Sunday, December 02, 2007

News-Enterprise says Draud is the right guy for the job

ISSUE: Education Commissioner Jon Draud
OUR VIEW: Right person for the job

If you were hiring a new Kentucky education commissioner to help regain the state’s momentum in improving education what, kind of person would you look for?

Well, you probably would search out a committed, experienced educator. After all the decisions commissioners make, policies recommended and implemented affect nearly 670,000 public school students across the state, now and for years to come.

You might want to document management and problem-solving abilities. The commissioner will lead the state Department of Education and 1,200 public schools in 175 districts through a challenging time in education not only in this state but across the country.

Although it could be argued someone from outside the state might bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the job, you might prefer a person with established ties in the state’s education community, in-depth knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of our school system.And it sure would be a plus if the applicant understood the political process, public education’s history and policies in this state, and knew what buttons to push in the General Assembly as well as the bureaucracy.

Politics aside, if you were hiring a Kentucky education commissioner you probably would choose someone like Jon Draud, classroom teacher, school principal and district superintendent. And who has been a Republican member of the Kentucky House representing Edgewood, Kenton County, since 1999, most of the time as vice chairman of the House Education Committee.

Draud was selected unanimously by the Kentucky Board of Education, led by former Elizabethtown Independent Schools Board of Education member Joe Brothers. And, except for some criticism for his age, 69, and the relatively small size of the blue-collar Ludlow independent district he led for nearly two decades, Draud’s appointment has been well-received. He was recommended for the position by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, the Education Professional Standards Board, the Kentucky School Boards Association and the Kentucky Education Association.

The board, which escaped a potentially embarrassing disaster when its last commissioner appointee resigned days before beginning the job, redeemed itself with the selection of Draud.

Unlike some of the candidates the one-time Northern Kentucky athlete and high school baseball coach beat out for the position, Draud can hit the ground running. There will be no learning curve for him. That’s fortunate, because there is no time for on-the-job training. Appointed to a four-year term, the state cannot afford for Draud to be a caretaker commissioner. He has too little time to act.

But as an experienced educator with multiple academic degrees, Draud takes the job knowing Kentucky education, its needs, strengths and weaknesses.Significantly, he has the support of educators, as well as fellow state lawmakers who have regarded him as one of their least partisan colleagues. Draud and incoming Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat who tried to persuade the board to defer selecting a new commissioner, should waste no time in establishing a positive, productive relationship.The challenges are many, and they are pressing.

Despite the misleading rhetoric of the just-concluded gubernatorial election campaign, there will be little state money to satisfy the diverse demands on the General Assembly when it meets in January. But to advance all state schools on track toward proficiency by 2014 will cost a lot of money. There also are demands to de-emphasize testing in favor of more classroom instruction and to finance more pre-school training.

Accepting the appointment, Draud said the keys to success will be cooperation and collaboration and that he senses an urgency to “rekindle the spirit” of education reform in Kentucky.

We are going to remind him frequently about those three words — cooperation, collaboration, urgency — and hold him accountable. We hope you will, too.

This from the News-Enterprise.

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