February 27, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Council Grove school leaders silent on district controversies

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USD 417 in Council Grove has been rocked in recent weeks with the resignations of its curriculum director, school board clerk/transportation manager, and business manager in the last 45 days, a source tells The Sentinel.

This news comes on the heels of the recent controversial hiring of the board clerk/transportation manager dual role and the business manager, in which job openings were posted and no interviews were conducted before the positions were filled.

The Sentinel reached out to Board President TinaRae Scott and Superintendent Aron Dody for comment on the administrative hirings, asking if jobs were normally filled in the district without posting open positions or conducting interviews and what the job qualifications of a district “business manager” were.

We received no response from either school leader.

Earlier this year, an audit of the district alleged misuse of federal Covid-19 relief funds in the purchase of two vehicles for the district without receiving competitive bids.

According to Varney and Associates Auditor April Swartz:

“Our opinion of the cause was that the superintendent was allowed to solely approve these purchases and that the district did not follow the bid procedure,” Swartz said. “So in our feeling then that is a case of management override, where possibly the superintendent has been given too much authority to make decisions, and it’s not coming over the board for approval. The effect of that is that, in our opinion, purchases were made that were not in compliance with the bid requirement in the statute.”

In the wake of the audit, the board met with Superintendent Dody in an executive session to discuss his evaluation, but no action was taken against him.

The upheaval in the Council Grove district, and the apparent lack of transparency and accountability among its leaders, occurs at a time when the most recent (2022) state assessment scores available for USD 417 students show student achievement at low levels.

About 30% of students are below grade level in reading and math, and only about a third of students are proficient.  Outcomes declined since 2019, but proficiency has consistently been below 50%.

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