Comparing Jackie Byrd’s statement about John Small/K12 with Marc Hutek’s

Late yesterday [June 12, 2018], Assistant Superintendent Marc Hutek said in writing that former Deputy Superintendent John Small directed him to sign a “sales quote” for $1.8 million with online education provider K12 on May 26, 2017.

As deputy superintendent, John Small was the second-ranking official in the Polk District at time Hutek says he gave the directive. Small was Hutek’s boss. In fact, Hutek replaced Small as the head of workforce education when Jackie Byrd promoted Small to deputy in 2016.

Small retired from the District in late September 2017 and went directly to work for K12 in October 2017. He is now a K12 vice president.

Here is Hutek’s direct statement about signing that K12 sales quote, as provided yesterday [June 12, 2018] in an email that answered questions I had asked of staff a couple days before.

Q: Who authorized/directed Marc Hutek to sign the Sales Quote on 5/26/2017? Or did he sign it completely on his own initiative?

A: John Small directed me to sign the quote and stated since it was not superintendent/Board approved, it was not considered a contract only a quote.

I will post the full content of Hutek’s answers to my questions below, along with the full text of Superintendent Jackie Byrd’s only public statement on K12, which was issued on June 7, 2018. In that statement, she asked for a retraction of some sort, without specifying what statements needed retraction.

Here is a relevant excerpt of Byrd’s statement.

A possible source of the confusion regarding this issue is a “Sales Quote”, valid for 30 days, of $1.8 million for 550 blocks of 10 enrolled users that Marc Hutek signed on May 26, 2017.  A copy of that quote is attached with this letter.  In all honesty, I do not know just what Mr. Hutek understood this document to involve since he clearly lacked the authority to bind the School Board.  In any event, it was never acted upon and nothing went before the School Board based upon this “Sales Quote”.

Dr. Hutek brought this to my attention several months after he signed it. I immediately asked that the matter be reviewed.  As the result of my request, a meeting was held last fall with representatives of K-12, including Don Kidd, Vice President, John Small, Dr. Hutek and myself.  Attached to this letter is Dr. Hutek’s memorandum confirming this meeting and the action taken.

As previously explained, K-12 has not been treated more favorably than the other vendors who provide these online educational services.  Parents and students are free to choose the vendor they wish to use, and all three vendors are paid solely based on the selections made by the parents and students.

In the meeting that Byrd refers to, Small was representing K12, Hutek said in writing a few days ago in an email to me.

It is unclear what prompted Hutek to approach Byrd about this sales quote, especially if there was some sort of 30 day timer built into it. “Several months” is much longer than 30 days.

Likewise, it is unclear why a top-level staff meeting with K12/John Small in late October or early November was necessary if the sales quote was non-binding. It is further unclear why Hutek, in March 2018, had to remind K12 via email that the sales quote was not valid.

I don’t know what’s up with the portal

These are all questions I will hope to answer, along with many others. The status of K12’s “portal” for Polk Virtual School, for one, is deeply puzzling to me.

Hutek says this about a testimonial he gave concerning that portal, which K12 cited in a piece of marketing material dated May 14, 2018 [roughly a month ago].

K12 stated they would be writing a press release regarding the portal approximately one month following its release this past January.   After approximately two months and multiple conversations regarding me providing a statement, I reluctantly complied with their request.

Hutek says this K12 portal is live.

 

But I cannot find how one accesses it. When I click on Polk Virtual School, I get this:

Which is not this.

I cannot figure out how to get to the K12 portal. But that may just be because I’m not very smart.

The full statements to compare

Here is the full text of the email I sent to staff, with Hutek’s answers highlighted in bold.

Polk County does not appear to be using this Polk Virtual School portal — which is quite nice.

Yet K12/FuelEd says that we asked them to build it. And the Polk District gave a testimonial for K12 marketing material saying how well it works for our kids. That does not make much sense to me.

My current understanding of the situation is this: The Polk County District gave a marketing testimonial for a private business that hired and currently employs John Small, who was Polk’s deputy superintendent as recently as September 2017.  It is my understanding from District statements that the Polk District gave this testimonial about a product that we did not buy and that we are not using. Nevertheless, we talked about how well it has worked for our kids. The date of the marketing material is 5/14/2018.

Is my understanding incorrect?

The student self-enrollment portal is up and running and yes we are using it.  Course enrollments are still low due to it coming online following the beginning of second semester and not having NCAA approval for the courses.

A few other questions:

Was this portal in use at some point? If so, why have we changed portals?

It came online in January and has been in use.  Students may use it even during the summer.  Other than FLVS, we do not have another portal. 

Who authorized/instructed Marc Hutek to give a testimonial about this portal? When did he give that quote?

K12 stated they would be writing a press release regarding the portal approximately one month following its release this past January.   After approximately two months and multiple conversations regarding me providing a statement, I reluctantly complied with their request. 

Who authorized/directed Marc Hutek to sign the Sales Quote on 5/26/2017? Or did he sign it completely on his own initiative?

John Small directed me to sign the quote and stated since it was not superintendent/Board approved, it was not considered a contract only a quote.

Here is the full text of Byrd’s statement from June 7.

It has come to my attention that posts appearing on your website as of last Friday (June 1) contain serious and false allegations implying that the Administration has acted inappropriately with K-12, one of three State /School Board approved vendors providing online educational services for Polk Virtual School.  I am writing this letter to provide you with accurate, factual information regarding this issue and to request your retraction of the inaccurate allegations you’ve made.  While I understand that your sources are employees of the Polk County School system, that does not mean it is factual information.

Florida law requires that the School Board give students and parents a choice of at least three vendors who can provide online educational services through the Polk Virtual School.  It is the parents and students who decide which vendor they wish to utilize, and each vendor is paid by the School Board based on the number of students utilizing that vendor.  The School Board has no role in suggesting, promoting, favoring or otherwise designating any particular vendor over the other two vendors.

K-12 has been a vendor for the Polk Virtual School since 2009 when Dr. Gail McKinzie was the Superintendent.  The agreement with K-12 provides that they will be paid a specified fee for each student who selects the K-12 program for that student’s online education services.  The agreement with K-12 provides no fixed amount or minimum number of students for which it will be paid.  That agreement has been approved by the School Board each year since 2009, and I can provide you with copies of those agenda items.  The current one-year contract will expire this July, and after that date I expect it to again come before the School Board for renewal, together with agreements by other vendors.  K-12 has received no favored treatment over any of the other vendors providing these online education services.

A possible source of the confusion regarding this issue is a “Sales Quote”, valid for 30 days, of $1.8 million for 550 blocks of 10 enrolled users that Marc Hutek signed on May 26, 2017.  A copy of that quote is attached with this letter.  In all honesty, I do not know just what Mr. Hutek understood this document to involve since he clearly lacked the authority to bind the School Board.  In any event, it was never acted upon and nothing went before the School Board based upon this “Sales Quote”.

Dr. Hutek brought this to my attention several months after he signed it. I immediately asked that the matter be reviewed.  As the result of my request, a meeting was held last fall with representatives of K-12, including Don Kidd, Vice President, John Small, Dr. Hutek and myself.  Attached to this letter is Dr. Hutek’s memorandum confirming this meeting and the action taken.

As previously explained, K-12 has not been treated more favorably than the other vendors who provide these online educational services.  Parents and students are free to choose the vendor they wish to use, and all three vendors are paid solely based on the selections made by the parents and students.

The statements on your website strongly suggest that K-12 has received some sort of favorable treatment because of their relationship with John Small, who is well-known to members of the Administration after his years of service to the School Board.  This assertion is totally incorrect. I consider your suggestion of inappropriate actions by me as Superintendent and/or by members of the Administration to be inappropriate and counter-productive to our efforts to provide quality education to the students in our schools.

I regret that your requests or inquiries cannot be answered immediately, especially during the hectic, final days of the school year.  For the sake of our schools and the thousands of people participating in and impacted by our schools, I would respectfully request your restraint in publishing inaccurate and suggestive ideas that deeply impinge on the goodwill that we each should share and promote.

One comment

  1. Curioiser and curiouser.