Thursday, April 30, 2009

Confirmation Troubles

Every day Kentucky School News & Commentary picks up education-related stories from around the country and posts the stories' leads, or quotes, and occassionally adds commentary. In this regard we rely on the reporting of others. Most of the time our sources are news outlets. Many times our sources are blogs. We post the happenings to educate our readers, and move on.

But in the end, our readers must be able to count on us to present a fair and objective assessment of the issues we cover. Otherwise, why read KSN&C? ...or any other blog for that matter?

Yesterday, I strung together a series of blog posts from Page One Kentucky with other material from C-J's Learning Curve and the Courier Journal regarding concerns over whether Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman has - first: conflicts of interest - then: appearence of impropriety - and now: too much travel.

In that post, I also reprinted some fairly strong inuendo regarding two individuals - inuendo that I have been completely unable to confirm today - and which now seems to be pure speculation.

For that reason, I have gone back and removed references to those individuals and will not refer to them by name now. It just doesn't seem fair.

#1: Speculation that one of the individuals may have had connections to VHS, a Massachusetts virtual high school company that recently contracted with JCPS is unconfirmed. KSN&C spoke to VHS CEO Liz Pape who said the individual in question has had absolutely no connection to the company and never gained a penny's worth of consideration from the company.

#2: Another individual was speculated to have "raked in" large sums of money obtaining a grant - a grant she never wrote, worked on, or even knew about as far as I have been able to determine. That information is unconfirmed. This individual's worst crime appears to have been being hired by the dread former UofL Education Dean Robert Felner while also being friends with Berman. The grant in question came right out of JCPS's central office and brings in funding for educational programs for the district. Where I come from, a school administrator who brings in $900 K is a hero. But Berman told KSN&C that he couldn't take credit for producing that grant either. The credit belongs to other educators at JCPS.

Furthermore, the Attorney General's letter makes it clear that Berman proactively sought to avoid the conflict of interest now being speculated, and did so before entering into any agreement with VHS. According to the AG, Berman lacks any pecuniary interest in VHS; he should not directly serve as the procurement officer (which he doesn't) for the grant or participate directly in the contract. In that way, there is no ethical breach and no conflict of interest.

We have relied on Page One Kentucky in the past and found them to be generally reliable in their reporting. I have made no secret of my disdain for some of the flaming rhetoric employed over certain issues, but that has been left out of their education stories. Their fine work on the Robert Felner story was a service to UofL and to the state. But in this case, I must confess that I have been unable to verify the claims. Toni Konz at the Courier Journal can't either. Perhaps more information will come to light that will cause me to change my assessment, but at this point it sure doesn't look like it.

I am left to wonder what this is really all about.


Dickie said...

Your link to Attorney General doesn't take you there.

Richard Day said...

True. It goes to the Ag's letter.