Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New education chief says his range of skills will help

Search effort's critics vow scrutiny
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Jon Draud has been a teacher, a coach, a principal, a superintendent and a Republican state representative.

Now, at age 69, he takes on a much larger, statewide role -- as Kentucky's new education commissioner.

And despite some critics' complaints about the search process, Draud says he's more than capable of doing the job.

"I don't want it to sound arrogant, but I've got as good credentials as anyone any place, unless you're going to hire someone who had been superintendent of public instruction in another state," he said yesterday in an interview. "But even they wouldn't have some of the dimensions I've got, like being a legislator, a former (Kenton County) local school board member."
Draud made clear he is not taking the job to be a caretaker.

"My intent is to try to be on the job when we reach proficiency," he said, speaking of a goal of the education reform act to have every public school reach academic proficiency by 2014. "It would be quite a way to retire six or seven years from now."

But critics of the search process say they will be watching Draud's performance closely.
"Considering the way the board did this (search), it's probably as good as it could have done," said Wade Mountz, a former state board of education member from Louisville. "From what I've seen, he has a rich background for those they considered. The tragedy is they didn't do a competent national search." ...
...As a legislator, Draud has been hard to label.

He is a Republican who eight years ago wrote an article after several deadly school shootings that urged the courts to rein in the "media industry from brainwashing our society with violence and indecent conduct."

He's advocated a big increase in the cigarette tax and a law mandating child booster seats.
He has supported expanded gambling, yet he's backed Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, whose unsuccessful re-election campaign was based on opposing casinos. ...
...Draud grew up in Covington and Ludlow and went to Eastern Kentucky University on a football scholarship. He played one year of football and four years of baseball at Eastern.
"In fact, I hold a record for having the second-highest batting average in the history of Eastern. When I was a sophomore, I hit .473," he said. ...

... "My mom was a waitress, my dad was a bartender. Neither one of them graduated from high school. They worked hard, but didn't have an opportunity to go to school," Draud said...
...Rep. Derrick Graham, a Frankfort Democrat who is a teacher, said he and Draud agree that adequate funding is key to achieving the state's education goals.

"He's always been an advocate for making sure schools are well funded and finding additional revenues," Graham said. "He was one of the first advocates of (raising) the cigarette tax."
Draud was a primary sponsor of a failed bill this year that would have raised the cigarette tax to 71 cents per pack. The tax is 30 cents.

Last year, Graham and Draud debated on the House floor about whether to require every high school junior to take the ACT exam at the state's expense.

Draud argued in support of the bill as a way to further measure aptitude; Graham said the test could dishearten students who perform poorly.

"Sometimes administrators and teachers don't see eye to eye on some things," he said. ...
...He called additional funding for preschool children and all-day kindergarten his "highest priorities."

Draud will need to employ his legislative experience to figure out funding options, Mountz said.
"Money is his biggest challenge. Jon's going into a session where the money outlook is bleak," Mountz said.

Draud said he recognizes that problem.

"Beyond the needs for early childhood education and full-day kindergarten, our teachers have never been adequately financed," Draud said. "Do we need additional money? I think we do. Will that happen through general taxation? I don't think so. But there's always the possibility of some other sources of revenue, perhaps through the so-called sin taxes."
This from the Courier-Journal.

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