEAR UP for MCEC in Rapid City, last month’s resignation of interim business manager Stephanie Hubers, and, most recently, the resignation of consultant Brinda Kuhn. The MCEC board accepted Kuhn’s resignation at a special meeting on February 4 but made the resignation effective December 1, 2015. Kuhn received one last payment of $2,916.67 on December 17, 2015, topping off the seven figures she made from Mid-Central over the last few years “evaluating” GEAR UP and giving kids in the GEAR UP summer program plane rides.

(As of this writing, Kuhn’s consulting firm website appears to be completely wiped. Plus, I’m linking to cached KELO-TV articles, since their website overhaul has apparently broken their past links, if not wiped out over a decade of useful archived reports.)

While MCEC undergoes this “important transformation” in staff, the board sees no need to transform the co-op’s mission. Board members reviewed a survey of member school districts, which mostly affirms the status quo. That survey included this loaded question:

Mid Central Educational Cooperative was founded in 1977 to offer the member schools a shared pool of Special Education professionals to provide services to meet the unique need of students across the multiple districts. The success of this initial SPED cooperative provided a tested model to establish other shared services among the member schools and beyond. The pioneering spirit of MCEC has set it apart from most educational cooperatives in the state and allowed MCEC to be a leader in educational support and innovation. In light of the events of 2015, there has been some discussion that returning to being only a Special Education Cooperative might be the best option for MCEC at this point in time. What is your reaction to that suggestion and what information could you offer to support your thoughts? [Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, “Summary of MCEC Survey Results,” 2016.02.09]

MCEC summarizes the responses to that question thus:

MCEC should continue to provide quality and efficient specialty services with top priority given to the member districts [“Summary,” 2016.02.09].

Check for code—”top priority given to the member districts” could mean, “Don’t get back into state contracts coordinating federal grants for schools all over the state, the way you did in GEAR UP.”

The MCEC board also reviewed a summary of all of its staff auto expenses for 2015. MCEC reports mileage, depreciation, and maintenance and repair expenses for 37 vehicles, five of which it surplused last year. Those 37 vehicles were acquired between August 2004 and February 2014. Those vehicles logged over 2.7 million miles in 2015. Guericke was one of the lesser drivers, putting only 29,765 miles on a 2014 Impala. A 2013 Impala tagged “Brian Wagner/Office” accumulated 100,259 miles, which is over 380 miles per weekday. The champ driver is physical therapist Kellie Stukel, whose 2010 Impala logged 144,336 miles, over 550 miles per workday. Consider that if average travel speed was 65 mph, that’s still 8.5 hours of driving every workday.


  1. 96Tears 2016-02-12 08:49

    Angela Kennecke this past week filed three impressive stories exposing the fast and loose allocations to 10 Phelps family members, to a pet non-profit PAST Foundation in Ohio (!!!) and now Dan Guericke’s resignation. I’m glad one mainstream news institution isn’t dropping the ball on following through on a very big scandal.

    Again, if this kind of thug cronyism runs rampantly with two programs in state government (MCEC and EB-5), then it’s logical that it runs rampantly in other agencies. Apparently, federal money has been found to be free of control and accountability by the network of Protected Class pols in state government.

  2. Charlene Lund 2016-02-12 10:45

    Guericke still has not said one word that explains mismanagement with GEAR UP – you know he knows so much including his final conversations with Scott Westerhuis. I believe he needs to be interrogated/investigated about his role.

  3. Les 2016-02-12 11:09

    A good manager would tell you the buck stops here, Charlene, but in SD the buck is quite elusive.

  4. Rorschach 2016-02-12 11:28

    Yes, the buck has not stopped with anyone at the Department of Education who was supposed to be overseeing MCEC/Gear Up either. No bucks stopped with any living person on the EB-5 matter either. In SD when there’s a dead guy the “buck” apparently stops there while the actual bucks go elsewhere.

  5. Rorschach 2016-02-12 11:39

    It’s time for the people in state government who are orchestrating the coverups to be held accountable. We have an attorney general who found out as soon as he was appointed that Joop Bollen had written himself a contract to privatize the incredibly lucrative SD Regional Center and had filed his own pleadings in a suit against the State of SD without notifying the state. Yet the newly appointed AG did nothing about any of this – and years later closed his investigation by blaming the dead guy.

    Think about this: If you were newly appointed as AG and found out about the Joopster’s shenanigans, wouldn’t you go directly to the guy who appointed you – Mike Rounds – and say, “Let’s lower the boom on this guy!”? The fact that the boom wasn’t lowered on the Joopster and that governor’s new appointee Marty Jackley did nothing tells me that Mike Rounds gave Jackley the word to look the other way.

  6. mike from iowa 2016-02-12 12:14

    At this time of year bucks have dropped their antlers and are virtually indistinguishable from does,w/o up close scrutiny. So the bucks are free to come and go.

  7. 96Tears 2016-02-12 14:03

    Dan Guericke didn’t get canned. He is retiring. At his leisure. In fact, he’s going to keep running the scandal-infested program for another four months. Meanwhile, the hog trough stays open for the politically-protected swine to keep feeding. Meanwhile, Education Department Secretary Melody Schopp continues presiding over this scandal-infested agency with the full backing of her boss, Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Meanwhile, Gov. Daugaard has done nothing to stench the bleeding of scandal after scandal on his watch. Meanwhile, Mark Mickelson and the legislature go through a lame pantomime to give the appearance something will be done … but you and I have seen this clown show several years ago when the legislative star for government reform and transparency was then-Sen. Jason Gant. Mark Mickelson is another Jason Gant, minus the fat suit.

    So far, only KELO’s Angela Kennecke and DFP’s Cory Heidelberger seem to be making the honest effort to report real news on deep-seeded corruption in Pierre. This is what Jackley, Daugaard, Schopp, Jewett, Bollen and the other jokers are counting upon. The people won’t take back their rotted state government because they won’t see much about it in their local media.

    Welcome to the New Order that we’ll see a year from now on the national level with the inauguration of President Donald Trump: Government of the donor class, by the donor class and for the donor class.

    Here in South Dakota, we’re living in the future.

  8. Rorschach 2016-02-12 15:16

    Bob Mercer reported on the scandals, but his Aberdeen readers have gotten so used to GOP party scandals that they have grown bored hearing about them.

  9. CharlesMixResident 2016-02-12 15:50

    Those meeting minutes are short but interesting. Hubers is still going to be helping out with business manager services I see while her relative Catrina Brown takes over her position. I believe Catrina maybe went to technical school at most. Can’t imagine trying to be the business manager during a time like this with so little experience/education. Certainly not the first family connection to make money off of Mid-Central though. No surprise either with the mileage listings as you see these vehicles all over the local area all the time.

  10. M.K. 2016-02-12 16:47

    Good reporting KELO and Dakota Free Press. I am just bewildered and sad at the same time. Education is so very important, for all of us, our students, families and future. When will things get better? When will money be spent the way it was intended. Who can move things in the right direction? Feeling Blue.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-12 16:54

    Brown and Hubers related? How?

  12. mike from iowa 2016-02-12 17:32

    Brown went to Mitchell Tech. Has a degree in business management.

  13. leslie 2016-02-12 17:43

    wiping records. kind of a bad sign for Jackley’s forensic investigators actively trying to get to the bottom of this.

    meanwhile, jackley is all over suing over EPA regulations.

    we have a completely compromised justice system at the state level by GOP.

    lawyers are ethically required to self police their profession.

  14. Les 2016-02-12 23:28

    “”lawyers are ethically required to self police their profession””. Haha.

  15. Sharon Tebben 2016-02-13 07:59

    Wow! Those would be pretty nice MCEC travel reimbursements. But if no one ever monitors, that is a good way to pad the payments. That means all the worker bees at the coop were also in on the dole. I suppose that would amount to at least $25,000 extra each for the year.

  16. moof 2016-02-16 23:38

    those miles are totals since new, not just that year, spin spin spin the story until the puplic doesn’t know what to believe. This is very bad journalism and angela and dakota free press both are guilty…. while i hope we get to the truth eventualy this tabloid style is for the dogs

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-17 08:13

    Moof, I don’t spin. I read the documents as presented. If I am in error, I’ll be happy to correct my statement.

    But tell me, Moof, does potential error on this one fact change the truth of anything else I’ve written in this report? Or Angela’s?

    I also don’t hide my identity behind a silly name. Tell us: from what authority do you derive you alternative interpretation of the document in question?

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