This Editorial from the Cincinnati Post.
Flunking the test
Kentucky's newly constituted State Board of Education has flunked its first big test. Royally.
The board, hand-picked by Gov. Ernie Fletcher, spent five months and $50,000 on a search firm to find a successor to commissioner Gene Wilhoite, who left in November to become executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
After a search process that allowed little public input, the Board of Education in May offered the job to Barbara Erwin, a suburban Chicago school superintendent who had also run school districts in Arizona, Texas and Indiana. Erwin was supposed to start her job in Kentucky yesterday. But on Friday, citing "continued noise by the media,'' she backed away from the job - and a contract that would have paid her $220,000 per year over the next four years. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, her decision came hours after board members questioned her anew about the controversy that has dogged her since her selection was announced in early May...
...Kentuckians can only hope that the board has learned from this debacle and does a better job of vetting the next crop of candidates.
But at some point Fletcher must answer as well for this embarrassment. After all, since taking office he has appointed all 11 of the board's voting members, including seven last year. In doing so he has repeatedly chosen to get rid of experienced board members, despite being counseled against such wholesale change.
Fletcher was within his rights to put his stamp on the State Board of Education. But he shouldn't have been so hamfisted. Had Fletcher left a few experienced board members in place, they might have steered clear of the Erwin landmine. As it happened, the hiring was a rookie mistake.
A governor, in seeking re-election as Fletcher is, should be judged on his full record, not an item here and item there. But this mistake is a blemish on the Fletcher record, and voters should consider it when putting his achievements in a plus column and his errors in a minus column in order to compute the balance.
Kentucky's next education commissioner will face a challenge that extends far beyond day-to-day governance of 175 school districts and more than 650,000 students. It will even go beyond bringing Kentucky into compliance by 2014 with the goals mandated by state law and by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The next education commissioner must help the governor rally the entire commonwealth to complete the assignments envisioned in the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.
This isn't just rhetoric. Jobs are at stake. An improved educational system is the commonwealth's single most important economic development need. Kentucky needs a strong leader - a consensus-builder who can work not just with educators, but with the Legislature and the public at large.
The Board of Education blew it on the first try. It must do better on the makeup exam.