Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ed Secretary says Education Reform is making notable strides

The Glasgow Daily Times ran an Op-Ed by Education Secretary Laura Owens today. Owens defends against recent suggestions that Education Reform in Kentucky is on life support.

Her defense speaks for itself, but the secretary would do well to remember that student achievement is a lagging indicator. While many (including Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate) will agree that Kentucky has made great strides since 1990, the more recent record of legislative support and gubernatorial leadership in support of KERA is debatable.

Academic gains are attributable to a lot of hard-working Kentuckians; students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, support staff, board members, citizens - and yes, the Fletcher administration and our legislative leaders can also claim a place on that list. But much more remains to be done if the administration hopes to dispell the doubt that still exists concerning the strength of this administration's commitment to reform - and earn a top spot on that list.

Remember for example, the federal Reading First program provided the kinds of investment in struggling readers that some claim they are in favor of, but invest in...not so much. This is not to diminish last year's improved fiscal effort, a welcome relief after the prior decade of neglect. The fact that Reading First is contemporaneous with the Fletcher Administration is a happy coincidence.

This from the Glasgow Daily Times.

In recent days, media attention has been given to the well-being of education reform, somehow equating the hiring process for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) with lack of sustained commitment to reform.

The prevailing headlines imply support for reform is waning with one paper going so far as to refer to the “backsliding” of education during the past three years. I am not sure what benchmarks are used to determine “backsliding” but would presume these opinions come from the uninformed.

Notable strides in education have been made during this administration. Since Kentucky implemented the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) in 1999, students at all grade levels have shown progress.

During the last three years, the state’s average score has continued to increase. We already see that this administration’s push for early support in reading and mathematics has resulted in success for Kentucky’s students. The state’s average CATS score in reading at the elementary level has increased from 83.6 in 2003 to 89.3 in 2006.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Kentucky’s fourth grade readers are outperforming the nation.

Mathematics scores at the same level have increased dramatically during this administration.

The average CATS score in elementary mathematics moved from 67.7 in 2003 to 83.7 in 2006.

NAEP scores also show continued student progress in mathematics during the past three years.

The Fletcher administration has supported and seen increases in funding for the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) formula, preschool programs, technology and teacher raises. In fact, P-12 funding has increased 25 percent, the greatest funding increase since the passage of education reform.

Numbers supporting the upward movement of higher education indicate the continued focus of education reform. Postsecondary degrees and credentials awarded in Kentucky jumped an impressive 12 percent in 2006 and have increased by nearly 63 percent since 2001. Also during that time period, 27 percent more students earned Baccalaureate degrees. The additional good news is that more of the state’s postsecondary graduates are settling here. Recent data from CPE show a 36 percent increase between 2000 and 2006 in the number of graduates who chose to stay in Kentucky to live and work.

Gov. Fletcher recognizes that a valuable education embodies lifelong learning. By combining the Education Cabinet with the Cabinet for Workforce Development, the governor placed agencies from all levels of education and workforce around the same table. This move is providing more Kentuckians with a seamless education that aligns with workforce needs.

During this administration, new pathways for educational attainment have been created. The 55 secondary school area technology centers, housed in the Department of Workforce Investment, offer students college credit while they take vocational classes. Kentucky’s program is the first system of its kind in the nation to achieve SACS accreditation. This confirms the improved rigor of vocational education, as well as promotes postsecondary education, another step in working toward the goal of higher education reform.

Assessment scores are up, postsecondary degrees and credentials are up, funding is up, more students are receiving college credits, more educated citizens are staying in Kentucky and new statewide partnerships have been formed to strengthen the progression of education.

So, where do we go from here?

Based on our continued progress, we are exploring ways for Kentucky to advance more quickly. We are creating and supporting learning environments for our citizens that nurture the 21st century skills necessary to compete in the world today and the future.

Gov. Fletcher and this administration will continue to look for ways to recruit the best and brightest teachers, and he will continue to push for increased funding of educational programs that provide resources for our students and teachers.

Rather than attacking the commitment to education reform in Kentucky, more informed citizens will recognize and celebrate the achievements of our students across the state.

We know there is still work to do. We will learn from our past experiences and build on our accomplishments as we work to move ahead more aggressively. Our collective goal will always be success for Kentucky’s students and Kentucky’s future.


(FRANKFORT, Ky.) - The Kentucky Board of Education will meet Wednesday and Thursday, August 8 and 9, in the State Board Room of the Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort.

On Wednesday, the board’s Nominating Committee will meet at 8 a.m., and the board will meet in full session at 9 a.m.
The board’s Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction and Management Committees will meet Wednesday afternoon.
On Thursday, the full board will meet at 8:30 a.m.

Agenda items include the election of board officers, discussion of dual credit programs and budget priorities.

A full agenda follows.

AUGUST 8-9, 2007

Wednesday, August 8, 2007
8:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. (EDT)

9:00 a.m. (EDT)

I. Call to Order
II. Roll Call
III. Approval of minutes from the June 13-14, 2007 and July 11, 2007 KBE regular meetings and July 14, 2007 special meeting (Minutes for July 11 and 14, 2007 under separate cover)
IV. Election of Kentucky Board of Education officers
V. Report of the Secretary of the Education Cabinet
VI. Report of the President of the Council on Postsecondary Education
VII. Report of the Executive Director of the Education Professional Standards Board
VIII. Report from the Pre-K to 16 Council
IX. Report of the Commissioner of Education
X. Approval of resolution honoring KEA's 150th anniversary
XI. Full Board Items

A. Dialogue with the Chair of the Commission on Interscholastic Athletics-Jane Adams Venters; 20-minute presentation/discussion

B. Update from Covington Independent and Jefferson County on school support plans-- Steve Schenck, Barbara Kennedy and teams from both districts; 90-minute presentation/discussion

C. Elementary and Middle School Norm-Referenced Tests -- Ken Draut, Rhonda Sims and Kevin Hill; 30-minute presentation/discussion

D. Hearing Officer's Report -- Kevin Noland; 10-minute presentation/discussion

XII. Lunch

(Lunch provided for KBE members, Invited Guests and Commissioner’s Planning Committee members only)


XIII. Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction Committee Meeting

A. Action/Consent Items

1. Kentucky Writing Program Advisory Committee Membership

B. Action/Discussion Items(

1. 704 KAR 7:101, Repeal of 704 KAR 7:100, Approval of operation of alternative education programs for purposes of drivers' license revocation (Final)

C. Review Items

1. Report from the Interagency Task Force on Dual Credit
2. Update on Implementation of the Individual Learning Plan
3. 703 KAR 5:170, Kentucky Highly Skilled Educator Program Criteria

XIV. Management Committee Meeting

A. Action/Consent Items

1. District Facility Plans: Clay and Graves County School Districts

B. Action/Discussion Items

1. 704 KAR 4:020, School Health Services (Final)
2. 702 KAR 5:080, Bus drivers' qualifications, responsibilities and training (Final)
3. Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS) FY08 Unmet Need for LEAs
4. FY 2008 Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS) Expenditure Plan
5. 2006 Report, 2006 Exceptions and 2008 Plan required by 702 KAR 1:115,
6. Annual in-service training of district board members

C. Review Items

1. 701 KAR 5:130, Drug Testing of Teachers Involved in Illegal Use of Controlled Substances
2. Identification of District Watch List (List of districts to be provided at the August meeting)


Thursday, August 9, 2007
8:30 a.m. (EDT)

XV. Full Board Items

A. Every Student Proficient and Prepared for Success - Setting KBE Priorities to Reach Proficiency by 2014 -- Kevin Noland, Johnnie Grissom and Elaine Farris; 60-minute presentation/discussion

B. Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) budget priorities and preparation of the 2009-2010 biennial budget request (Increased funding estimates for the 2009-2010 biennium under separate cover) -- Kevin Noland, Robin Kinney and Petie Day; 60-minute presentation/discussion

XVI. Approval of Action/Consent Agenda Items (approved as a block of items)

A. District facility plans
B. Appointments to the Writing Advisory Committee

XVII. Report of the Management Committee on Action/Discussion Items
XVIII. Report of the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee on Action/Discussion Items
XIX. Board Member Sharing
XX. Information Items

A. KDE Employment Report

XXI. Litigation Report
XXII. Internal Board Business
XXIII. Adjournment
XXIV. Lunch

(Lunch provided for KBE members, Invited Guests and Commissioner’s Planning Committee members only)
SOURCE: KDE Press Release

C-J Editorial on Commish search

Some interim good news

The good news is that the state Board of Education has decided to keep interim education commission Kevin Noland in that post, and he appears willing to stay.

Mr. Noland has the kind of deep knowledge and sensitive touch that comes with years of experience. He also enjoys the confidence of a wide group within the state Department of Education, where he has a long record of fine service.

It was a mistake to hurry the selection of a new commissioner to replace Gene Wilhoit, during a gubernatorial election year. The best candidates do not rush into rooms where it's unclear who is in charge. The commissioner reports to the board, not the governor, but most chief executives pursue an education agenda of their own. Where a governor stands tells a commissioner a lot about where he or she can go.

A board full of Gov. Ernie Fletcher's appointees obviously has not distinguished itself in the matter of replacing Mr. Wilhoit. It was responsible for finding and choosing the best candidate, and that clearly wasn't Barbara Erwin, who got the board's nod but then withdrew, scant days before she was supposed to take over.

It's hard to know whether the board was too stubborn or too enamored with its own insight, but it clearly failed.

However, chairman Keith Travis is right to criticize the search firm it used. The company's national executive director, William Newman, said Ray and Associates "brought them good candidates, and they made a choice."


Clearly Ms. Erwin was not a good candidate. Her career had left a trail of unhappy people behind, and her résumé contained significant errors.

Ray and Associates has been recognized in a national school administrator publication as one of the country's top search firms. It's hard to know whether this says more about the American Association of School Administrators or Ray and Associates' competitors.

This from the Courier-Journal.

Fourth grade math genius calculates a high probability of getting beat up

ROCK HILL, Mo.—Earlier this week a Jefferson grade school student used his advanced mathematics skills to calculate his likelihood of being pummeled at the hands of larger, more popular children. Alex Mosley employed complex reasoning and social ratios to determine that he will almost certainly suffer a beating before month’s end.

“First, I computed my annoyance ratio to determine the probability that each student would want to beat me up,” said Mosley. “Then I gauged that against the Beatings to Hand Raises Theory along with past historical data from my previous physical assaults.”

To put his findings in layman’s terms, Mosley’s pretentiousness and poor conversational skills make him decidedly annoying. Pair that with his propensity to raise his hand for most teacher-posed questions and his past run-ins with more aggressive and popular peers, and one would have to believe Mosley will get his beating sometime soon.

"It will probably be like twelve kids who go after him,” said Mosley’s teacher Margaret Schumacher. “I won’t do anything. Well, I’ll watch.”

Adding to the evidence pointing towards Mosley’s beating are the many threats the 10-year-old math wiz has received. In the past week alone, four boys have warned Mosley they would have to inflict pain upon him should he continue being so smart.

"The probability of me remaining this smart, let alone becoming slightly smarter, is very high,” said Mosley. “Given that, getting beat up within the month is an expected result. Furthermore, when taking into account my small stature proportional to the most likely inflictors of given beating, I’m estimating a 30 percent chance of a broken bone.”

This from the GiantNapkin.com.

All that girl talk could be bad for teens

Dwelling on boy trouble, party snubs
could lead to depression, study says

NEW YORK - Girls who discuss their problems extensively with friends may be at increased risk of developing depression and anxiety symptoms, a new study suggests.

The study, which followed 813 children and teenagers for 6 months, found that girls who devoted much time to talking about their problems with friends were more likely to develop depression or anxiety compared with those who did not.

Researchers suspect that such “co-rumination” causes some girls to dwell on fleeting problems like boy trouble and party snubs, leading to persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness or worry.

On top of this, girls who spend time hashing out their problems may leave little room for positive activities that could make them feel better, according to Dr. Amanda J. Rose, an associate professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

“Talking about problems in moderation definitely is healthy,” Rose told Reuters Health. But, she said, ”co-rumination seems to be too much of a good thing.”

The good part, Rose and her colleagues found, was that girls who tended to co-ruminate also tended to say they felt close to their friends. However, they were still more likely to show increasing depression and anxiety symptoms than other girls were.

In contrast, boys who discussed problems with their friends reported more positive friendships and had no increased risk of developing emotional difficulties...

This from MSNBC.

Colleges charging more for some majors

Should an undergraduate studying business pay more than one studying psychology? Should a journalism degree cost more than one in literature? More and more public universities, confronting rising costs and lagging state support, have decided the answers may be yes and yes.

Starting this fall, juniors and seniors pursuing a major in the business school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will pay $500 more each semester than classmates with other majors. The University of Nebraska last year began charging engineering students $40 for each hour of class credit.

And Arizona State University this fall will institute a $250-per-semester charge above the basic $2,411 tuition for in-state upperclassmen in the journalism school.

Such moves are being driven by the salaries commanded by professors, the expense of specialized equipment and the difficulties of persuading state legislatures to approve general tuition increases, university officials say.

The University of Washington does not charge more for certain undergraduate degrees. "To my knowledge, the university has never seriously considered something like that," said Bob Roseth, director of news and information at UW. "If you're an undergraduate, there's just undergraduate tuition."

Even as officials embrace different pricing for different majors, many acknowledge they are unsure about a practice that appears to value one discipline over another or that could result in lower-income students clustering in less-expensive fields.

"This is not the preferred way to do this," said Patrick Farrell, provost at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "If we were able to raise resources uniformly across the campus, that would be a preferred move. But with our current situation, it doesn't seem to us that that's possible."

At the University of Kansas, there are signs the higher cost of majoring in certain subjects is affecting the choices of students with less money.

"We are seeing at this point purely anecdotal evidence," said Richard Lariviere, provost and executive vice chancellor there. "The price sensitivity of poor students is causing them to forgo majoring, for example, in business or engineering, and rather sticking with something like history." ...

This from the Seattle Times.

KDE receives federal grant for staff development

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) - A five-year, $5.8 million federal grant will help the Kentucky Department of Education enhance staff development to improve services to children with disabilities.

The State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG) is a competitive grant administered by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

SPDG is designed to assist state departments of education in reforming and improving their systems for personnel preparation and professional development in early intervention, education and transition services in order to improve results for children with disabilities.

A team composed of key partners, including the department’s Division of Exceptional Children's Services, the KY Special Parent Involvement Network (KYSPIN), the state’s special education cooperatives and a local special education director, developed four major initiatives to be addressed by the grant:

· improve student results through improved instructional climate

· increase the instructional capacity of schools to provide meaningful access to the general curriculum to low-incidence populations (students with the most severe disabilities)

· improve secondary transition and post-school outcomes for students with disabilities

· increase and retain highly qualified minority special education teachers.

The grant will be used to support professional development for several initiatives, including high-quality instruction and alternate assessment for students with severe disabilities; postsecondary transition for all students with disabilities; teacher retention and recruitment; and the establishment of a team of experts that will develop and implement a train-the-trainer module across the state.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 requires states to focus on results for children with disabilities through mandates for educational assessments and accountability inclusive of all students, reporting of post-school outcomes for all students with disabilities and comprehensive professional development for both general and special educators.

The SPDG will provide much-needed funding and assistance to Kentucky at the state and local levels to help meet the needs of all students with disabilities in the state.

This from KDE Press Release.

Miller: No Child Law Should Be Changed

WASHINGTON — A revised No Child Left Behind law should include merit pay for teachers and new ways of judging schools, the chairman of the House education committee said Monday.

"We didn't get it all right," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.

The law, which is now up for renewal, requires annual math and reading tests in grades three through eight and once in high school. Schools that miss progress goals face consequences, such as having to offer tutoring or fire their principals.

Miller said the law places too much emphasis on the math and reading tests, although those are still important indicators. Other tests or graduation rates could also be used to judge how schools are doing, he said.

The teachers unions have called for that kind of change, but the Bush administration and some Republicans in Congress say it could weaken the law.

Miller also said the law should pay teachers extra for boosting student achievement, an idea generally opposed by the national teachers unions.

Miller said he hopes the full House will vote on the legislation this September.

Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy, who chairs the Senate education committee, said he hopes the bill gets through his committee in September.

The legislation is a priority for President Bush, who pushed for its initial passage in 2001.

A majority of Americans want the law to be renewed as it is or with minor changes, according to a poll out Monday by Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and Education Next, a publication of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

This from the Associated Press @ Newsvine.

Another little H-L Editorial

I recently applauded the interim appointment of Brad Cowgill as CPE chief. What I did not say, H-L said this morning.
Wrong turn for higher ed

"If you put an interim (appointee) in and allow them to be a candidate for the permanent position, it may give them an unfair advantage for the permanent position, and it could discourage other applicants from applying."

So said Keith Travis, chairman of the Kentucky Board of Education, as quoted in The Courier-Journal.

Travis' wisdom has unfortunately eluded the Council on Postsecondary Education, which is leaving the door open for its newly appointed interim president to become a candidate for the permanent post.

State budget director Brad Cowgill has no experience in higher education administration, but he'll now be perceived as having the inside track by more highly qualified would-be candidates.

This from the Herald-Leader.

H-L calls for entire Kentucky Board of Education to resign

Education chief: Begin search by getting a new board

Gov. Ernie Fletcher overhauled the Kentucky Board of Education last year with a spate of new appointees, some of whom said they supported exposing students to alternatives to the theory of evolution, including intelligent design.

Instead, students and the public have been exposed to a search for a new education commissioner that has been both unintelligent and ill-designed.

Just last weekend, Leon Mooneyhan, a candidate for the job as interim commissioner, said he had "never been subjected to a more unprofessional set of circumstances," in his life.

"I don't see any Kentucky educator that would want to apply for the job," the retired Shelby County superintendent of schools said.

If Fletcher cares at all about education in Kentucky, he should ask the entire board to resign so he can appoint members who have the capacity and desire to improve public education in the state rather than obsess over irrelevant hot-button issues.

But since that would be a sign that the governor is able to learn from his mistakes, something he's been unable to do in the past, the board itself should at least put the commissioner search on hold until after the election.

A brief history: The board hired a well-regarded search firm in December to find and vet candidates after Commissioner Gene Wilhoit announced he was leaving.

In April, the board named Barbara Erwin as its first choice despite her very modest qualifications and stuck with her even as news reports uncovered discrepancies in her resume and painful controversies in past jobs. Erwin finally walked away from the $220,000 a year job just three days before starting work, predictably blaming her problems on aggressive media coverage.

The board, for its part, blames the search firm. Board observers say deep divisions within the group make it almost impossible to move forward.

Despite the rush to assess blame and analyze the board, this isn't a parlor game without serious consequences; it's about finding a great leader who can help Kentucky's children get a better shot at a good education.

And this botched search leaves serious questions about whether the current board can oversee a national search, much less convince an outstanding candidate to come here if the board ever found one.

Kentucky's students deserve better.

This from the Herald-Leader.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hansen's Bittersweet Departure

Barbara Erwin is no longer Kentucky's problem. So, I don't monitor the WestChiTown papers on a daily basis anymore. Since she's no longer a threat here, there's something a little improper about an abiding interest there. It's like getting into somebody else's business.

But I must confess an interest in how the St Charles authorities resolve two open issues: The Erwin/Gaffney memo and the lost personnel file. So, I still peek at the papers a couple of times a week - to see if anyone still cares.

I'm glad I saw yesterday's column from Kane County Chronicle Managing Editor Kristen Turner regarding Chris Hansen. Although I have never met Mr. Hansen, after covering D303 stories for the past few months I feel like I've come to know the players. So I was pleased to see that the Chronicle softened its position on Hansen a bit. He deserved it.

But isn't that the way it always seems to go. The guy who is in that thankless job for the kids, and feels genuine remorse for not being able to make things better, acts with integrity. While others look out for their own egoes - and hope public scrutiny simply goes away, as it seems to have done.

I will always be grateful to several folks in St Charles for helping us in Kentucky avoid the perils that come with Barbara Erwin. If I could grant a wish for you in return, it would be that Gaffney and Hewell would go away too.

This from the Kane County Chronicle:

In June, the Chronicle’s editorial board called for the resignation of St. Charles school board members Christopher Hansen, Kathleen Hewell and James Gaffney.Last week, Hansen resigned, saying that he thought it was a good first step toward helping the board move forward.

That very well might be true, but Hansen’s departure is bittersweet.

The editorial board (of which I am a member) asked for all three resignations because it thought that the board’s slate needed to be wiped clean. These are three people who voted “yes” in closed session, but never in public, for a lucrative contract extension for former Superintendent Barbara Erwin. Anyone involved in that vote, the editorial board reasoned, needed to cut ties with the school district.

Hansen was the least culpable among them.

On the recording of that meeting, which happened April 11, 2005, Hansen is heard a few times asking about the proper procedure for the vote, about the legality of the vote. He asks whether the group needs to open up the public meeting again and vote there.

Sadly, he is misinformed by a fellow board member.

“Mary Jo, are we going to go out and take a vote on this?” he asks.

“No, no. We do not have to vote. All I need to know is that the majority of the board is OK with this ...” then board President Mary Jo Knipp responds.

Hansen, just like every other member of the board, had a responsibility to know the law about voting for measures in open versus closed session.It’s simple: A public body cannot take official action in closed session. The business has to be completed in the public eye. But it didn’t help when he was given bad information.

Hansen’s institutional knowledge offered guidance to newer board members. His now-former colleagues praised him for that, and those who spoke publicly after his resignation spoke highly of him.

It remains to be seen whether Hewell and Gaffney will follow.

One more note about this: Attendance by the public at Tuesday night’s board meeting was a grand total of one person, at least for the first two hours, when reporter Amelia Flood was there.Only a few weeks ago, I took several calls from people asking what they could do to change things, how they could get involved.Going to school board meetings is a great place to start.

Frankfort educators pleased with Noland

Local district educators say they are pleased with the state school board's decision to keep its current interim education commissioner until a new one is found.

Dianne Cobb, superintendent for Frankfort Independent Schools, said she is satisfied the Kentucky Board of Education voted in a special meeting Saturday to allow Kevin Noland to continue to work as interim commissioner. "Mr. Noland knows where the state of Kentucky is at this point," Cobb said. "He's proven himself before as an interim. I feel like it's an excellent idea (to allow him to remain in the position)."

Franklin County Schools Superintendent Harrie Lynne Buecker agreed. "I think Kevin has certainly provided Kentucky educators stability and continuity during this time," Buecker said.

Since the resignation of Barbara Erwin, an Illinois educator who was originally named to the post despite controversy surrounding her resume and management styles, the board has called two special meetings to develop a plan for moving forward. Buecker said Kentucky has been working longer than other states on its education reform. She said someone with firsthand knowledge of the system would understand how to move Kentucky forward in its education goals.

Cobb said she also thinks schools would benefit from the board selecting someone from Kentucky to be commissioner. "It seems somebody from Kentucky could possibly fill that position adequately," she said.

Thousands of dollars have been spent on the search for the new commissioner. The board originally used the search firm Ray and Associates to find candidates for the position, which led to Erwin.

Cobb said there is nothing wrong with using a search firm to fill the state's highest education position, but the board may want to consider a different firm for the next search. She said there may be liability insurance to help the state recover some of the money lost from the unfruitful search and she believes the board will not make the same mistake this time around. "I'm sure the board will not let that happen again," Cobb said.

Cobb said there is no immediate impact on her district stemming from the education commissioner situation but there could be long-term effect. "It's been business as usual,"

Buecker said, regarding the role the commissioner search is playing in her district. She said her staff is willing to assist the new commissioner when a selection is made. "All of us in our district will do whatever we can to help when the new commissioner is named," Buecker said.

The board did not set a timetable for hiring another commissioner and is planning to do an in-house search, KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross said. -The Associated Press contributed to this story.

This from the State-Journal.

Lawyer in schools case seeks fees, wants immediate hearing on student assignment

Jefferson parents' attorney asks judge to set payment
A Louisville lawyer who successfully challenged Jefferson County Public Schools' racial-integration policy wants the district to pay his legal fees, plus a bonus, according to a motion filed yesterday.
At least one legal expert says the final figure could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.
Attorney Teddy Gordon, who represented parents in a lawsuit decided by the U.S. Supreme Court last month, isn't saying exactly how much he thinks the district should pay him, but he wants more than $200 an hour, and a bonus to reflect the case's impact on schools nationwide.
"I have spent thousands of my own money on expenses and court costs," he said in a statement, while declining to say how much he thinks he deserves. "Because I am a sole practitioner who has worked hundreds of hours on these cases, I was not able to take on other clients."

Gordon's filing leaves it up to U.S. District Judge John Heyburn to determine how much he should be paid. School district lawyers declined to comment on his request...
This from the Courier-Journal.
Lawyer wants hearing on student assignments
A Louisville lawyer is seeking an immediate hearing to discuss whether Jefferson County Public Schools should reassign students for the coming school year in the wake of June’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the district’s integration policy.
Attorney Teddy Gordon filed a motion today in U.S. District Court — three days after Judge John Heyburn rejected as “outrageous” Gordon's motion calling for school leaders to be jailed unless they could prove they weren’t in contempt for failing to change race-based assignments made before last month’s ruling.
Gordon has estimated that about 2,800 students were denied choices strictly because of race during assignments for the 2007-08 school year, which begins Aug. 13. He wants those students to be allowed to change schools if they want and if there is space elsewhere.
This from the Courier-Journal.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Board of education keeps discussion of "options and strategies" secret

The central purpose of the Open Meetings Law is to ensure that all meetings of public agencies where public business is discussed will be open to the public. Lately the board appears to be ignoring the law in favor of a higher priority - saving face.

But it's not working.

Still reeling from the recent flight of Barbara Erwin, their preferred candidate for Education Commissioner - one they defended to an unreasonable extent - the Kentucky Board of Education continues to spend extended time in closed session these days.

If the board actually did something, those actions taken in closed session might become reversable upon complaint. But the fact is, we don't know what the board is talking about, except for when they tell us. Yesterday they were discussing "options and strategies."

By refusing to discuss the selection process in public and by changing their minds on a month-to-month basis, citizens are left to wonder - Does the board really have a plan to move Kentucky forward?

Apparently the board is still trying to figure that out for themselves. Apparently they don't want the public to see their deliberations, or perhaps, their divisions.

Considering human nature, that's understandable.

But is it legal?

Two weeks ago the board voted to keep Kevin Noland as interim commissioner, but with the intention of hiring a new interim person quickly.

"We left that meeting thinking that was the best route to go but we came back today and, after discussing options and strategies, we decided to refocus," board Chairman Keith Travis told the Courier-Journal after yesterday's 2 1/2-hour closed-door meeting.

Discussing "options and strategies" is not listed among the legal exceptions to the Open Meetings Law.

On July 11th the board met in a closed session for about an hour to discuss its expectations of then commissioner-select Barbara Erwin, despite an objection from the Courier-Journal that the private discussion was in violation of the state's Open Meetings Law. "Your objection is noted," Keith Travis said. "There are some things we want to discuss that are personal in nature."

"Personal in nature" is not listed among the legal exceptions to the Open Meetings Law.

But the board chair shrugged it off.

The board of education also shrugged off Leon Mooneyhan. After his seduction and abandonment, some wonder if Travis lacked the board's backing when he entered into negotiations on behalf of the board? WHAS TV's Mark Hebert opined, "...it's clear board chairman Travis led Mooneyhan to believe he was getting the interim job. And Travis was either A) powerless to make it happen or B)politically and professionally inept in his dealings with Mooneyhan."

Mooneyhan, currently the chief executive officer of the Ohio Valley Education Cooperative, told the Courier-Journal he was "...concerned about the decision because the board has a tarnished reputation in terms of the feelings of the public," he said. "And I believe it could have acted in a more proactive way."

Mooneyhan told Hebert:

"I've never been subjected to a more unprofessional set of circumstances in all my life." Mooneyhan says the way the board muffed the hiring of Barbara Erwin and fumbled his candidacy "undermines my view of the board's ability to find a good commissioner for the children of Kentucky." And he agreed with a C-J editorial, Mooneyhan saying " the governor may need the board to resign. They are dysfunctional."
Travis said the decision to ask Noland to remain did not result from disagreement among board members about hiring Mooneyhan.

Board member Doug Hubbard told C-J, "What it really came down to is that because we're pressing forward in the search for a permanent commissioner … it might not be best to go to a new interim."

So, where are we now?

  • Kevin Noland continues as interim.
  • Applications are being accepted for the permanent position.
  • There is no ending date to the search process on the KDE posting.
  • Travis says the board will be aggressively pursuing a permanent Commissioner.
  • The board plans to meet again on August 8.
  • At that meeting, the election of new board leadership will be on the agenda.

What else?

  • Is the board coasting until August?
  • Is there a search committee?
  • Is the board acting as a committee of the whole?
  • Is there some process that board members understand?
  • Is anyone advertising, reviewing applications, checking references and screening candidates for the board?
  • Does the board expect so few applicants that they will now be choosing from among a handful of candidates rejected (and perhaps not even interviewed) during the search that produced Erwin?
  • Does yesterday's change of direction indicate that the board already knows who they want "to apply?"
  • Can this board walk and chew bubble gum at the same time?
The only clues came from Travis's comments to the press: "There's a Web site advertising (the post). And certainly we're going to explore the need to be advertising more heavily," he said. "But obviously … this search has been quite visible probably nationwide."

Unfortunately, the nationwide publicity Kentucky has received lately isn't likely to attract anyone. And because everything is being discussed behind closed doors - it's not clear who on the board, if anyone, is working on it. And Travis's description of what the board is doing is...well...something less than awe-inspiring.

This is no way to reclaim the public trust.


On another matter, Martin Cothran would like us to know that he does not always speak for the Family Foundation, and that the Family Foundation has not taken a position on the Penny Sanders nomination. I said as much, and was apparently confused by his vere loqui post: "Penney Sanders for State School Commissioner."

When he speaks for the Foundation, and when he doesn't is a little unclear, so he lets' me off the hook a bit saying, "Although I often post official press releases and other relevant things from The Family Foundation, my blog is not an official organ of the organization. It is my opinion only. I used to have a disclaimer on this blog somewhere, but I guess I have taken it off. Maybe I need to put it back up again."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Flash Poll #1: The results are in

The results of the first KSN&C Flash Poll are in. And what did we learn? Well, nothing really.

Disclaimer: Respondents were a subset of self-selected, opportunistic, non-random readers of Kentucky School News and Commentary who chose to offer an opinion. I'm not certain that visitors are limited by the program to one vote a piece. KSN&C visitors may not represent the average Kentuckian. (In fact, I have reason to believe they may be much more intelligent than the average human being.) This poll is so unscientific and insecure that the results shouldn't even be reported for fear that those who care about quality of research might run screaming from the room.

Fortunately for you, that's a risk I'm willing to take.

Drum roll please........

The question was:

"Who would you accept as the next Kentucky Education Commissioner?"

Respondents were invited to select more than one candidate. That allowed lots of wiggle room but was an attempt to allow for the possibility that more than one person might be both qualified and acceptable.

And the winner is...

None of them n=36 (53%)

Penny Sanders (OEA) n=14 (20%)

Roger Marcum (Marion) n=12 (17%)

Stu Silberman (Fayette) n=12 (17%)

Blake Heselton (Oldham) n=9 (13%)

Dale Brown (BG) n=5 (7%)

Leon Mooneyhan (Shelby) n=5 (7%)

Mitchell Chester (Ohio) n=5 (7%)

Linda France (KDE) n=3 (4%)

Fred Bassett (Beechwood) n=3 (4%)

  • Most people want somebody other than whoever you want.
  • Most respondents prefer a candidate from outside Kentucky (or perhaps a Kentucky candidate who nobody's talking about and whose name did not make the list).
  • Despite the first botched national search, most respondents seem to prefer risking another one rather than settling for the-devil-they-know.
  • Among Kentucky candidates, Penny Sanders was acceptable to more respondents than other candidates....followed by Roger Marcum and Stu Silberman (who is not a candidate).

More on today's KBE meeting, Mooneyhan questions board's process

"The way that I’ve been dealt with in this situation,
I don’t see any Kentucky educator
that would want to apply for the job."
--Leon Mooneyhan

This from the Herald-Leader:

The Kentucky Board of Education has decided to continue with Kevin Noland as interim commissioner of education so it can focus instead on finding a permanent commissioner.

The board made its decision after meeting for nearly three hours in closed session on Saturday.
Noland, a deputy commissioner and legal counsel for the state board, has been serving his third stint as interim state commissioner. He had stated in the past that he did not want to continue as interim and wasn’t interested in the permanent position.

”I told the board of education at its meeting two weeks ago that I would prefer not to continue,” Noland said. “One full time job is enough for me. But at the same time … I would do whatever they needed me to do to maintain stability as they pursue an aggressive search for the commissioner of education.” ...

...“We decided that there wasn’t a need for an interim” other than Noland, said board chairman Keith Travis. “We had dialogue with Mr. Mooneyhan. We appreciate his willingness to support us and to serve should the need be there.”

Mooneyhan said he wasn’t offended by the board’s decision but has questions about the commissioner search process.

“The way that I’ve been dealt with in this situation, I don’t see any Kentucky educator that would want to apply for the job,” Mooneyhan said. “We have a board that has had a failed search, and so they need to take some positive steps in how they are going forward, and I think their decision today doesn’t support that.”

Mooneyhan thought the board would have laid out a clear plan on the commissioner search, but it has yet to do that...

...“Every time Kevin has been the interim, I think he’s done an admirable and in some cases a remarkable job … it’s always been under very difficult circumstances,” said Wayne Young, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. “Given the complete unsettled atmosphere, with there being some apparent internal conflict, it would strike me as sensible to go with a known quantity.“

There has been some talk about tension on the board as a result of the botched commissioner search. At the Aug. 8-9 meeting, the board will elect new officers. Some board members indicated there may be a movement to name a new chairman to replace Travis, who has held the post since 2004. The board has 11 members, six of whom were appointed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher in April 2006. Travis has said he would be interested in continuing to serve as chairman, if re-elected.

Despite these problems, the board is now committed to finding a permanent commissioner, Travis said.

“That’s where we’re going to focus our efforts,” he said. “We don’t have a firm time schedule as such, we are aggressively pursuing it.”


Following the Courier-Journal's recent questioning of the way the Kentucky Board of Education interprets the Open Meetings Law, I wrote to KDE Communications Director Lisa Gross, "As I read the two statutes that govern closed sessions in Kentucky, I’m not sure there is a valid basis for the wholesale closure of Saturday’s meeting as appears to have been planned."

I cited the law and asked for an interpretation.

The statutes: the Open Meetings Act, http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/061-00/810.PDF, and a section of the Open Records Act, http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/061-00/878.PDF, which is encorporated by reference.

She responded, "The closed session is only part of the meeting, not wholesale. The board will begin the meeting in open session, then, at some point, entertain a motion to go into closed session. "

That "point" came immediately after roll call. The board went into closed session...and emerged somewhere around 12:40PM; whereupon Chairman Keith Travis made the following statement:

"The board came to a consensus this morning that in our present search for a permanent commissioner, there is not a need to secure the services of an interim commissioner. (We have asked) Mr Noland to continue on, and we will continue our search, as such, and we will reconvene August 8th and 9th at our full board meeting and continue our deliberations on this important item.

Then the board immediately adjourned.

So the evidence is that in addition to whatever discussions were held regarding personnel, that are specifically excluded under the Open Meetings Act - there was also some amount of discussion about the process the board would follow.

Whether that discussion should have properly been held in closed session is much less clear.

This from KDE press release:


(FRANKFORT, Ky.) - At a special-called meeting today, the Kentucky Board of Education came to a consensus that, in its aggressive search for a permanent commissioner of education, there was no need to secure the services of a new interim commissioner.

The current interim commissioner, Kevin Noland, will continue to serve in that capacity until a permanent commissioner of education is selected.

The board did not set a specific timeline for the selection of a permanent commissioner, but agreed to continue deliberations at its regular meeting August 8 and 9 in Frankfort.

Meet the Kentucky Board of Education

Courtesy of the Courier-Journal. Source: Kentucky Department of Education

C.B. Akins Sr.

Born in Tennessee and raised in southern Illinois, Akins served in the Air Force as an interpreter and an instructor and has studied eight languages. Akins received his bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky and his master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Lexington Theological Seminary.

He is the author of "From Burden to Blessings" and has served as senior pastor of First Baptist Bracktown in Lexington since 1983. He serves on the board of directors of Commerce Lexington, the Fayette Education Foundation, the Bluegrass Community Trust and First Bracktown Inc.

He and his wife, Roszalyn, have four children and four grandchildren.

C.B. Akins
3389 Malone DriveLexington, KY 40513
Res: (859) 219-9511
Fax: (859) 223-9581
Email: CB_Akins@insightbb.com
Term Expires 4/14/2010

Katheryn R. Baird

A Pikeville resident, Baird graduated from Union College with a bachelor's degree in English and has a bachelor's in elementary education from Pikeville College. She has taught kindergarten and first grade.

Baird has served as a member of the Pikeville Independent Board of Education and the Model City Day Care board. She is an elder in Pikeville Presbyterian Church and serves on the Kentucky Presbyterian Homes and Services Board, along with the education committee of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce.

She and her husband, Bill, have three daughters and six grandchildren.

Kaye Baird
202 Walnut DrivePikeville, KY 41501
Res: (606) 437-9472
Fax: (606) 437-6383
Email: kerbaird@hotmail.com
Term Expires 4/14/2010

Wilburn Joe Brothers

A manager for Gates Corp.'s Elizabethtown plant, Brothers is a graduate of Community High School in Unionville, Tenn., and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he received an engineering degree.

Brothers is a former PTA president and school board member and has served as an officer with the Kentucky School Boards Association, Polyurethane Manufacturers Association and National Management Association. He is a member of the Church of Christ, where he was involved in radio broadcasting and starting congregations in the Ukraine.

He and his wife, Dorothy, have five children and nine grandchildren.

Joe Brothers
115 Connecticut CourtElizabethtown, KY 42701
Res: (270) 737-6643
Ofc: (270) 766-3500Fax: (270) 735-1022
Email: wb5184@gates.com
Term Expires 4/14/2010

Jeanne H. Ferguson

The Louisville resident is an adjunct professor at Jefferson Community & Technical College. She began her college teaching career at the University of Kentucky, later serving as coordinator of the Speech Communication Program at Jefferson Community College and is co-author of a text titled "You're Speaking, Who's Listening."

Ferguson has taught courses at Bellarmine and Spalding universities. She serves on the boards of the Louisville Deaf Oral School and STAR (Systematic Treatment for Autistic Related Disorders). She has a bachelor's degree from Ursuline College and a master's degree in communication from the University of Kentucky.

She and her husband, David, have one daughter.

Jeanne Huber Ferguson
102 Blankenbaker LaneLouisville, KY 40207
Res: (502) 897-2207
Fax: (502) 897-7200
Email: jfergus102@aol.com
Term Expires 4/14/2010

Bonnie Lash Freeman

Freeman, director of special projects/training at the National Center for Family Literacy in Louisville, has been a classroom teacher, an administrator of child-care programs and a teacher trainer.

She is a graduate of Leadership Louisville, the Bingham Fellows and the African American Leadership Institute. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of North Carolina in child development and family relations, and her graduate work is in early childhood education and adult education.

She has two daughters.

Bonnie Lash Freeman
3617 Northwestern ParkwayLouisville, KY 40212
Res: (502) 778-2438
Ofc: (502) 584-1133
Fax: (502) 584-0172
Email: bfreeman@famlit.org
Term Expires 4/14/2008

Judith H. Gibbons

The Lakeside Park resident is a retired vice president of a professional career management firm. Gibbons holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and has a history of involvement in education initiatives.

For the last 12 years, her focus has been on implementing stronger collaboration between business and education. Gibbons serves on the Northern Kentucky University Foundation, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Education Alliance, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the American Cancer Society and Vision 2015. She is a graduate of Leadership Northern Kentucky.

She and her husband, Mike, have three children and two grandchildren.

Judy Gibbons
109 Brittany CourtLakeside Park, KY 41017-2101
Res: (859) 344-0560
Fax: (859) 344-0525
Email: judithgibbons@netzero.net
Term Expires 4/14/2010

Doug Hubbard

Hubbard is an attorney in Bardstown. He is a member of the Bardstown Foundation for Excellence in Education and participates in a variety of civic activities, including the Jaycees and Kiwanis. He was named Nelson County's Outstanding Young Man in 1968 and was appointed to the Bardstown/Nelson County Hall of Fame in 2004. Hubbard holds a bachelor's degree in commerce and a law degree from the University of Kentucky.

He and his wife, Judy, have two children and six grandchildren.

Doug Hubbard
117 East Stephen Foster AvenueBardstown, KY 40004
Res: (502) 348-3067
Ofc: (502) 348-6457
Fax: (502) 348-8748
Email: jdh@bardstown.com
Term Expires 4/14/2010

David B. Rhodes

The Mount Sterling resident is vice president of The Walker Co.'s General Contracting Division. Raised in Menifee County, he received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of the Cumberlands.

Rhodes serves on the Mount Sterling-Montgomery County Industrial Authority, advisory boards of the People's Exchange Bank and Kentucky Utilities/LG&E and the Morehead State University at Mount Sterling Advisory Council.

He served as a member of the Montgomery County Board of Education and the Kentuckiana Chapter of the Association of Builders & Contractors, is a Leadership Kentucky graduate and is a member of Bethel Baptist Church of Frenchburg.

He and his wife, Donna Sue, have two daughters.

David Bruce Rhodes
The Walker Company
232 Calk AvenueP.O. Box 308Mt. Sterling, KY 40353
Ofc: (859) 498-4444
Email: drhodes@thewalkercompany.com
Term Expires 4/14/2008

Keith Travis (chairman)

A Marshall County native, Travis graduated from North Marshall High School and received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky. He has served as a member and past chairman of the Marshall County Board of Education, a member of the Kentucky School Boards Association board of directors and past chairman of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

He is an elder in Benton Church of Christ and is employed as vice president of human resources for Murray/Calloway County Hospital.

He and his wife, Joan, have two children and a grandchild.

Keith Travis
4290 Lakeview Church RoadBenton, KY 42025
Res: (270) 395-7992
Ofc: (270) 762-1908
Fax: (270) 762-1905
Email: ktravis@murrayhospital.org
Term Expires 4/14/2010

Janna P. Vice

Vice, the associate dean of the College of Business and Technology and professor of corporate communication at Eastern Kentucky University, lives in Richmond. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees from EKU and a doctorate from the University of Kentucky.

Vice has taught professional and analytical writing at the college level for 30 years. Her teaching career includes being a professional organization presenter, author, consultant and seminar leader. She was named the 1999 Kentucky Outstanding Business Education Teacher, received the 2005 Outstanding Researcher Award and serves on the Alice Lloyd College board of trustees.

She and her husband, Wayne, have two children and two grandchildren.

Janna P. Vice
Eastern Kentucky University
317 Combs Classroom Building
521 Lancaster AvenueRichmond, KY 40475-3102
Res: (859) 369-5002
Ofc: (859) 622-1574
Email: Janna.Vice@eku.edu
Term Expires 4/14/2008

David L. Webb

A retired educator who lives in Brownsville, Webb's professional experience includes the positions of secondary mathematics teacher, elementary principal and superintendent of the Edmonson and Logan County school districts.

Webb served on the Commissioner's Advisory Council and the Board of Control for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. He also served as a consultant and marketing director for Alliance Corp. of Glasgow. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Western Kentucky University.

He and his wife, Ann, have three children and three grandchildren.

David L. Webb
2150 Brownsville Road (#3021)P.O. Box 545
Brownsville, KY 42210
Res: (270) 597-9135
Email: David.Webb@education.ky.gov
Term Expires 4/14/2008

C-J's take on Erwin Selection Process: Criticism flies over school chief selection

A terrific article from Antoinette Konz in today's Courier-Journal:
Barbara Erwin's resignation just days before she was to take over as Kentucky education commissioner was the capstone to what critics say was a botched search that should have eliminated the controversial superintendent long before she was offered the job.

The Iowa search firm hired by the Kentucky Board of Education to produce a list of candidates should have vetted Erwin more closely and targeted problems more quickly, the critics argue.

And they say 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.

"There is no shortage of places where it went wrong," said Bob Sexton, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. "The board found out all sorts of things about Erwin too late. But in the end, it was the board's responsibility to make sure that the best person for the job was named commissioner, and that didn't happen."

The board's chairman, Keith Travis, acknowledges mistakes but says the search firm, Ray and Associates, failed to inform the board promptly of Erwin's reputation and dismissed her resume errors as "minor."

"If we had known, I think the board would have taken a different approach," Travis said.

Ray officials counter that the firm did its job, checking everything it was asked to check.

"Our reputation is on the line here. We feel we conducted a solid search, brought them good candidates and they made a choice," said William Newman, national executive director of Ray and Associates.

The cost to taxpayers?

More than $50,000 for a failed search, and the prospect of months more without a permanent commissioner, whose job is to oversee the state Department of Education and implement policies for the state's public schools and their 660,000 students.

Board chooses search firm

The hunt for a new education commissioner began last September when Gene Wilhoit announced he was resigning to become executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a Washington-based education advocacy group.

The school board interviewed three search firms, settling in December on Ray and Associates, which specializes in searching for school executive leadership and has been recognized as one of the top search firms in the county by The School Administrator, a publication of the American Association of School Administrators.

The contract with Ray called for the firm to identify suitable candidates and screen their qualifications and eligibility. The firm also was to meet with the board's search committee, prepare written recommendations and evaluations for each candidate and "assist the board with a statement of qualifications that the candidates will be expected to meet," according to a copy of the contract obtained by The Courier-Journal through an open-records request.

The board agreed to pay Ray a base fee of $32,000, plus expenses and fees, not to exceed a total of $50,000.

The board also appointed five of its members to a search committee, naming Bonnie Lash Freeman of Louisville as chairwoman.

Newman said Ray and Associates gave the search committee files on 20 to 30 potential candidates in mid-March. On March 28, the committee met in closed session to review those applications and discuss interview questions for the semifinalists.

The files given to the search committee consisted of each candidate's application, resume, letters of reference and a summary report written by the firm, Newman said, with the summary based on interviews conducted with "various sources."

Erwin's file included her application, resume, a reference sheet with eight names, a summary sheet from the firm and 16 letters of reference from former school board members, teachers and principals, according to a copy obtained by The Courier-Journal through an open-records request.

None of the letters, nor any information in the summary report, contained criticism concerning Erwin's tenure.

Newman said the firm did not provide the board with any negative comments regarding Erwin because "there were not any negatives we had a real concern about."

"Any time you are in a top position, you will have people who will support you and you will have people who oppose and criticize you," he said.

The search committee privately interviewed five semifinalists on April 1-3, and then narrowed the field to three finalists. The finalists were brought to Bowling Green April 15-16 to interview with the full board.

The finalists' names were not initially released to the public.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher wrote to the board on April 17 asking it to release the names, and the board complied that day.

Travis said the board had planned on releasing the names all along.

"We just wanted to interview the finalists first and make sure that we still wanted to consider them," he said. "We didn't see a point of naming them when we hadn't even met or interviewed them."

The finalists were Richard La Pointe, deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education; Mitchell Chester, senior associate state superintendent with the Ohio Department of Education; and Erwin, superintendent at St. Charles, Ill.

Criticism starts to emerge

With the finalists named, Freeman said the board waited several days for public feedback.

That's when it began to hear criticism of Erwin, she said -- some questioning her leadership style in Scottsdale, Ariz., others raising concerns about her tenure in Texas. Freeman said she couldn't remember the specifics. (KSN&C sent brief candidate summary to KBE on April 24 which - KDE's Lisa Gross confirmed - was read and discussed before the board voted.)

"We began receiving all sorts of phone calls and e-mails about the candidates," Freeman said. "Some of it was good; some of it was bad. I forwarded the concerns to the search firm and asked them to look into those things."

Newman said his firm looked into the claims by calling people who knew of Erwin's tenure as a superintendent in Allen, Texas, and Scottsdale.

In a follow-up report given to the board -- obtained by The Courier Journal through an open-records request -- the firm said it had spoken to Worley Stein, a former school board member and board president in Allen, who said "there is absolutely no truth to the negative claims regarding Barbara Erwin's tenure of the district."

No other person was mentioned or interviewed in the Texas follow-up.

Newman said the firm was not able to contact Nancy Cantor, a woman who had criticized Erwin's tenure in Scottsdale. Newman said he spoke with David Goldstaub, a former school board president who was familiar with Cantor.

"We were advised to disregard whatever she (Cantor) says because, inexplicably, she had it in for Dr. Erwin, along with a few of her friends," the follow-up report said.

Cantor could not be reached for comment.

Erwin named top choice

On April 25, the Kentucky Department of Education sent out a news release saying board members had reached a consensus, based on their interviews.

"The board is very pleased to identify Barbara Erwin as its top candidate," Travis said in the release, adding that the board was "most appreciative of the professional services provided by Ray and Associates."

In a recent interview, Travis said the board selected Erwin as its top choice because of her self-confidence and aggressiveness.

"She interviewed extremely well," Travis said. "We looked at the numbers (data) she presented, and it showed that she took large school districts from (scoring at) an average level to a higher level of performance in a very short period of time."

But within days, newspapers around Kentucky began publishing stories detailing Erwin's troubles in her previous jobs.

For example, Eric Kurland and Bob Bernier, the president and vice president of the Scottsdale Teachers Association, told The Courier-Journal in a story published April 26 that Erwin did not work well with teachers and "ruled by intimidation." Kurland said that during Erwin's tenure, the Scottsdale district lost a lot of good teachers, principals and administrators.

"She was like a cancer. She took the life out of our district," Kurland said in the story. "We are now just starting to recover."

Erwin never responded to the claims made by Kurland and Bernier.

On May 1, The Courier-Journal reported that Erwin's resume contained an award she didn't win. The resume she gave the state Board of Education stated that she was named Texas superintendent of the year in 1997 and 1998. But the agency that gave her the award, the Texas Association of School Boards, said she received the top honor only once, in 1997. (First confirmed by Richard Innes at the Bluegrass Institute)

Erwin acknowledged the mistake but said it was simply a "typo."

Travis said the newspaper reports caught board members by surprise. He said he and other board members expected Ray and Associates to alert them to "some of the issues that may have existed with the candidates."

"It would have been nice to know if there was any controversy so that we could have addressed it in the initial interview," he said.

Freeman agreed.

"We wanted a balanced view on what each of the candidates were about, and we really didn't get that," she said.

In response to the news reports, Freeman said she had the search firm check out the errors on Erwin's resume and the firm "admitted there were items they missed and went back to her and asked her for a clarification."

Newman said the search firm checked the inaccuracies and decided they were "minor."

"We took those things very seriously and looked into them, but in the end we felt they were more like misunderstandings," Newman said.

Board looks into concerns

The board decided to continue pursuing Erwin for the job, announcing it would hold a meeting at its annual retreat to ratify an employment contract.

But by that time, board member Doug Hubbard of Bardstown had changed his mind, calling for Erwin to withdraw because of growing concerns about her background. Hubbard said her credibility was suspect.

"The last nine days have been one revelation after another revelation, and I think there is a perception that she cannot overcome," Hubbard told The Courier-Journal in an article published May 5.

The rest of the board continued to support Erwin, with Travis stating publicly that she remained the best candidate.

"I haven't seen any evidence that changes my mind," Travis told the newspaper.

During its May 9 retreat in Bowling Green, the board called an executive session to talk with Erwin about some of the issues that had been raised.

"We went over a lot of the concerns that had been raised, item by item," Travis said in a recent interview. "It was a very stressful, challenging time. She brought in documentation and files with her and answered our questions to the satisfaction of the board at that time."

During a break in its four-hour executive session, the board was informed by The Courier-Journal that Erwin's resume contained a second mistake -- listing a presentation she hadn't made. (KDE, the Courier-Journal, the Herald-Leader and WHAS TV had been informed of the error by Kentucky School News and Commentary during the meeting!)

The resume said Erwin had conducted presentations on school improvement, Advanced Placement and superintendent search processes in 2004 and 2006 during the Illinois Association of School Boards Triple I Conference in Chicago. But an official with the association said Erwin wasn't listed as a presenter for the 2006 conference.

But when board members reopened the meeting, they voted 10-0 to approve a four-year contract with Erwin. Hubbard was traveling and couldn't vote.

Freeman said the board decided to give Erwin the benefit of the doubt and agreed to pay her a base salary of $220,000.

"We felt comfortable with the items and materials she brought in to justify the inaccuracies," Freeman said.

More problems revealed

In June, more inaccuracies on Erwin's resume became public, including an error in the number of years she served on the board of directors for the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce. Her resume also listed her membership on the executive board of the American Association of School Administrators from 1991 to 2000, when she was actually a member of the association's executive committee from 1999 to 2002. (Discovered by the Bluegrass Institute)

In addition, Erwin said in her application for the commissioner job that she had never been involved with pending litigation. However, Erwin was named a defendant in a court case filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix in 2004. (Also discovered by KSN&C.)

Christine Schild accused Erwin and lawyers for the Scottsdale Unified School District of violating her right First Amendment rights by preventing her from speaking on some agenda items at school board meetings. A federal judge dismissed the case; Schild eventually was elected to the school board.

In June, the Illinois state attorney's office cited the St. Charles school board for violating the open meetings act when it met in private on April 11 to vote to give Erwin an additional 85 sick days for every year of her contract since 2005.

Travis and Freeman said the Kentucky board did not become aware of the additional concerns until after they were published in newspapers.

"It seemed like the longer people dug, the more problems that were found," Freeman said. (Incluidng possible fraud.)

Then on July 11, the same day Erwin attended her first board meeting in Frankfort as Kentucky's commissioner-select, The Courier-Journal and other media outlets reported that Illinois police were investigating the disappearance of Erwin's personnel file, which was reported missing July 3 from the St. Charles school district. The investigation is continuing.

Newman said his firm did not know about the missing file until it was reported in the media. But Travis said it was the "icing on the cake."

On July 13, Travis said he spoke to Erwin in the morning about board concerns about her past and that she might not be able to do her job because she would be "so immersed in other issues."

A few hours later, Erwin submitted her letter of resignation, just three days before she was to begin her new job, citing "overwhelming and acute scrutiny" and "continued noise by the media."

Critics, board assess blame

With Erwin's resignation, critics more vigorously questioned whether the school board had failed to properly check out its choice, while board members began pointing fingers at the search firm.

Richard Day, a former Kentucky principal and an education instructor at the University of Kentucky and Georgetown College, blogged frequently about the flawed search process.

"I believe it was perfectly proper for the board to get a firm to assist in the search, but they should have done their own diligence once it got down to the final candidates," Day said. "Even after she was named, there was a quantity of folks out there who were telling them about all these problems surrounding her, but they did not want to listen."

Hubbard said the search firm was partly to blame, and he has called on Ray and Associates to refund the money it was paid. But he also criticized the board leadership, which he said allowed Erwin to be selected.

"We have had a completely chaotic situation for almost 90 days and we need someone to get us out," Hubbard said in an interview. "If the current leadership led us into this problem, we may need someone else to get us out."

Freeman said she does not blame Travis for what happened.

"We expected to get all of the information (about the candidates) from the search firm," she said. "If we had gotten all of the information from the firm, we would have never named (Erwin). We would have named someone else."

Travis said he accepts responsibility for the "circumstances we engaged in," but said he doesn't believe it was the state board's job to double-check resumes and references.

"That was what we paid the search firm to do," he said. "I expected that the further a candidate goes in the process, the more scrutiny there should be. That includes credit history, education verification and, obviously, looking at the resume and making sure that everything checks out."

Newman agreed that that is the search firm's responsibility, and he believes his firm met that duty. He said his firm does not give refunds, but he offered a two-year guarantee and promised to assist the board "in any way we can to help them find the best candidate for the job."

That isn't likely, Travis said. The board's preference is "not to use that firm again."


Erwin Timeline from KSN&C provides evidence that disputes some KBE claims.

The State board meets at 10AM today in Frankfort,

Judge tosses contempt request against JCPS

A federal judge yesterday abruptly dismissed a Louisville lawyer's demand that Jefferson County Public Schools leaders be held in contempt and jailed unless they could prove students weren't still being denied a school choice because of race.

In a sharply worded ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II chastised attorney Teddy Gordon, who successfully challenged Jefferson County's student-assignment policy.

"Defendants need not respond to such an outrageous motion, couched in such unprofessional language," Heyburn wrote in a ruling that was issued before school district lawyers even had a chance to respond.

This week, Gordon filed a motion asking that an estimated 2,800 Jefferson County students assigned for the 2007-08 school year be given the option to attend different schools because they had been denied their school choice because of race.

Gordon argued that failing to do so violated the Supreme Court ruling, and he asked that school board members and administrators be held in contempt.

Heyburn ruled yesterday that Gordon and his client, Louisville parent Crystal Meredith, may disagree with the district's stance that it has taken steps to comply with the ruling -- dropping the use of race in assigning new and transfer students, but not making changes for students who were assigned before the ruling.

But he said they need to file an appropriate motion to make their case.

"Calling for contempt citations and incarceration of individual school board members and administrators will not advance the resolution of any legitimate concerns," Heyburn ruled, adding that the court would "gladly set an immediate hearing to discuss any future valid motions that require attention." ...

This from the Courier-Journal.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Good news: Interim education chief can't apply for full-time post

This from Antoinette Konz at the Courier-Journal: (My headings and ending)

Here's the good news

If the Kentucky Board of Education selects an interim commissioner tomorrow, that person won't be eligible to apply for the permanent post, the board chairman said yesterday.

Keith Travis said the board is looking for someone who can temporarily lead the state's education department while the search continues for a permanent commissioner.

"If you put an interim in and allow them to be a candidate for the permanent position, it may give them an unfair advantage for the permanent position, and it could discourage other applicants from applying," he said.

The board is expected to name an interim commissioner during a special board meeting tomorrow in Frankfort. Among those being considered is Leon Mooneyhan, a retired superintendent from Shelby County...

Here's the Not-so-good news

...Bonnie Lash Freeman, vice chairwoman of the board, said the board hopes that a large number of Kentucky applicants will apply for the position.

"We were a little disappointed that not too many (from Kentucky) applied last time around; we hope it will be different this time," said Freeman, who is from Louisville.

She said the board would like the interim person to serve "no more than two months."

"We want to get someone in the permanent position quickly, because we really need someone who can lead and help us move forward," she said.

Here's why that idea's not so hot

In the school business there is a hiring season - and this isn't it.

We don't need someone quickly - as much as we need someone excellent. The board is already unhappy with the results of its first national search. Nobody new is going to emerge in late July. Any superstars who were willing to move have already done so.

Select a solid interim and let that person get you through the gubernatorial election.

In the spring, political picture in Kentucky will be a settled issue and there will be a whole new crop of potential candidates. To the extent Kentucky's leaders commit to adequate funding for excellent schools, that crop will be improved.

Repeat the national search then.

Politics infects Commish selection.

Earlier today, Mark Hebert pointed out that Gary Tapp was actively opposing the appointment of Leon Mooneyhan as Commissioner.

Mark wrote: "One of the conservatives who's apparently in Sanders' corner is state Sen. Gary Tapp (R) Shelbyville. Tapp has made at least one phone call, that I'm aware of, to a political insider, asking for help in torpedoing the board's move to hire former Shelby County School Superintendent for the interim state job. Tapp told me he hasn't lobbied any member of the state board of education to kill Mooneyhan's bid. He refused to say whether he'd called anyone else or what problems he might have with a possible Mooneyhan appointment..."

Well here's one possible problem Tapp may have with Mooneyhan - but it has nothing to do with Mooneyhan's relative merits or demerits as an educator.

Mooneyhan was a supporter of then State Rep Larry Belcher in 2002 when he ran for an open seat in Bullitt, Spencer and Shelby counties against - wait for it - then Rep. Gary Tapp of Shelbyville.

Mooneyhan gave Belcher $500 in May and another $1000 in July.

The Principal Principle

Many things go into making a high school great,
but a strong, effective principal is always at the top of the list.

...So much goes into making a high school great: excellent teaching, vibrant student populations, creative classes, strong extracurriculars. The NEWSWEEK Challenge Index measures one: the number of IB and AP tests students take.

But just as important is the person who leads the school.

Good principals may seem unlikely superheroes—unless you're a student, teacher or parent. They set the tone for what happens from the moment the opening bell rings and can turn a troubled school around with a combination of vision, drive and very hard work. It's a 24/7 job. "Schools aren't just about just reading, writing and arithmetic anymore," says Penna. "School faculties now have the additional roles of mentor, adviser and quasi parent."

Principals also have to be politicians, crisis managers, cheerleaders, legal experts, disciplinarians, entertainers, coaches and persuasive evangelists for their school's educational mission. Add to that already daunting list the task of statistician, thanks to reams of data required by the federal No Child Left Behind law and local testing. "Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in data," says Jill Martin, the principal of Doherty High School in Colorado Springs, Colo., who won the 2007 Principal of the Year title from the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Who can fill that intimidating job description?

"It certainly helps to be somebody who doesn't need a lot of sleep," jokes Martin, 61, who, like Penna, routinely works 12- and 14-hour days and makes sure to show up at school plays and games on weekends. Endless energy does seem to be a requirement, as does a talent for getting the best out of a large team. "It no longer works to be the dictator or the sage on the stage," says Martin.

"You have to be a leader of instructional leaders. You have to be someone who can really motivate people to go the extra mile because the job of a teacher is far more difficult and complex than when I started teaching."

A good principal has to be up to speed on constantly expanding education research and know how to apply the latest data. Above all, says Martin, you have to be someone who understands teenagers' needs.

Although the demands of the school have changed in her 38 years as an educator, Martin says kids are the same: "They still want someone to care about them. The principal has to be someone who really loves kids and understands what it takes to motivate teachers to change every child's life." ...

This from Newsweek on MSNBC.

English, Math Time Up in 'No Child' Era

44% of Schools Polled Reduce Other Topics

In the five years since a federal law mandated an expansion of reading and math tests, 44 percent of school districts nationwide have made deep cutbacks in social studies, science, art and music lessons in elementary grades and have even slashed lunchtime, a new survey has found.

The most detailed look at the rapidly changing American school day, in a report released today, found that most districts sharply increased time spent on reading and math.

The report by the District-based Center on Education Policy, which focuses on a representative sample of 349 school districts, found recess and physical education the only parts of the elementary school day holding relatively steady since enactment of the No Child Left Behind measure in 2002.

The survey provides grist for critics who say the federal testing mandate has led educators to a radical restructuring of the public school curriculum in a quest to teach to new state tests. But backers of the law, which is up for renewal this year, say that without mastery of reading and math, students will be hampered in other areas.

This from the Washington Post.

We all know that most schools put the most instructional time into the assessed portions of the curriculum, but Margaret Spellings would prefer that you didn't give the study too much weight.

How 'speech' ruling hurts democracy

When I retired from public school administration I got the opportunity to teach - and to become a student again. I audited Jim Klotter's Kentucky History at Georgetown College. I also sat in on two journalism courses at UK; Buck Ryan's News Editing, and Opinion Writing taught by journalism veteran and newly minted Associated Professor Mike Farrell. Today the Courier-Journal ran Mike's Op-Ed on our precious First Amendment.

By Mike Farrell
Special to The Courier-Journal

The Supreme Court of the United States last month taught high school students a civics lesson.

The title was "The First Amendment guarantees less freedom for students than for adults."

...The First Amendment says nothing about maturity and doesn't mandate responsibility as a condition for enjoying freedom. Still, few who have taught or raised children want to see the public schools turned into a free speech zone where banners glorify drug use or student newspapers belittle teachers or fellow students.

Because this decision concerned speech that involved drug messages, it may do little damage to student speech. It may do greater damage to democracy.

A great deal is written, usually with great angst, about the lack of interest young people have in civics, public issues, voting and the news.

The Civic Literacy Initiative of Kentucky, led by Chief Justice Joseph Lambert and Secretary of State Trey Grayson, last year issued strong recommendations intended to re-engage students in our public life.

One way to do that is to encourage students to exercise their rights of free expression. The schools and the courts should consider whether this decision and other curbs on students' First Amendment rights are related to their lack of interest in public affairs. The percentage of young adults who vote in national elections is low.

A Kentuckian, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, wrote in 1927 "the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people" and "public discussion is a political duty." A generation that doesn't vote or keep up with national news is the foundation for an inert people.

The lesson students are taught by their schools and the Supreme Court is that they may be punished if their opinions are unpopular, even meaningless and silly. That can suggest to them that it is better not to form an opinion or at least not to express one...

... The First Amendment was never designed to protect popular opinion. It was designed to protect controversial speech. The First Amendment is not easy; it demands we let people speak and write even when we consider their ideas odious or silly, even if they are students. We should ask ourselves what we are teaching the leaders of tomorrow about freedom.