I just received this note from Superintendent Jackie Byrd, within the last hour or so, along with some electronic documents I will need to review. I'm publishing her statement in its entirety.
It's worth noting that I let a week go by before saying anything publicly about my K12 questions. I won't be retracting anything because I don't know what the superintendent wants me to retract. She cites no incorrect statement, which is hardly surprising, because I mostly said what I didn't know. I was asking for answers. If the superintendent cares to quote something that is incorrect and can demonstrate its incorrectness, I will retract it. For now, I'll just allow her to have her full say without further comment:
It has come to my attention that posts appearing on your website as of last Friday (June 1st) 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.