I know there were many of you (mostly the Kennedale Administration, school board members, school board member’s spouses, and those they need to suck at the teat of power for social standing in the community) hoping I had retreated from the fray, but I am more than happy to disappoint you on that one. Despite the continued onslaught of lies, twisting of the facts, and outright attacks on myself and my family, we will not shrink away to the bullying and retaliation these people use. It is sad that those in charge of teaching children the right way to do things do not exemplify those lessons. Do as I say and not as I do seems to be the more appropriate style they live because it’s obviously not teaching by example. They distort the facts and truth and attack anyone who disagrees or speaks out (as seen in how they behave every time someone runs against them in a school board election) and then seem so dumbfounded when it bleeds over into the children’s behaviors and attitudes. They quickly call for civility and say their behavior is only in the nature of politics or protecting the future (the future they want) for the district. But enough of their hypocrisy for today!
Let’s instead talk about how yet another administrator’s child works directly under them in the district with the full knowledge and support of the, asleep at the wheel, school board. Today we wade into the very deep pile of questionable mess that allowed Gary Dugger, Superintendent, to hire his own daughter in spite of well established nepotism policies. I will admit from the beginning of this that I personally don’t take pleasure in today’s topic because Stephanie Devlin (Stephanie Dugger before her marriage) is a genuinely kind and caring person. It is a shame that she did not choose to work in a district where her employment wasn’t such a questionable situation or where her father’s position called into question the legitimacy of her hiring. This isn’t a personal attack against the person of Stephanie Devlin (Dugger), but an expose on the nature of how, once again, leaders within this district bypassed or worked in the “gray” areas of policies to benefit themselves and their family members. I feel this speaks more to the behavior of Gary Dugger, the school board members, and Karen Furman than it does to Stephanie herself.
With that out of the way let’s get a few more housekeeping issues out of the way as well. I will start with the main argument that is inevitably used when trying to justify this administrations bypass of nepotism policies. They will argue that despite the fact that the Superintendent is the sole source of choosing the people within the district to RECOMMEND to the school board for hiring, the school board themselves is the actual entity that hires the employees for the district and that therefore insulates people such as Gary Dugger from being responsible or in violation of nepotism when hiring his own daughter. A second issue we can establish also is the fact that they will also say that a policy that was established allowing anyone who was in “continuous employment” before 2008 is allowed to remain in their positions within the district since the more strict nepotism policy went into effect in 2008. This is a kind of grandfather clause allowing the family member to stay as long as they were in their position before 2008. They would argue with me that both of these issues make the hiring and keeping of Stephanie Devlin (Dugger) completely above board. Well, though these legal loopholes might exist, there are still a few questionable activities that just don’t smell right when put to the test. In the thinnest allowances of the law they can justify their actions, but when you really look at how much tap dancing is required to make this allowance you begin to wonder just what the motives of the Kennedale leadership really is. Should the district be working so hard to justify hiring someone or should they focus on hiring people that won’t raise questions or possibly cross ethical bounds? The motivation for hiring a person should be to get the best possible person into the position to allow the district to provide the best resources for families, staff, and students, not finding legal ways of hiring family members.
I would like to tackle the first premise that is usually used to justify the hiring of family members in the district as employees. The fact that none of the school board members are personally related to Stephanie Devlin (Dugger) does not exempt the issue from the scrutiny of legitimacy. Though the school board members are the final say in the hiring of personnel for the district, it is unethical for a direct family member to be working in a position that answers to their relative. Though Stephanie Devlin (Dugger) immediately answers to Karen Furman, she is ultimately under the direct control and direction of her own father Gary Dugger as the Superintendent. There isn’t anyone within the district that doesn’t have to directly answer to the superintendent. This places her own father in a position to make decisions that will affect both her position and financial interests. Secondly to this topic, I would like to point out that it is required by policy that all hiring by the board comes from the direct recommendation of the Superintendent. Since there is no sign in any of the school board minutes that shows Gary Dugger recused himself from his required role of recommending his daughter to the board for hiring, he took an active role in her hiring. Though that might not reach the level of being illegal, it certainly is questionable if not unethical. When her current position’s contract comes up for renewal there is no indication that he has ever recused himself from the process of recommending her for renewal to the board either. That means each and every year that she has been a contract employee he has made an administrative decision to recommend her to the board. This places him in being directly interested and with the ability to affect the financial interests of his own daughter. This raises all kinds of ethical questions when looked at. As an end to why this is also questionable as far as the school board being the sole source of hiring, is the question of hourly employees. You see, it is the job of the Superintendent to hire the hourly employees. Those types of decisions are not made by board members. Based on the paperwork I have (which I will be providing readers with the ability to look at themselves) it is hard to tell whether or not Stephanie Devlin (Dugger) was hired originally as an hourly employee. It appears based on how the new hire documents are filled out, that Stephanie Devlin (Dugger) was originally an hourly employee. Her first real job within the administration of Kennedale ISD was as an assistant for Karen Furman. There is no indication that this was a contract position. Of course the district couldn’t find a copy of the job posting or provide any information as to when this newly created job was posted. Their official response was that they weren’t required to keep that type of information from that far in the past. (2007 is so long ago). If in fact her original job as a “Special Programs Assistant” was an hourly position, then she was directly hired by her father. That is all kinds of crazy, especially when you take into account that they couldn’t come up with any documentation showing the position was ever posted for any non-family members to apply for.
Now I would like to address the whole “Continuous employment” argument they want to make to justify her hiring. You see even if Stephanie Devlin’s (Dugger) hiring in 2007 was legally done, how she was made the District Interventionist Counselor raises all kinds of red flags. As I understand the nepotism policies that are posted in the school board policies and required for all government type of jobs, you can’t hire family. You can’t hire family and you can’t have family members in direct control of their relative’s position (whether financially or managerially). Next the policy does have the loophole that if a person who would be considered in violation of nepotism, but was already employed prior to 2008 they could continue their working in that same position. The problem is that any new position they were hired for after that would have to comply with the new standard of the nepotism policy in effect after 2008. The issue here is that she is no longer still in the same position she was hired for before the 2008 nepotism policy and its grandfather clause. She was made the District Interventionist Counselor on June 23, 2008. Instead of subjecting her to a new hiring position that she most likely wouldn’t have been able to get because of the nepotism policy, you can see from the memo from June 23, 2008, from Karen Furman to Gary Dugger, that they just changed the title of the job she was currently working for the district in. In that memo you will see that Karen makes several eyebrow raising statements. First she states that this is a position that is needed within the district “Full time”. This sounds like it was a brand new position that needed to be filled to help offer resources to the students and community. It is obvious also that this position was never posted for interview by anyone else either. Since the district could not provide any proof or paperwork that shows the posting or when it was made public for anyone else to apply for it. Again they used the statement that they weren’t required to maintain that information. Since all they did was change one job positions title into the other one it is safe to assume that this position was never advertised or interviewed by anyone else. It is also obvious that it was never presented to the school board as a hiring since it was just given to Stephanie by her “title change”. The next terrible thing you will notice that Karen states is that the title change will reflect the work that Stephanie has already been doing for the district. Since she didn’t pass her LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) testing until May of 2008, she could not have been doing much counseling if any in the last month of the school year. If she were performing duties that required an LPC before then while she was labeled just a special program assistant, she was not qualified to be in charge of directing counseling services or providing them before receiving her actual license. The last thing this memo should make you question is how was such an important decision about a position needed by the district was allowed to be arbitrarily decided by the father of the girl being given the “title change”. This was obviously going to be a huge jump in pay and it was a contract position. This “title change”, new position, or any other information about the situation was never presented to the school board. This went from a simple assistant’s position to a district department position with the stroke of a pen. And the pen was held by the father of the person being given such a new and important position within the district.
Stephanie Devlin (Dugger) was on a counseling Intern license from 2008 until 2010 based on the documentation provided by the district. The question that needs to be raised is this, why would you choose to hire someone for a position that was so important to the district that had no experience and was not even a fully licensed counselor. This is a position that is in charge and control of all the major areas of the district’s counseling services. They are in effect the coordinator for all counseling services provided to the students and parents in Kennedale. Instead of publicly interviewing for an experienced and fully licensed counselor, Karen Furman chose to just make a “title change” so that Gary Dugger’s daughter could fill the shoes of this much more lucrative position within the administration. Was this quid pro quo? Since Gary Dugger signed off on Karen Furman paying her son as a vendor for translation services from 2005-2009, is that why Karen allowed Stephanie Devlin (Dugger) to work as her assistant and then change her title to allow her to become the District Interventionist Counselor? This situation could easily be interpreted that way. It is obvious that instead of interviewing and hiring her straight out for the new position they chose a much more questionable and possibly unethical route of the “title change” to circumvent the nepotism policies on the books.
Just because they can find a twisted way around the rules doesn’t make the actions ethical or in the best interest of the district. What might be seen here is a pattern of decision making within the administration that benefits themselves and their families, but doesn’t seem to uphold the clearest, most transparent, and ethical processes that should be expected of the leadership in a school district. For their part, the school board has never questioned the hiring of Gary Dugger’s daughter under him within the administration. There is nothing on the minutes from the last 4 years of school board meetings that shows anyone even raised the issue and whether or not it was in the best interest of the district to take part in a hiring process that raises questions about favoritism, nepotism, and unethical practices. The saddest aspect in all this is that no matter how wonderful a person Stephanie Devlin (Dugger) is, she will always be the superintendent’s daughter and the cloud of ethical and legal questioning about her “title change” will always be attached to her for it. She deserves a position in a district where she earned the position on the merits of her work and not on the position of her father. Kennedale deserves an administration and school board that follows its own policies and the policies of the state of Texas where there is no hint of questionable legal maneuvering or tap dancing. The community deserves leadership with clean hands where the question of friends and family being rewarded isn’t able to even be asked.
The documentation on Stephanie Devlin (Dugger) came in two different requests so some of the documents may be repeated in the two different packets of information.
Packet 1 click HERE
Packet 2 Click HERE