Thursday, August 09, 2007

More on the politics of Joe Brothers KBE Chairmanship

Mark Hebert give the political perspective in his post...

Travis Out, Brothers In
at State Board of Education

In a stunning rebuke to its chairman, the Kentucky Board of Education has replaced Keith Travis as chairman, voting 10-1 for Joe Brothers to take over the chairmanship.

The only vote against Brothers was by Travis who said he wasn't opposing the new leadership, just casting a warning signal for the state school board to maintain its independence from outside interests. That appeared to be a shot at Governor Fletcher, though Travis wouldn't say what interests he was talking about.

Fletcher told reporters he was pulled in to the board's decision to oust Travis by other members of the board who called him "asking if Joe Brothers would be a good chairman." Fletcher told them he would, giving the blessing for his appointees to the board to vote for Brothers instead of Travis.

Fletcher says he didn't campaign for Brothers but would always expect to play some role in such an important decision made by a board filled with his appointees. Brothers was originally appointed by Fletcher. Travis has been on the board 10 years, 3 as chairman, and was originally appointed by Gov. Paul Patton.

Brothers appeared to be trying to pull the fractured school board back together in his remarks at today's board meeting. He said his only agenda is helping Kentucky kids. He called Travis "one of my favorite people" and asked the audience to give the outgoing chairman a second round of applause, which they did.

But a couple minutes before that the room was icy as Brothers and Travis got up to switch seats, Brothers taking over the chairmanship. The two didn't shake hands and only spoke briefly to gather their belongings and nameplates.

Travis' tenure as chairman began to unravel after he pushed through the hiring of Barbara Erwin as Kentucky's new school commissioner. Erwin never started her job, withdrawing from the post after questions about her resume, dealings with former school boards and a criminal investigation of her personnel file, which was stolen from her former school district in Illinois. The question now is whether Travis was set up for failure by Fletcher or fellow board members and whether Brothers can do any better to try and restore the school board's lost credibility.
An expanded story from the Courier-Journal:

Education board replaces chairman
Action follows failed search for state commissioner

...Several board members acknowledged yesterday that the failed search for a new commissioner played a role in the board's decision to replace Travis.

"We had gone through a very difficult time in which we became divided, and maybe this will give us an opportunity to move forward together easier," said Doug Hubbard, a board member from Bardstown.

Travis said he was "a little surprised" that he did not receive a nomination to return as chairman for a fourth year.

"Obviously, when you go through a challenging period, it has implications," Travis said. "I knew there were some concerns."

Travis and other board members have criticized the search firm involved in the failed attempt to find a new commissioner, but some board members also said that a lack of board leadership was partly to blame.

Last May, the board voted 10-0 to name Illinois educator Barbara Erwin as the state's next commissioner. But after a series of revelations about her background, Erwin resigned three days before she was to begin the job.

Critics say Ray and Associates, the Iowa search firm the board hired to produce a list of candidates, should have vetted Erwin more closely and targeted problems more quickly.

But they also say that board members failed to do their job, ignoring concerns raised by the media and the public over Erwin's resume, which contained an award she hadn't won and a presentation she never made, and her reputation for running roughshod over teachers and administrators when she was a superintendent in Texas, Arizona and Illinois.

Brothers said he "detected a need for someone to step forward" after Erwin's resignation and expressed an interest in the chairmanship post.

"It was a tough decision for me, because I have the greatest degree of respect for Keith," Brothers said. "But … sometimes you need to make a change (in order) to move on to the future and that is what we are trying to do here."

Asked if Travis was being punished for the failed search, Brothers said no.

"As a board, we all have to take responsibility for voting to bring (Erwin) here," he said...

And this from the News-Enterprise.

ELIZABETHTOWN — Joe Brothers says years on the Elizabethtown Independent School’s board will help as he advances to the chairmanship of the Kentucky Board of Education.

Among his new duties is conducting a search for a new education commissioner. “It’s obviously a big responsibility,” Brothers said.

Brothers, who only joined the state board last year, was elected Wednesday as chairman by a 10-1 vote. The only dissent was cast by the displaced chairman, Keith Travis.

Travis, who served on the board for a decade, including the last three years as chairman, said he was “maybe somewhat surprised” by the board’s decision to oust him.

“There’s an end to every leadership activity, so those things happen,” Travis said.

The board is recovering from the controversial hiring and eventual resignation of Barbara Erwin as education commissioner. The Illinois educator quit three days before she was to start after questions arose about her resumé and a police investigation at her former school district.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher said he was “very pleased” with the board’s decision to install Brothers, whom he appointed to the board in February 2006, as chairman. Board members had approached Fletcher with Brothers as a potential candidate, Fletcher said, and he supported him.

“I think I should be involved in that. We appoint the board members, we’re responsible for 58 percent of the budget, at least,” Fletcher said. “Yes, I’m going to have a hand in those decisions, absolutely.”

Board member Doug Hubbard, who publicly was hesitant about hiring Erwin, said he thought that episode factored into the panel’s decision in favor of Brothers.“We had gone through a very clear time in which we had become divided, and I think that maybe this gives us an opportunity to move forward easier together,” Hubbard said.

David L. Webb, a board member from Brownsville, said Brothers is driven by what is best for children.“I have all the confidence that Mr. Brothers will do an outstanding job as chairman,” he said.

Webb said hiring a commissioner is the biggest task facing the board, and he feels Brothers will work with board “aggressively” to do so. In addition to finding a commissioner, Brothers said his other primary goal for the board is to achieve student proficiency in all schools by 2014.

Brothers, whose term runs through 2010, said he decided in the last couple of months, he would be willing to serve as chairman“I had to do a lot of thinking about it,” he said because of the responsibility the position entails.

Brothers is local plant manager for Gates Corp. He was an EIS school board member for about 19 years.Brothers said his years as an EIS board member serve as excellent training for his service on the state board, which develops regulations for public schools and directs the Kentucky Department of Education.Knowing how local boards work, as well as people he has met during his stint on the EIS school board, helps him serve on the state board, he said.

The board has 12 voting members; 11 of whom are appointed by the governor. Seven represent the state Supreme Court districts, four represent the state at large and the president of the Council on Postsecondary Education is a nonvoting member, according to the KDE Web site.

More photos from here.

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