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Mysterious storage shed may hold GEAR UP answers

PLATTE -- A mysterious storage shed may reveal more information about Mid-Central Educational Cooperative's involvement into misconduct with the GEAR UP program.

Mid-Central Interim Director Bob Krietlow, left, and Mid-Central Governing Board Chairman Pam Haukaas, right, lead a board meeting Thursday morning at Mid-Central Education Cooperative in Platte. (Jake Shama/Republic)
Mid-Central Interim Director Bob Krietlow, left, and Mid-Central Governing Board Chairman Pam Haukaas, right, lead a board meeting Thursday morning at Mid-Central Education Cooperative in Platte. (Jake Shama/Republic)

PLATTE - A mysterious storage shed may reveal more information about Mid-Central Educational Cooperative's involvement into misconduct with the GEAR UP program.

During a regular meeting of the Mid-Central governing board held Thursday in Platte, Interim Director Bob Krietlow said he’s planning a trip to Rapid City, where the shed is located, next week to seek GEAR UP answers.

He said the storage shed may contain GEAR UP supplies or Mid-Central paperwork, but no one with knowledge of its contents has been inside of it.

The shed is under new ownership, so Krietlow plans to meet the owner Wednesday for entrance.

“We’re looking at … seeing what’s actually in that shed because nobody really seems to know,” Krietlow said.

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Officials are hoping the shed could bring more light to the South Dakota GEAR UP financial scandal that led Mid-Central Educational Cooperative business manager Scott Westerhuis to allegedly murder his wife and their four children before killing himself and setting their home ablaze in September.

When asked by The Daily Republic after the meeting for additional information about the storage shed, Krietlow and Mid-Central Attorney Scott Swier declined to comment.

They would not comment when asked what exactly they thought was inside the shed or when the shed was discovered, but an attorney representing GEAR UP will be on site during the visit.

GEAR UP, a grant program, used regional and local coordinators to work with schools with high enrollments of American Indian students.The federal government provides the state Education Department approximately $3.4 million annually in GEAR UP funding. The state department used Mid Central as the sub-recipient.

The actual GEAR UP office operated from Rapid City.

The board on Thursday also approved a motion to allow South Dakota Legislative Audit to conduct a regular audit of Mid-Central’s actions in 2014-15, which was put on hold due to the GEAR UP investigation. According to Krietlow, a committee could be on site Friday.

“There’s a lot of things I think still that aren’t really answered. Hopefully they find some good things, I would say, but I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows,” Krietlow said.

The board approved a couple financial motions as well. A check for $34,623.33 paid to the American Indian Institute of Innovation - a primary organization involved with the scandal - related to GEAR UP funding was canceled for a $30 fee.

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The check was written on Sept. 15, but AIII never cashed the check, and Mid-Central never received reimbursement from the state.

Another check for $3,112 to Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School, written on March 5, 2015, was reissued.
The school said it never received the check, but the state reimbursed Mid-Central for the expense.

The cooperative also declined to join the Associated School Board for the 2016-17 school year, as it will be operating solely as a special education cooperative until its dissolution in June 2017.

According to Krietlow, Mid-Central was originally formed in 1970 as a special education cooperative, so the move takes the coop back to it’s roots.

The Mid-Central board will next meet on June 16.

Other business The following topics were also addressed by Mid-Central's governing board:

• Approved an update for a state contract, which supports math curriculum review for $500 a day.

• Approved a motion to allow ESA2 to use the Mid-Central Education Cooperative building for a fee as long as the building is available or a new deal is made.

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• Mid-Central recommended schools remove references to the cooperative from their special education comprehensive plans, which are individualized for each school, not for Mid-Central. The plans must be approved by July.

• Special education screening for 3- to 5-year-old kids will continue. Screenings from the South Dakota School for the Deaf for the 2017-18 school year must have dates determined by July 2017.

• Low-registration classes for Dial Virtual School will not be offered for the next school year. Summer CTE will offer three courses. The coop's Edgenuity contract will remain the same. The Accuplacer program will end on July 18.

• Bids of $1,135 for a green 2000 Ford Taurus and $800 for a black 2004 Dodge Stratus were approved. A red 2000 Ford Taurus with 119,000 miles is still available.

• Any current employee not being renewed may purchase equipment they currently use based on a defined price schedule, as Mid-Central has a technology surplus.

• Speech therapists were granted additional days of employment to complete their work.

• Krietlow's contract was approved through June 30, 2016. Other contracts were approved as well, along with a provisional budget for the coming school year.

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