Brandon Kidd vs. Debbie Gibson
The first report, dated September 16, 2015, details charges against Kidd that he exceeded his authority as a Board member.
The first of four findings claim Kidd became involved in personnel issues, which is prohibited by law, by allegedly making statements that Superintendent Donnie Wright “would be gone by the end of the year,” and that Mike Cash would be named the next Superintendent.
While Kidd denies the allegations in the report, OEA personnel reportedly received statements from citizens not employed by the District that support the accusations.
It was further noted that Kidd had stated Tim Moore, Instructional Supervisor, had to go, since Cash allegedly felt threatened by him and the fear that Moore would be chosen as the next Superintendent.
Moore is one of four individuals currently involved in a lawsuit against the Board, claiming actions were taken to remove him from his position.
In the legal response Kidd further denies any involvement with personnel matters, and claims the allegations are unfounded.
A second accusation claims Kidd suggested the Food Service Director “pad” breakfast counts at the schools in order to receive additional funding to provide free afternoon snacks at the schools.
Kidd’s response again states the accusations are false, noting he was asked by a parent why the schools no longer provide afternoon snacks. He states he spoke with the former Food Service Director, and shared what he learned with the current position holder.
Kidd states he had no further involvement after that point.
Kidd is also accused of seeking outside help in preparing a deficit reduction plan, without Board approval.
The report states Kidd acknowledged receiving advice from former Board member Joyce Kidd, former District Finance Officer Dwight Ross, former Superintendent Ray Ball and Mike Cash when formulating his own plan.
It was further stated that Kidd said he did not trust Wright and denied the Superintendent presented a balanced budget, noting funding for two school resource officers and the restored staffing for the McCreary Academy.
It found he usurped Wright’s authority, where the Superintendent is required to present a budget to the Board.
While agreeing that the Superintendent has the duty to present a budget, Kidd contends there is no stipulation preventing other proposals to be presented as well. It further contends that his actions in gathering outside input is not prohibited, and noted the Kentucky Department of Education advocates the use of budget committees.
The final allegation contends Kidd distrusted Wright, and refused to believe any facts presented by the Superintendent during discussions concerning the Job Corps and the hiring of the Director of Pupil Personnel.
The report claims Kidd stated publically that he believed Wright lied when he submitted a document to the state concerning the DPP position claiming there were no qualified applicants available.
He also claimed Wright committed fraud when he hired someone for the position who had not yet received certification at the time.
OEA staff state they showed Kidd the KRS statute, which allows such a hiring, to which he replied he was not aware of it and expressed disbelief that it was allowed.
Further, the report continues, Kidd stated the Board had been advised by Cash, concerning the Job Corps, that the District had been fraudulent in claiming Average Daily Attendance.
The Kentucky Department of Education has since confirmed that the District is allowed to claim the attendance, but Kidd reportedly stated he did not believe the answer.
It was also noted in the report that Cash, one time principal at the Job Corps, was physically removed and barred from the facility at one point.
In the investigation Kidd denied getting “advice and direction” from Cash, but the OEA reportedly have obtained several email exchanges between the two concerning job postings.
Kidd denied refusing to work with Wright, and that he maintained a professional relationship with the Superintendent.
The response states Kidd seeking outside council is not prohibited by statute, because if it were so it would mean the board members could not consult with attorneys or district staff in matters related to the district.
Regarding the contacts with Cash, Kidd claims there is no evidence the discussions were improper, and the evidence relied on “anonymous witness interviews” and the OEA did not interview Cash concerning the allegation.
“The investigation finds that Mr. Kidd is in violation of his oath and has acted outside of his statutory authority as a member of the McCreary County Board of Education,” the conclusion to the report reads. “Further the investigation finds that Mr. Kidd by his actions has usurped the statutory authority granted to the superintendent pursuant to (Kentucky Revised Statutes).”
The findings state Kidd became involved in personnel matters, in violation of his oath, in threatening Moore’s job, and acted beyond his authority in seeking outside assistance and presenting his own budget reduction plan.
“Mr. Kidd as an individual member of the board is not authorized by statute to act independently of the entire board or any other matter within the district,” it reads.
The OEA also contends Kidd usurped the Superintendents authority by seeking advice from Cash and others.
“Finally, Mr. Kidd appears to be working on behalf of Mr. Cash and not ‘for the promotion of education and the general health and welfare of pupils, consistent with the administrative regulations of the Kentucky Board of Education.”
“Mr. Kidd has shown that his purpose for being on the McCreary County Board of Education is not consistent with the statutory duties of a board member,” it concludes.
In the response to the findings, Owsley stated: “It is clear that Mr. Kidd acted within his scope of authority as Board member. Mr. Kidd followed Kentucky law and all Board policies and procedures, and acted at all times within the best interest of the District. There is no basis for the OEA preliminary finding that Mr. Kidd exceeded the scope of statutory authority.”
The findings have been referred to the Kentucky Department of Education for possible action.
The investigation involving Debbie Gibson also concerns actions involving personnel matters, but the conclusion is a little more critical since this is not the first time the OEA has investigated the Board member.
In January 2014 allegations that Gibson was interfering with daily operations in the school district were investigated, specifically through Facebook postings. Though no violations were found, it was noted she “came very close” to violating policy, and was cautioned to make sure her conduct conforms to requirements.
The latest report, dated September 16, asserts Gibson, while claiming to act in the best interests of the students and district, “does not consider herself bound by board policies or statutory constraints.”
It outlines several instances where she allegedly acted beyond her allowed duties by getting involved in school discipline issues and not believing that procedures have been followed.
“Ms. Gibson is either incapable of understanding when issues have been addressed by district staff or she intentionally tries to effect a different outcome.”
It also notes Gibson “routinely inserts herself in matters that are outside of the general control and management” of the Board, and is “unwilling or incapable of restricting herself to the role of a board member.”
The first allegation contends Gibson made an unannounced visit to the McCreary County preschool in April to tour the facility and take photos. It contends this action disrupted instruction, and was taken without authorization of the Board.
Comments made by Gibson in Board meetings referred to the school as a “dump,” and she chastised the Pre-School Director, Mitzi Stephens, at the time for allowing it to get into such a condition.
The report referenced a 2013 confrontation between Gibson and Stephens where she accused Ms. Stephens of losing $140,000 for failing to turn in paperwork, which was later proven unjustified as the loss was due to declining enrollment.
After being informed the school had passed inspection by the fire marshal, and a program review by the state, Gibson and Kidd both apparently stated they did not believe it.
According to the report Gibson contacted the director of one of the groups responsible for rating the pre-school and accused them of not doing their job.
Gibson continued to assert her concerns over the condition of the school and ultimately spearheaded a movement to move the facility to Pine Knot Primary and Whitley City Elementary Schools.
Gibson’s response states she did visit the preschool on the date in question because she knew the building was on a list of facilities needing repairs. She denies disrupting classes in any way, and she presented her pictures at a Board meeting only after discussion of the school’s rating was brought up.
She further states the group put together to develop a fundraising effort to construct a new pre-school facility was done as a private citizen and taxpayer, and all who attended were there on a voluntary basis.
Another allegation centers on Gibson’s role in getting a retired speech/language pathologist (SLP) to work with a student at WCE.
Gibson was reportedly told that the two SLPs already employed by the district had open slots available, and the retired SLP was under contract to provide services the district could not. Gibson persisted and ultimately got then-Acting Superintendent Aaron Anderson to assign the person to the position, even though they did not have proper certification and the district was later not able to be reimbursed for the job performed.
In the report it was stated Gibson denies the accusation and claims she was unaware the person was retired and thought she still was a district employee.
In the response provided from her attorney Gibson passed on the request from a parent to assign the SLP to Aaron Anderson, and states she took no further action.
The response also includes a letter from the parent stating Gibson had no involvement other than passing along the information.
A third issue detailed in the report concerns a disciplinary action at Whitley City Elementary School concerning a student identified as Ms. Gibson’s niece where the child was allegedly pushed to the ground by her teacher.
The findings state Gibson was unsatisfied when she was told that after reviewing the video of the alleged incident, there was no evidence to uphold the accusation.
Apparently not believing the incident was handled properly, Gibson discussed the event at a Board meeting under the guise of overall bullying issues.
Gibson denies acting outside of her authority as a board member; instead she was acting as an aunt.
An additional note in the finding states Gibson allegedly stopped by the teacher’s residence on a day she was having a yard sale and made statements that the teacher had “done the child wrong.”
The teacher states she asked Gibson to leave several times, and refused to discuss the matter with her.
Gibson denies the accusation, stating she did not know whose house she stopped by and left after the teacher’s husband threatened her, and states her involvement in the disciplinary issue was strictly as an aunt, and the alleged confrontation did not occur as detailed in the report.
Gibson is also accused of interfering with personnel issues at the bus garage by requesting a change to a bus route and issuing complaints against an individual there.
Again, the response she never requested or directed any action to be taken against employees at the garage, and she had forwarded the request for the route change from a parent to Anderson and had no further involvement.
The OEA also took issue with Gibson’s actions on social media, specifically Facebook, where she is accused of regularly making comments regarding personnel issues.
“Ms. Gibson regularly comments on the job performance of employees in the district, in particular the DPP and other central office administrators,” it reads. “Other Board members confirm that she often makes negative comments to and/or about staff.”
The final area investigated by the OEA was Gibson’s alleged routine direction of the work performed by several members of the Central Office, specifically Assistant Superintendent Anderson.
It cites instances where she asked Anderson to prepare and send out student surveys on bullying, setting up an appreciation dinner for classified staff, asking him to solicit principals for contributions for the dinner, and had him provide information used in her campaign for a new pre-school building.
Anderson reportedly also forwarded confidential student records relating to an alleged bullying instance in a school, despite being advised against such actions by the Board attorney.
Gibson denied the accusations in the response stating the donations for the dinner were made by other Board members after learning no school money could be used for the event, and she did not solicit donations or require attendance or support of the event.
Additionally, she states she never requested District employees to perform work for her, but does request information at times in order to fulfill her role as Board member.
The OEA concluded Gibson is in violation of her oath, and acted outside of her authority.
The summary is harsh on Gibson, effectively stating she is aware she is acting outside of her authority, but refusing to believe district personnel over outside influences.
“Ms. Gibson routinely chooses to believe whatever complaint is brought to her,” it said in the conclusion. “She reacts to each complaint by accusing district personnel of failing to take appropriate action.”
“She fails to discern that the complaints she receives are one sided and because an individual does not get the result they want does not mean that the district failed to follow its policies in addressing the matter.”
“Even when she is personally aware that a matter has been addressed, as in the case involving her niece, she still does not want to accept the findings.”
“Time and time again after Ms. Gibson has been proven wrong in her attacks, she fails to acknowledge publicly her mistake, thereby leaving the public to believe she was correct and that district personnel are not performing her jobs.”
“She openly states that she is going to continue with the actions in which she has engaged and had demonstrated no intent to confine her conduct to her statutory role. There fore the OEA, by copy of this report, is referring Ms. Gibson to the Kentucky Department of Education for determination of action consistent with KRS 156.132.
The response to the conclusion, again, denies all accusations and states it is clear Gibson acted within her scope of authority.
“In each instance, Ms. Gibson ac(t)ed (sic) in the best interests of the students of the District,” it read. “She worked to ensure that the Board was responsive to concerns of parents, student, administrators, and employees, which in no way is prohibited by Board policy or procedure.