Saturday, December 20, 2014

Former UofL exec pleads guilty to $2.8M theft

At least six university employees accused of stealing between 2009 - 2013
 
Financial oversight at UofL "apparently minimal."
 --unidentified IRS special agent

Am I mistaken, or did President Ramsey vow to fix this sort of thing way back in 2008?

This from the Courier-Journal:
The former director of the University of Louisville's Department of Family & Geriatric Medicine pleaded guilty to stealing $2.8 million in one of a string of thefts and embezzlements from the university.

Perry Chadwick Vaughn
Under a plea bargain, Perry Chadwick Vaughn, 36, would serve 64 months in prison and pay $2,801,201 in restitution, if Senior U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson imposes the recommended sentence. He set sentencing for March 12.

Vaughn showed no emotion as he pleaded guilty to seven counts of mail fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns, including one in 2012 on which he omitted $776,000 in income he stole that year.

An Internal Revenue Service special agent said in an affidavit last year that oversight and review of Vaughn's management of department-affiliated private practices, from which some of the money was taken, were "apparently minimal."

Vaughn is one of at least six university employees accused from 2009 to 2013 of stealing the school's money or grant funds under its control.

An independent auditor in July recommended 17 changes to improve financial controls and oversight at the university, including hiring a chief financial officer and reviewing university-associated bank accounts. Spokeswoman Cindy Hess said several already have been implemented, including hiring a CFO, and the rest will be adopted by the end of 2015.

Vaughn, who was fired by the university, pleaded guilty to money laundering for forging bogus bank statements and reconciliations to hide payments he made to his own bank accounts.

One of Vaughn's lawyers, Rob Eggert, declined to comment on Vaughn's motivations for the crime, which the government says was carried out over six years.

The Courier-Journal previously reported that Vaughn, who lives in La Grange, used the money to buy or lease nine luxury vehicles, including two Mercedes-Benzes and a Range Rover, and to pay for real estate, luxury vacations and a $9,000 necklace.

The grand jury charged that Vaughn diverted money from the department to the practice groups, then withdrew it for himself. He also was accused of making a number of misrepresentations to U of L Audit Services by transferring funds between bank accounts to conceal his theft and by providing false bank statements to the private practice groups.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Calhoun and was investigated by U of L Police, the U.S. Secret Service, the IRS and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Friday, December 19, 2014

How The Colbert Report Made School Reform Cool

This from This Week in Education:
Take a minute to think about how much time and attention the Colbert Report has dedicated to education-related issues during its long run, which ended last night.  Colbert's guests included not only EdSecs Spellings and Duncan, but also a who's who list of mostly reform types like Joel Klein, Wendy Kopp, Charles Best, Bill Gates, Jonah Edelman's Dad, Emily Bazelon, Maurice Sendak, Geoff Canada, David Levin, Roland Fryer, Campbell Brown. Colbert also included education in numerous segments, mocking states for gaming proficiency levesl, fired Florida teachers, and simultaneously mocked and endorsed the Common Core earlier this year:
 

Some favorites among the (just!) 49 times that Colbert appears in the headline of a TWIE blog post include "Keep [Parental] Fear Alive," Says Colbert, his out-of-character story of being miserable in school (Colbert's "It Gets Better" Story), and a Roland Fryer interview in which Fryer pulls off a feat and gets the best of Colbert ("You're Black Now, Aren't You?"). Some of his few dud interviews related to education include one with the director of the War On Kids documentary, and his interview with Peter Edelman in which Edelman appears to walk off the stage at the end (Another Unhappy Moment For The Edelman Clan).

Need more? 21 times Stephen Colbert has dropped his act and been himself (Vox), which includes some graduation speeches, his Congressional testimony, and a few other moments, and Goodbye, Stephen Colbert (a fond farewell from the NYT).

Holliday: Education issues and the 2015 General Assembly

This from Dr. H's Blog:
Ky Ed Commish Terry Holliday
Season’s greetings! I hope that readers of this blog will take time over the next couple of weeks to relax and spend time with family and friends. The holiday season is an excellent time to recharge your batteries.  I plan to do just that, so this will be my last blog for 2014, but will return to the keyboard for a January 9, 2015 entry.

As we look forward to the New Year, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is preparing for a busy legislative session. Here are some of the hot topics we predict will be on the education agenda for the upcoming General Assembly.

     1)  Charter Schools – we will again see legislation to create charter "
     schools in Kentucky. Our state is one of only eight states without
     charters. I am hearing about the possibility of a small pilot of
     five to six charter schools in districts that have very low-performing
     schools with significant achievement gaps.


     2)  Teacher Pension Plan – the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System
     has asked the General Assembly to consider a plan that would require
     a $3.3 billion bond to shore up the underfunded retirement system.
     This system is critical for recruitment and retention of high-quality
     teachers.


     3)  School Funding – while 2015 is not a budget session, there are
     a number of funding issues that could surface. The Council for
     Better Education report recently released at the Kentucky
     Association of School Superintendents’ winter meeting will garner
     a lot of attention. The 
$2 billion-plus price tag is sure to get attention. |
     Also, KDE will be releasing a report on funding of the career and
     technical education programs in Kentucky. Finally, we may see
     discussion of impact of revenue shortfall and SEEK shortfall.


     4)  Dual Credit – a recent set of recommendations from the dual
     credit task force will generate discussion about how to ensure
     quality, access, funding, and transferability of courses.


     5)  Merging County Systems – several county school systems
     have been identified for state assistance and state management.
     Some county systems are very close to not having a 2 percent
     fund balance. The General Assembly previously enacted legislation
     that allowed a financially insolvent independent district to merge
     with a county system; however, currently there are no statutes that
     allow for the merger of an insolvent county system to merge with
     another system.


     6)  Closing Achievement Gaps – this issue will be part of the
     charter school issue but will also be an overarching theme of the
     Education Committees. The achievement gap in Kentucky begins
     before students enter kindergarten, continues throughout P-12,
     postsecondary, and is very obvious when we look at labor and salary
     studies for adults.


At the national level, KDE will be working to support reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – most recently dubbed the No Child Left Behind Act – and the Carl Perkins Act which is the primary vehicle for federal funding of career and technical education. We are very excited about the potential of both bills moving forward very quickly under the leadership of Sen. Alexander of Tennessee and Majority Leader McConnell.

Temperature's risin'

Fayette Schools redistricting committee passionately debates
'inequity' and Stuart Hall neighborhood

This from the Herald-Leader:
A passionate discussion between members of Fayette County Public Schools' redistricting committee unfolded Thursday about a southeast Lexington neighborhood whose residents have been among the most vocal in Lexington.

It occurred when committee member David O'Neill suggested that the committee fix an "inequity" for some residents of the Stuart Hall neighborhood, whose children he said have to pass three closer schools to get to Breckinridge Elementary, to which they are assigned. Residents of the neighborhood have attended most redistricting meetings wearing red T-shirts as a sign of solidarity.
Some Stuart Hall neighbors have been upset that their homes are assigned to Breckinridge, which is classified as needs improvement/progressing, instead of the closer Athens-Chilesburg Elementary, which is classified as distinguished/progressing and high performing. Some residents have asked to be reassigned to a planned new elementary school off Polo Club Boulevard.

After O'Neill said, "This is our time to make it right and level the playing field a little bit," Astarre' Gudino, who represents the Lexington Fayette Human Rights Commission on the committee, said that she took exception to the word "inequity" in regard to the neighborhood's concern.

"The problem is that their child is going to a school that they don't like. The problem is that their children are going to school with ... children ... that they feel that they shouldn't have to go to school with. It isn't necessarily that it's 4 miles away."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tribunal affirms JCPS firing of former Louisville Male High Principal David Mike

This from Toni Konz at WDRB:
David Mike with Attorney Will Walsh
David Mike will not be getting his job back with Jefferson County Public Schools.

Mike lost his job as principal of Louisville Male High School in October following allegations of cheating and improper ACT Compass testing at the school last fall.

The three-person tribunal -- none of whom live in Jefferson County -- heard Mike's appeal of JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens' decision to fire Mike all last week, and announced its decision to uphold his termination on Thursday. After the decision was announced, JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens released the following statement:
"JCPS students matter. Test Scores do not matter if we do not possess the highest standards of integrity. We take no pleasure in the career consequences faced by Mr. Mike. However, the reputation of JCPS was at risk because of actions taken in the administration of ACT Compass testing at Male High School under Mr. Mike's leadership. The tribunal affirmed our decision in this matter."
When making the decision, tribunal members said they got the sense that Mike was trying to gain praise by quickly raising test scores at Male. They recognized that Mike was trying to make "great changes" at the school, but ended up dividing the school and lowering its image.

During his testimony, Mike told the tribunal he did not help students cheat on the ACT Compass test. JCPS officials never accused him of helping students cheat, but stated that as principal of the school, he should have been aware of what was going on.

In closing arguments, Mike's attorney says he wasn't aware of what was going on.

"David Mike did not know that those two tests were being administered simultaneously," attorney Will Walsh said. "No one complained to him about that. He did not know there was noise and confusion. I think that's another part of failure to ensure. He did not know. There's no evidence of that."

JCPS attorney Byron Leet didn't just say Mike knew, he also claimed Mike tried to cover it up.

"It's not credible that Mr. Mike did not know," Leet said.

Ultimately, the tribunal members agreed with JCPS, saying that  "descriptions of the loud, chaotic, active atmosphere in Room 108 should have meant that Mike was aware that something was amiss as soon as he opened the door."

"It was not a conducive atmosphere for standardized testing," the report reads. "Logic and common sense should dictate that the two tests should not have been given at the same time."

The tribunal's decision can be appealed to Jefferson Circuit Court. Mike's attorney told WDRB News Thursday morning that he will talk Mike before deciding their next steps.

Mike and two other former Male High staffers -- Debbie Greenberg and Rhonda Branch -- still face a proceeding before the Kentucky Educational Standards Board as a result of the Kentucky Department of Education's investigation into testing allegations.

The board, which controls teacher certifications, acts mostly in secret when handling disciplinary cases, so it's hard to determine where exactly the cases against the three educators stand.

Greenberg retired from the district in June, while a district investigation involving Branch released Dec. 10 found that she failed to ensure a proper testing environment and during the administration of the ACT Compass at Male.

As a result, Branch has been "directed to participate in a minimum of three hours of Administrative Code Training as recommended by KDE. She is also directed to participate in ethics training and adhere to all acceptable and appropriate assessment practices as outlined by the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Department of Education."

In addition, JCPS says Branch will be reassigned to another school counseling position as her "superiors feel that it is best for the learning and counseling environment at Louisville Male High School."

Meanwhile, the site-based decision making council at Male High interviewed three district assistant principals for the top job on Tuesday.

Two of the candidates -- Matt Kingsley and Darryl Farmer -- are assistant principals at duPont Manual High School. The third candidate, Jose Alfaro, is an assistant principal at Hawthorne Elementary School.

As of Thursday, the council was planning to conduct second interviews with two of the candidates. That day has not yet been determined.

Ready for Ratings?

This from Morning Education (via email):
Speculation about the Education Department's college ratings plan is running high; it's expected out Friday and university administrators are anxious for details. On the Hill, meanwhile, Republicans are already going on the attack. They see the ratings plan as another example of the administration meddling in the free market and attempting to imposing its own values on millions of students.
http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/performance-funding.aspx


"They're getting involved in something they have no business getting involved with," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, herself a former college administrator. "Absolutely, it's overreach."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called ratings a moral imperative, vital both to help families make wise choices and to protect taxpayers' $150 billion-a-year investment in federal student aid. But the opposition on the Hill means it will be almost impossible for the administration to attach consequences to the ratings. Duncan had hoped the department could start steering more federal aid to highly-rated campuses (and less to laggards) by 2018. That would require Congressional approval, however - and no one thinks that's going to happen.

States, meanwhile, have moved aggressively to implement performance-based funding for colleges and universities. At least 25 states now allocate some higher education funding based on metrics such as how long it takes students to earn a degree, how many low-income students graduate or how many STEM degrees are awarded.
The amount of funding at stake varies from 5 percent to 25 percent of the state's higher education appropriations. States experimenting with the model include Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Tennessee.

Charter schools again a focus in 2015, Senate Education Committee chair says

This from cn/2:
The push for charter schools will again be before the legislature come 2015, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Tuesday.
With only 30 days for legislators to complete their work and several of those days reserved for organizational meetings, Sen. Mike Wilson, a Bowling Green Republican and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said one of the top issues for the committee will be a perennial bill to start five charter schools in the state.

Charter Chatter begins 2 minutes in.
As GOP members of the committee seek to change the structure of education in Kentucky, Wilson said it will take a continued push to educate fellow lawmakers on the issue of charter schools before the concept is accepted.

“We continually try to educate people that this is not a Democrat or a Republican issue, it is an issue about making sure that our kids are getting the level of education they deserve, and the issue is the problems we have with the achievement gap,” Wilson said, referencing the disparity that exists between Caucasian and African-American students in test scores.

Wilson said the specifics of this year’s bill are still coming together, but the idea is to prove or disprove the concept with a pilot project allowing five public-charter schools in the state.

“We’re not trying to do a statewide thing on this — we’re trying to do a pilot program to try it and let’s see it. Let’s give it the best chance of survival and being successful and let’s see how it works,” Wilson said. “If it does then you continue to expand it, and if it doesn’t then in five years you revoke the charter.”

The outcomes in the proposed charter schools will have to be an improvement or else the schools will return to the public-school format, Wilson said.

“In exchange for the independence that they have from a lot of the restrictions public schools are under the outcomes that are expected from them — that’s what they have to prove,” Wilson said.
The main opposition to the bill in Kentucky has historically been in the form teachers and teachers’ unions.

The arguments against charters are varied, but unions traditionally assert that charter schools can “skim” high-performing students from traditional public schools — thus boosting their performance results.

And the model for some charter schools allow a business-backed, for-profit-based school, which unions say is the privatization of publicly funded schools.

Wilson acknowledged that teachers and teachers’ unions have been a stumbling block in the past, but he said once in the classroom, teachers will see the benefits of a charter program.

“I think you find once a teacher has really been in a charter school, they really like it,” Wilson said.

Just do it.



Let’s stop worrying about student voice in the superintendent’s selection process 
- and give the student’s a voice. 

So far as I can tell, there is nothing stopping the Fayette County Board of Education from giving students and other underrepresented groups a meaningful voice in the selection process for a new superintendent - except for the board of education itself.

After all, it is the board that possesses broad authority in hiring. In fact, the board of education receives recommendations from the screening committee, but the board is not required to follow any of them. 

The screening committee, only exists to assist the board and broaden community input. Plus, the screening committee is not the only group that can be tasked with vetting candidates, nor is the screening committee prohibited from interacting with other groups along the way. So long as the others brought into the process can act in confidence, and are not so numerous that folks begin falling all over each other, the extra hands can be quite helpful.

According to the Attorney General (OAG 91-3), 
“the board of education has the discretion to consult with and to receive recommendations, as well, from other sources than the committee, i. e., interested citizens or groups of citizens…Accordingly, while we find that the screening committee is limited to representation by two teachers, one board of education member, one principal and one parent, as set forth in the statute, the possibility exists for other interested groups or individuals to share any and all information with the board of education concerning qualified applicants.”
So far, the board has done everything right.

Elections seem to have been properly communicated and conducted throughout the school district and the public.

Folks may not love the coin toss used to break a tie between candidates for the parent representative slot, but the law requires the casting of lots in some form or fashion, and the coin itself performed admirably.

Fayette County Board of Education Chairman John Price did exactly as he should have done when he patiently watched the results of elections before announcing his appointment of the group’s only African American member, board member Daryl Love. His patience allowed for sober reflection on the composition of the group before his appointment rounded out the membership.

In doing so, Price acted in accordance with KRS 156.500, which states,

“The General Assembly directs that appointments made by the appointing authority (in this case, Price) to every board, commission, council or other type of advisory or decision-making body created or enacted by the Education Reform Act of 1990 reflects reasonable minority representation of the membership and that active minority participation at every level of implementation be continually encouraged.”

So far, so good.

But what about students?

What about others who may be in a position to help the board? We have seen several cases where the lack of candidate research has led to big problems.

I think it’s time for the board to do something else right and include students in the process now.

The board could create a small subgroup of a half dozen, or so, “worker bees” who would form after the screening committee had reduced candidates to the top ten. A diverse group that includes a high school student(s), along with a couple of university researchers, perhaps a journalist, and someone from business and government could prove very helpful in vetting finalists, and perhaps, avoiding big problems. 

If the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team wants to pursue an amendment to the existing law and formalize a student member on the screening committee, fine. But in the meantime, the board could, and should, implement a plan that accomplishes that objective now.




Lu Hangs 'em up

Lu Young retiring from Fayette County schools, 
says she has no interest in superintendent job 

This from H-L:
Fayette County Public Schools chief academic officer Lu Young said Wednesday that she will retire Dec. 31.

Young's departure coincides with Superintendent Tom Shelton's resignation to become executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents. Her last working day is to be Dec. 22.

Before coming to Fayette County 18 months ago, Young was superintendent of Jessamine County Public Schools.

As chief academic officer in Fayette County, Young overses teaching and learning. She most recently worked to help raise academic achievement at Lexington's William Wells Brown Elementary School, after it received the lowest test scores among elementary schools in the state in 2013-14.

Young, who was named 2012 Kentucky school superintendent of the year by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, said she might work as a consultant in higher education and hopes she can stay involved in K-12 education.

"I want to keep working in public education. That is my passion," she said.

Young said she turns 55 this month and can retire because she has worked for 30 years.

Young said she had thought of retiring since March. With Shelton's departure, "it seemed like a good time to go ahead and make the transition."

Young was a finalist for Fayette County superintendent when Shelton was hired in 2011. She said she has no interest in replacing him.

Young said she had "a great experience these last 18 months."

"After having been in Jessamine for 30 years, I was interested in the professional challenge of a large, more urban district, so I feel like it was a great learning experience and professional opportunity," she said.

Jessica Hiler, president of the Fayette County Education Association, a voluntary teachers' group, said Wednesday that the association's members think the position of chief academic officer should be eliminated.

"We believe that the superintendent should be the chief academic expert for the school district," Hiler said. "The funds used to pay for the position could be used to purchase additional teachers or classified staff that work directly with students."

Young said Wednesday that she has been meeting with Marlene Helm, who becomes interim superintendent Jan. 1, to determine how Young's duties will be handled when she leaves.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/12/17/3598003/lu-young-retiring-from-fayette.html#storylink=cpy

Ky. must redouble efforts to close achievement gap

This from CPE XVP Aaron Thompson in the Herald-Leader:
The best gift my mother and father gave me was to value education.

My father was an illiterate coal miner and a tenant farmer who signed his name with an X, and my mother had an eighth-grade education making her the academic in the family.

My mother taught me that education would give me a sustainable income. My father, who did not have the opportunity to attend public schools, believed there were two things worth fighting for — your family and your education.

His argument was that an education would provide the opportunity to choose my path in life. His words still echo: "Son, do all you can do — no matter what — to get an education."

As an African-American growing up in poverty in rural Eastern Kentucky, chances of continuing my education beyond high school, much less continuing through to a doctoral degree, were slim. If not for the constant cheers of my mother, my educational achievements would not have happened. While they could never provide financial assistance, my parents made me proud of them for what they could provide — their insights on valuing education and achievement.

Today, in my role at the Council on Postsecondary Education, I am extremely fortunate to help lead the charge so that more students can achieve their dreams.

But many face obstacles that have led to what we call "achievement gaps," different levels of performance between different groups of students, whether it be students from higher-income and lower-income households, minority and majority students, or students who come into college prepared and those who come in with a number of remedial needs.

While Kentucky has received national accolades for remarkable progress in the college and career readiness of high school graduates, it is still alarming that our most disenfranchised students who choose to attend college are having difficulty staying in college and earning their degrees.

Just consider the data. Statewide, nearly 50 percent of first-time, full-time bachelor's degree students who enter ready to take credit-bearing courses complete a degree within six years, compared to 37 percent of low-income students, 28 percent of underprepared students and 33 percent of minority students.

Funding for many of these students creates another obstacle to success and compounds the achievement gap issue. The state's need-based aid programs are substantially underfunded, since far too many qualifying students who applied for need-based aid in 2012-13 failed to receive awards since funds were depleted.

Closing achievement gaps in Kentucky is mission critical and a full call to action is required. In cooperation with our campuses and the P-12 community, we are committed to giving every student the opportunity to enter and succeed in college.

All students, regardless of their parents' level of income or education or the color of their skin, need the opportunity to participate in education to make a life for themselves, their children and for generations to come.

Education is not just a private good as many claim; it is a public good. College graduates not only earn more and contribute more to the state and federal coffers by paying higher income taxes, but they are much less likely to be on public assistance, incarcerated or unemployed. College graduates are also more likely to vote, volunteer and have better health.

In the spirit of this gift-giving season and as we reflect on the new year, my hope is that parents, coaches, teachers, employers and other role models will make an extra effort to give a child or an adult the very best gift my parents gave me — the value of an education.

It will take all of us doubling up our efforts — at the state policy level, in our classrooms and in our communities — to move all students across the finish line.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/12/17/3599214/aaron-thompson-ky-must-redouble.html?sp=/99/349/589/#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Here we go

"As each one of them sees their name as a possibility, 
they get all freaked out."

--Redistricting Committee chairman Alan Stein

Fayette schools redistricting becomes contentious 
as neighborhoods organize

This from Valarie Honeycutt Spears at the Herald-Leader:
When the Fayette County Schools redistricting committee announced that it would tackle overcrowding at Wellington Elementary School, residents in the Willow Oak and Willow Bend neighborhoods started to worry.

Fearful that their children will be reassigned to a low performing school or have to travel longer distances, residents of the two neighborhoods south of Man O' War Boulevard near Nicholasville Road launched a campaign against having their homes assigned to another school.

They are among hundreds of people across Lexington attempting to have their voices heard as Fayette County schools go through a contentious redistricting process. Attendance boundaries are being examined for all elementary, middle and high schools in the county.

In addition to emails and phone calls, the two neighborhoods are planning an online petition and a Facebook page.

Neighbors "are worried about our property values going down the tubes if we get sent to another school," said Hal Morris, who lives in Willow Bend.

Morris said he bought his house because it is in Wellington's district: "We like the fact that it's a high achieving school."

Karen McNees, who also lives in Willow Bend, said she will be attending the 4:30 p.m. Thursday redistricting committee meeting at the district's Central Office.

The committee is set to begin with a discussion of the Wellington assignment boundaries. McNees has sent out emails to attract more people to the meeting.

"There is nothing more powerful than neighbors that have that common interest, that common goal, just trying to unite to work together. Nobody knows your neighborhood the way you do," said McNees.

The neighbors have decided to lobby both the more than 20 members of the redistricting committee and Daryl Love, the school board member assigned to their neighborhoods.

They're not the only ones raising their voices.

Redistricting Committee chairman Alan Stein said he's received hundreds of phone calls and emails from residents of various neighborhoods concerning dozens of schools, even though no decisions about redistricting have been made. It will be at least spring until the committee gives a proposal to the school board.

Stein said there's no reason for people to call school board members at this point, because they don't have a say in the plan until the redistricting committee submits its proposal.

Love said he is contacted by people concerned about redistricting two to three times each day.
"I respond directly to the emails I receive and I also encourage the sender to share their feedback via the Attendance Zones section on our website. This will allow their concerns to be heard by the entire committee," said Love.

The neighborhood campaigns gather steam whenever the committee discusses a possible scenario to reassign families from one school to another.

"As each one of them sees their name as a possibility, they get all freaked out. I respond to every email....I appreciate their comments. They are taken seriously," said Stein. "We talk about each of these neighborhoods. But we are nowhere near making decisions."

The school district is redrawing school boundaries for the first time in a decade because of construction of a new high school and two new elementary schools.

In August 2016, the district is scheduled to open a new elementary school east of Interstate 75 off Polo Club Boulevard and another off Georgetown Road. In August 2017, a sixth public high school will open on Winchester Road.

The school board gave the committee several goals in redistricting, including socioeconomic balance, having students attend the school closest to their homes and reducing overcrowding. Committee members quickly found that the goals can conflict with one another.

The committee has discussed balancing numbers of low income students in a given school, having students attend schools close to their homes and curbing overcrowding.

"We're looking at redrawing lines in all of Fayette County in all of the schools. We are not focusing on one area. We are not focusing on one school or one neighborhood," said Stein.

Wellington is designated in the state's testing system as distinguished and high performing. Morris is concerned by a discussion at the committee's Dec. 4 meeting that he thought indicated that families on his street could be reassigned to Picadome or Southern Elementary.

Southern is considered a "needs improvement" school. A reassignment to Picadome, another high achieving school, would require longer travel times, he said. Residents would have to pass three other elementary schools — Clays Mill, Wellington and Stonewall — on the way to Picadome. Morris said his wife Lissa has written to Stein and Love.

"Wellington is the closest school to us," said Morris. "We love Wellington. We don't want our kids to go to a school that's not a good performing school. My wife is beside herself, worried about this."

The neighbors also want to stay assigned to Jessie Clark Middle School and Lafayette High School.
Elsewhere in Lexington, a group of neighbors from the Stuart Hall neighborhood has been active since summer. They wear matching red T-shirts as a sign of solidarity.

Some Stuart Hall neighbors have been upset that their homes are assigned to Breckinridge Elementary, which is classified as needs improvement/progressing instead of the closer Athens-Chilesburg Elementary, which is classified as distinguished/progressing and high performing.

The frequent redistricting meetings, open to the public, have become increasingly crowded. You Tube videos of the meetings are posted on the district's website.

Since the audience can't make comments during the meetings, people send online comments to the district and district officials share them with committee members and publish them online without names.

One comment made reference to Lexington's real-estate market slowing while the redistricting committee develops a plan.

"You people have lost your minds," one comment said.

"Homes are not selling because people are waiting to see where this all shakes out.... Don't try to improve test scores by shuffling kids around. Even a mental midget can figure out you are not improving anything."
Stein said he's also heard from residents of the Copperfield subdivision.

"Having a 25-year history with Clays Mill Elementary, Beaumont Middle and Dunbar High School, I urge the committee to re-examine and keep Copperfield subdivision within the current school boundaries," a comment said. "Moving our subdivision to another school would increase hardships on families and that does not help the children, who should be the complete focus."

Several people commented online about the possibility that the Masterson Station neighborhood could be moved from Leestown Middle to Winburn Middle, including one who said, "This is the most insane plan I have heard."Parents in the Chilesburg neighborhood have expressed concern that they might be assigned to Crawford Middle School, classified by the state as a needs improvement/progressing school instead of Edythe J. Hayes, a school classified as proficient/progressing.

Stein said he was asking people who were concerned about redistricting "to please come to our meetings to watch the process, to see how committed our members are."

He said people who do come to meetings understand that redistricting is "a hard thing to do."

So far, the committee has discussed which homes are assigned to specific high schools and middle schools and how redistricting might affect that. The committee began on Dec.4 to discuss which homes are assigned to specific elementary schools and how that might change.

"So many of our neighborhood schools are overpopulated from the get-go," Stein said, "and Wellington is one of them."

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/12/17/3598534_fayette-schools-redistricting.html?sp=/99/322/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

More on Broadening Input to the Superintendent Screening Committee

Updated:

The legal folks at KDE have helped KSN&C provide a better understanding of the legal strictures that make it difficult, but perhaps not impossible, for the Fayette County Board of Education to broaden the sources of input to its Superintendent Screening Committee. Here's the short story:
1.      KDE lacks the authority to waive KRS 156.160, which governs screening committees

2.      When the law says, “shall be composed of” the Attorney General has interpreted that to mean “may only be composed of.”

3.      Therefore, membership is limited to only those members specifically listed in the law.

4.      However, OAG 91-3 describes how a local board of education may obtain feedback from groups not represented on the screening committee.


“Nevertheless, while the board of education receives recommendations from the screening committee concerning the appointment of a superintendent, the board is not required to appoint a superintendent from the committee’s recommendations. KRS 160.352 (3). Therefore, it is apparent that the board of education has the discretion to consult with and to receive recommendations, as well, from other sources than the committee, i. e., interested citizens or groups of citizens. This would enable the Board to honor its commitment to Affirmative Action, for example, to the extent that this has not been accomplished through representation on the screening committee.

Interested parties might also contact members of the screening committee to furnish information on qualified applicants and concerns regarding the selection process.

Accordingly, while we find that the screening committee is limited to representation by two teachers, one board of education member, one principal and one parent, as set forth in the statute, the possibility exists for other interested groups or individuals to share any and all information with the board of education concerning qualified applicants.”


This from KDE spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez:
The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) only has statutory authority to waive administrative regulations under the provisions of KRS 156.160 (2)(a).  The KBE does not have statutory authority to waive statutes except in very limited circumstances specifically granted by the General Assembly (eg. Districts of Innovation).  The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and/or the chief state school officer, except where expressly permitted by statute, does not have statutory authority to waive statutes or regulations without action by the KBE described above. 

The superintendent search process is governed by statute (KRS 160.352).  The statute states that “A screening committee shall be composed of…” (emphasis added by KDE) and goes on to list the members.  KRS 160.352 has been interpreted by a 1991 Opinion of the Attorney General (OAG 91-3, attached) that states in part:  “…the screening committee may only be composed of those representatives authorized by KRS 160.352.”  The opinion goes on to quote Smith v. Wedding, Ky., 303 S.W. 2d 322 (1957) that holds “It is a primary rule of statutory construction that the enumeration of particular things excludes the idea of something else not mentioned.”  As a result, following the analysis of OAG 91-3, it is the position of KDE that membership of the superintendent screening committee must be limited to those members specifically identified in statute.

While KDE agrees that a student representative is a good idea, the OAG indicates that this is an addition to the committee that will need to occur via an amendment to the statute by the General Assembly.
However, I encourage you to read the language of the OAG at the bottom of page four that describes how a local board of education may obtain feedback from groups not represented on the screening committee. The local board is represented by its own counsel who will guide the district if such a petition or request were presented to the local board.