T-Bones trade right-handed pitcher; acquire first baseman and left-handed pitcher

The Kansas City T-Bones have traded right-handed pitcher Matt Sergey to the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League for outfielder David Harris and traded Harris to New Jersey for first baseman-designated hitter Art Charles and left-handed pitcher Jose Jose, adding a pair of solid veterans to the T-Bones roster.

Art Charles is an eight-year minor league veteran who spent the 2017 season with three different clubs. He began the season at AA Biloxi in the Southern League for the Milwaukee Brewers organization, hitting .176 in 43 games before his release.

Charles then signed with the Vaqueros Laguna of the AAA Mexican League, blasting 10 home runs in with 21 RBI in 26 games and wound up closing the year with New Jersey in the Can-Am League, hitting .295 with four homers and 20 RBI in 12 games.

Charles was named the Independent Player of the year in 2016 by Baseball America after he hit .352 in 96 games with 29 home runs and 101 RBI for the New Jersey Jackals.

The Jackals were led by current T-Bones manager Joe Calfapietra during the triple-crown-producing season for Charles. He won the league batting title by 11 points and was 22 RBI ahead of the next closest pursuer in the league in 2016.

Charles was signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization following his monster season with New Jersey but was acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers in the Triple-A Rule 5 draft before the 2017 season.

Charles was drafted three times, originally signed by the Baltimore Orioles in the 33rd round in 2008, again by the Kansas City Royals in the 39th round in 2009, and by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 20th round in 2010. He signed with and reported to the Gulf Coast Rookie League in 2010. Charles is a career .253 hitter with 115 home runs with 448 RBI, reaching as high as AAA in 2017 in Mexico.

Left-hander Jose Jose was a free agent signing of the Arizona Diamondbacks where he spent parts of five seasons, reaching high A. He also spent another two seasons with the Miami Marlins, reaching AAA before spending the last two seasons with New Jersey in the Can-Am League.

In 2017 Jose made 21 relief appearances with a 2.30 ERA in 27.1 innings. He struck out 31 batters with New Jersey and went 0-4 overall. In 2016 he saved five games in 29.2 innings with a 2.43 ERA going 2-2.

Jose has career 13-23 record with a 3.03 ERA in 291.1 innings in the minor leagues. He has struck out 346 batters over his eight seasons with 16 saves. He also was managed by Joe Calfapietra in New Jersey in 2016.

Matt Sergey was signed by Kansas City on June 20, 2017, after his release from the Oakland Athletics organization. The right-hander went 5-4 with a 3.30 ERA in 76.1 innings with 80 strike outs.

Sergey tossed the first no-hitter in T-Bones history on July 27,, a 2-1 walkoff win over Texas. He walked two and struck out 10 in the win. The game would earn Sergey the pitcher of the week honors in the American Association.

Sergey also made history for Kansas City on July 15th when he entered in relief for the T-Bones at Shaw Park in Winnipeg. Sergey, who pitched two days earlier in Fargo as a starter as a right-hander, worked in relief as a left-handed pitcher. A wild pitch on an intentional walk scored the winning run for the Goldeyes and ended the longest regular season game in American Association history with a score of 12-11 in 14 innings, lasting five hours and 25 minutes.

David Harris spent 2017 with Schaumburg in the Frontier League, hitting .344 in 76 games with 13 home runs and 65 RBI for the Boomers. He is a former Toronto Blue Jays farm hand, spending four seasons in the organization and hitting .254 in 221 games.

Full and half-season ticket packages for 2018, flex plans and group ticket sales are now on sale online or by calling 913-328-5618 or visiting in person the T-Bones Stadium Box Office.

– Information from T-Bones

Push is on for double-checking Kansas school money spending

by Celia Llopis-Jepsen, Kansas News Service

Over five years, the bus money that Kansas doled out to schools — that auditors say it shouldn’t have without legislative permission — totaled $45 million.

It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $4 billion a year that the state spends on public schools.

With so much at stake — the state’s single largest budget item — the system is drawing fresh looks.

At least one school finance expert and a cadre of legislative leaders question whether Kansas has enough checks to make sure the myriad calculations that determine aid to each of the state’s 286 school districts come out right.

“We’re talking about shuffling millions and millions of dollars,” Rutgers University education professor Bruce Baker said. “It’s a lot of money to be subject to however one person has decided to organize the columns in their spreadsheet.”

The debate boils down to whether to trust the education department’s head of school finance to make those calls.

It comes in the wake of a high-profile meeting last week that saw educators, lawmakers and former governors rally behind Dale Dennis, a long-serving deputy education commissioner and one of the most trusted voices in Kansas education.

Baker, a nationally recognized school finance expert who for years taught at the University of Kansas, says Kansans should want more eyes on the math. The extra checking should, as is the case in Texas, come from another branch of government.

Texas legislative budget experts run annual school funding calculations. The state education department checks the results independently.

“Any discrepancies that arise are brought to light and reconciled,” Lauren Callahan, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, wrote in an email.

That’s good policy, Baker argues, because translating finance formulas from law to math is tricky, with risk for controversy. Agencies are often stuck with deciding arcane details that can make a difference — such as when to round numbers or in what order to factor in various data.

Calls for an audit

Public education could soon come under a massive audit.

That’s what legislative leaders want, and this week Attorney General Derek Schmidt echoed their sense of urgency.

“Every public official who has taken an oath to uphold our Kansas Constitution,” Schmidt wrote to lawmakers, the Kansas State Board of Education and the governor’s office, “must be committed to learning what enabled this unauthorized expenditure to occur.”

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning argue for a thorough check to see whether the problematic bus allocations were an isolated instance.

Those allocations were documented in an audit last month that found the education department was giving some densely populated districts more money than state law allowed. Much of it went to the Wichita and Shawnee Mission districts.

Bus funding still fell short of actual costs, and some lawmakers wanted to codify the state agency’s approach instead of chastising it.

Still, Republican leaders argued the practice had gone on for decades without legal authority, potentially totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

When they asked the education agency to suspend Dennis, it rattled educators and lawmakers frustrated that Kansas continues, according to court rulings, to spend too little on its schools.

They fear conservatives and the attorney general — whose office defends Kansas in the ongoing school finance lawsuit — want to muddy the judicial waters by casting doubt on the education agency’s most trusted source of financial analysis.

The Kansas State Board of Education directed its commissioner not to suspend Dennis. The education agency says Dennis followed decades-old verbal guidance from lawmakers on how to interpret the law, and that the agency’s method was repeatedly and openly discussed in legislative committees over the years. Some lawmakers and superintendents confirmed they knew about the bus calculations.

But other lawmakers say they didn’t know. Nor did legislative auditors who first suspected discrepancies in bus funding last spring.

“We had some inkling” it needed to be checked, auditor Heidi Zimmerman said.

She said that head auditor Scott Frank saw an education department spreadsheet that sparked his concern.

“So,” she said, “he gave us a heads-up that he thought something was not quite right.”

The risk for errors

Baker, the Rutgers professor, suspects most states handle school finance calculations within a single department — like Kansas. But that comes with risks of math errors, or of putting what amounts to policy decisions in the hands of a few bureaucrats.

It doesn’t matter if people respect Dennis, Baker said.

“Imagine if you had an individual who did have more kind of corrupt intent,” he said, “or wanted to drive money to certain places.”

Baker was an expert witness in two landmark Kansas school finance lawsuits — on the side of the plaintiff school districts.

Kansas lawmakers can check Kansas K-12 calculations after the fact by auditing them.

Audits raised at least a few questions about school calculations the past few years. In addition to the December finding that bus funding was out of whack, that same audit found a few minor misinterpretations of law.

For instance, the education department gave districts less money in some cases where students only ride the bus in one direction to or from school, but the auditors concluded state law doesn’t allow this subtraction.

And in 2015, auditors found Andover public schools were collecting too much state aid by including about 600 students at nearby Catholic schools. The Catholic schools were using an online curriculum hosted by the Andover district, an arrangement that KSDE approved for funding. That wasn’t illegal, auditors concluded, but it relied on a questionable loophole.

Denning, the Senate Majority Leader, said having more than one agency check annual calculations sounds smart.

“I’m hoping that there are checks and balances, but I don’t know that for sure,” he said. “It appears from all the work we receive that there’s a very small number of staff (at KSDE) that produces reports and data.”

Denning suggested the legislature appropriate money for an independent auditing firm to review the agency’s calculations. Using legislative auditors would be difficult, he said, because the project would be so big it might force them to drop other work for months.

Reviewing the process

The state education department did not make Dennis available for an interview for this story, but noted it is reviewing its process.

Although the State Board of Education last week supported Dennis, it also told Education Commissioner Randy Watson to draw up recommendations by March on how to ensure transparency and accuracy in school finance calculations.

Ann Mah, a board member and former legislator, said the proposal made sense to her as a former employee of Southwestern Bell-AT&T, where she worked in the regulatory department.

“Every once and a while you have to look at how you do things,” Mah said. “As the industry changes, as time changes.”

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said he’s not convinced the review is necessary, but the Democrat appreciates the board’s decision. Nor does he see a need for a system like the Texas model, where more than one agency checks each year’s funding figures.

“The information that Dale Dennis has given us over the years has been very accurate,” Hensley said. “I have no qualms about his honesty and integrity.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @Celia_LJ. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.
See more at http://kcur.org/post/push-double-checking-kansas-school-money-spending.

Lady Pirates hold off late run from Basehor, 49-41

Piper junior Ryan Cobbins (23) contended with Basehor sophomore Lucy Lally (35) for a rebound. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

The Piper Lady Pirates held on for a 49-41 win at Basehor-Linwood High School on Tuesday evening, as a spirited fourth-quarter comeback attempt from the Lady Bobcats ran out of time.

The first half looked like another cakewalk by the Lady Pirates, who held Basehor to only 5 points in each of the first two quarters. Piper smothered with trapping defense up front and tall defenders clogging the lane behind.

Piper’s Grace Banes hit two three-pointers and Ryan Cobbins scored three baskets inside, giving Piper a 28-10 lead at the half.

The second half saw a letdown in intensity from the Pirates, matched with accelerating pace from the Bobcats as they narrowed the margin and gained confidence.

Basehor scored 22 in the fourth quarter, more than the first three quarters combined, including 8 from senior Katie Yankovich. Piper hit 8 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter as Basehor fouled to slow the clock.

Banes led the Pirates’ scoring with 13 points. Cobbins added 11 as did Ali Vigil.

For Basehor, Yankovich led the way with 12 points, while freshman Adell Gore and sophomore Lucy Lally each contributed 11. All three were key contributors to the comeback effort.

Piper remains undefeated on the season at 14-0. They improve to 6-0 in the league, two games ahead of Basehor. The Lady Pirates will play at Tonganoxie on Friday evening at 5:45 p.m.

Junior LaKya Leslie (24) secured an offensive rebound. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Sophomore Ali Vigil (25) passed to a teammate in the post. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Freshman Evelyn Vazquez (3) pushed the ball up the court on a fast break. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Sophomore Grace Banes (15) got inside for a layup. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Evelyn Vazquez fought for a loose ball on the floor. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Sophomore Riley Porter (12) looked for a teammate on the right wing. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Ali Vigil drove the lane for a short jumper. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
LaKya Leslie tried to put back an offensive rebound over Basehor senior Libby Stallbaumer (21). (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
The Piper cheerleaders performed stunts during a break. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)