Rick Melmer answers GOAC

Former state Education Secretary Rick Melmer has sent a two-page letter┬áto the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee.

In it, Melmer acknowledges his role in the first grant received by South Dakota for the federal GEAR UP program.

He said in the letter he wasn’t part of the second grant that Mid Central Educational Cooperative sought.

He goes on to acknowledge he was part of a GEAR UP advisory panel that Mid Central’s then-director Dan Guericke assembled.

Melmer said Guericke invited him to be on the advisory panel.

GEAR UP recently began its final year of operation in South Dakota. The program was managed by Mid Central during the second grant until September 2015. Black Hills State University has run it since then.

GEAR UP is intended to assist lower-income students from middle schools and high schools be aware of education opportunities that are available after they graduate high school.

Legislators on the operations and audit panel are scheduled to discuss GEAR UP and Mid Central during their Oct. 5-6 meeting in Sioux Falls at Carnegie Town Hall.

The committee also sent a letter to Keith Moore, who was Indian education director for the state Department of Education under Melmer and later Tom Oster. Moore hasn’t responded yet.

LuAnn Werdel and Roger Campbell, who followed Moore as Indian education director, also were sent letters. They haven’t responded yet.

Emails provided to the legislators indicated that Werdel and Campbell alerted Melody Schopp to problems in the GEAR UP program.

Schopp was deputy secretary for the state Department of Education when Werdel told Schopp and Oster.

Schopp dismissed Werdel on the day in 2011 when new Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed Schopp as secretary to replace Oster.

Campbell replaced Werdel and later left after friction between Campbell and Mid Central officials.

Legislative auditors determined more than $1 million couldn’t be accounted in Mid Central bank account. The cooperative at Platte closed June 30.