Friday, September 16, 2011


KSN&C picked up a story recently from Page One Kentucky alleging that Education Secretary Joe Meyer may have inappropriately profited, to the tune of $10,500, from the rental of office space to the Covington school district, and the family made another $6,500 for his wife Dale's involvement in grant writing for the schools.

KSN&C followed up with high-placed sources in Covington to see what's really going on. The answer seems to be - not much.

The best we can determine, Meyer began leasing a small storefront to the Covington Public Schools, in 2004, when Jack Moreland was superintendent
, for their Reading First program. Meyer was not an employee of state government back then and held no public positions. The office space is situated directly across from another office building owned by the Covington schools. Most recently it was used used by Title I Instructional Coaches for planning and hosting daily grade-level and content meetings. Covington has continued to lease and use the space, which is presently transitioning into a Parent Education Center where the Superintendent's Parent Advisory Council and other groups involved with their Family Engagement initiative, will meet and train.  Lease payments are approximately $900 per month, which seems to be a reasonable rate.

Page One is careful to point out that there may be nothing illegal about the rental, but they are still bothered about any appearance of impropriety. KSN&C is wondering if there is even a bothersome appearance.
Secretary of the Education Cabinet certainly sounds like a position of great authority, but I'm not sure Meyer is directly, or indirectly, in charge of much of anything that happens in any Kentucky school district. Not to discount what may well be important bureaucratic functions, but if I'm not mistaken, Meyer sits on some task forces and deals with inter-governmental grants and budgets, data reporting, accountability, and implementation of state and federal education regulations. In my experience school folks always dealt with the Commissioner and ignored the Secretary. As Secretary, Meyer has no control or authority over the expenditures of either the Department of Education or the Covington school District in any way whatsoever. It would be a major problem if Meyer was a Board of Education member and actually made decisions about expenditures, but he doesn't.

KDE General Counsel Kevin Brown says that KRS 156.480 lays out the prohibitions related to this kind of thing, and it certainly places restrictions on KDE employees and local board employees, but does not even mention the cabinet secretary since their role in school operations is non-existent. The key, in the law, is whether the individual has any decision-making authority over district spending.

As a northern Kentucky refugee I can confirm that Covington has always been a tough district, with 90% of the students eligible for free and reduced lunch, the second highest percentage in the state, and low student achievement results

Northern Kentucky school districts probably have the most extreme economic segregation in the state. While Covington and Newport have the 2nd and 4th highest percentages of free/reduced lunch students, Beechwood, Kenton County, Fort Thomas, Campbell County, Boone County and Walton-Verona rank among the 12 school districts with the lowest percentage of free/reduced lunch students.  

Page One accurately pointed out that Meyer arranged for Rep. Carl Rollins to meet with Covington superintendent Lynda Jackson. Jackson thinks she has ideas to improve the schools that might require legislative authorization. I don't know what those ideas are or whether they show promise but I'm having trouble figuring out what's wrong with a meeting.

Dale Meyer retired from Gateway Community and Technical College where she was the staff grant writer for several years. We hear she was pretty successful. Gateway claims that her grant writing was responsible for 25% of the college revenue. Since retiring she has been asked by Northern Kentucky University, NK Community Action Commission, Thomas More College and Covington Public Schools to write grant applications for which she charges an hourly rate. A good grant writer will pay for themselves many times over but, in this case, Covington didn't need to establish a position or bear any of the overhead for office expense or equipment.  Dale Meyer has worked on several grants for the Covington schools over the past four years, or so, for which she was paid $8,900. The district has yet to receive word on the outcome of two of the grants that she worked on this past school year.  However, a biomedical grant she wrote last year was funded for $50,000.

It appears to KSN&C that Covington is simply working to dig itself out of a very deep hole.

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