Friday, November 30, 2007

Teacher sex with older teens not illegal in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. --Reacting to the case of a high school band teacher accused of having sex with a student, a Kentucky lawmaker has become the latest state legislator to propose changing a law governing the age of consent.

J.R. Gray, a Democrat from western Kentucky, was disturbed to learn that teachers break no criminal laws by having sex with students, as long as the student is at least 16 years old and a willing participant...

This from the Herald-Leader and Cincinnati Post.

Draud to begin December 3, KBE to meet

H-L reports:

Now that Rep. Jon Draud has a new job, he will be resigning from his positions in the legislature and Northern Kentucky University.

On Sunday, the state Board of Education selected Draud, 69, a Republican legislator from Kenton County, to be state education commissioner in a unanimous vote.

Draud said he submitted his letters of resignation, including one to Governor-elect Steve Beshear. Both resignations will be effective Sunday. He starts the commissioner job Monday.

And this frorm a KDE press release:

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Kentucky Board of Education will hold its regular meeting on Thursday and Friday, December 6 and 7, in the State Board Room of the Capital Plaza Tower.

On Thursday, the board will meet in full session at 9 a.m., with the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee meeting after lunch. On Friday, the board’s Management Committee will meet at 9 a.m., and the board will meet in full session after the end of the committee meeting.

On Thursday morning, the board will present the annual Joe Kelly Award, which is given to businesspeople who have offered outstanding leadership and service toward promoting school improvement and equitable educational opportunities for all Kentucky children.

Agenda items include a draft report from the Commission on Interscholastic Athletics, discussions of proficiency and a review of items related to the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding formula.

A full agenda follows.

DECEMBER 6-7, 2007

Thursday, December 6, 2007

9:00 a.m. (EDT)

I. Call to Order

II. Roll Call

III. Approval of minutes from the October 3-4, 2007 regular meeting

IV. Report of the Secretary of the Education Cabinet

V. Report of the President of the Council on Postsecondary Education

VI. Report from the Kentucky Board of Education Chair on the Wallace Foundation National Conference titled "Education Leadership: A Bridge to School Reform" and on the Commissioner’s Search process

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. Full Board Items
A. Draft report from the Commission on Interscholastic Athletics -- Jane Adams Venters, Commission Chair; 60-minute presentation/discussion
B. 702 KAR 1:001, Implementation guidelines - Kentucky School Facilities Planning Manual (Review)-- Larry Stinson and Mark Ryles; 60-minute presentation/discussion
C. Hearing Officer's Report -- Kevin Noland; 10-minute presentation/discussion

XI. Presentation of the Joseph Kelly Award

XII. Lunch Honoring the Joseph Kelly Award Winner

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

XIII. Full Board Items (Cont'd)
D. Update on Adolescent Literacy - Jamie Spugnardi and Michael Miller; 45-minute presentation/discussion


XIV. Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee Meeting

A. Action/Discussion Items
1. Waiver for Daviess County Schools' Potential Commonwealth Diploma Recipients
2. 705 KAR 4:250, Energy Technology Engineering Career Pathway, Ordinary and Emergency Versions

B. Review Items
1. Update on the performance of students at the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) and the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) as indicated by CATS scores (Charts are confidential and under separate cover since some scores represent less than ten students)
2. What proficiency looks like

6:00 p.m. (EST)
(No business to be conducted)


Friday, December 7, 2007

9:00 a.m. (EST)

XV. Management Committee Meeting

A. Action/Consent Items
1. 2007-2008 Local District Tax Rates Levied
2. District Facility Plans: Bullitt County, Fort Thomas and Fulton Independent School Districts
3. District facility plan amendments: McCracken, Menifee and Montgomery Counties and Russellville Independent

B. Action/Discussion Items
1. Release of Frankfort Independent from a Declaration of Emergency
2. 702 KAR 3:130, Internal Accounting (Final)

C. Review Items
1. 702 KAR 3:270, SEEK Funding Formula
2. 702 KAR 7:065, Designation of Agent to Manage High School Interscholastic Athletics
3. KHSAA Annual Reporting Requirements
4. Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) Title IX update of Phase 2 of the 2007-2008 KHSAA Audit Visit Schedule


XVI. Full Board Items
A. 703 KAR 5:020, The formula for determining school accountability (Review)-- Ken Draut, Rhonda Sims and Kevin Hill; 20-minute presentation/discussion
B. 703 KAR 5:060, Interim Accountability Model, and the Concordance Model (Review) -- Ken Draut, Rhonda Sims and Kevin Hill; 20-minute presentation/discussion
C. 703 KAR 5:001, Assessment and Accountability Definitions (Review) -- Ken Draut, Rhonda Sims and Kevin Hill; 10-minute presentation/discussion

XVII. Approval of Action/Consent Agenda Items (approved as a block of items)
A. School District Tax Rates Levied
B. District facility plans

XVIII. Report of the Management Committee on Action/Discussion Items

XIX. Report of the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee on Action/Discussion Items

XX. Board Member Sharing

XXI. Information Items

A. KDE Employment Report

XXII. Litigation Report

XXIII. Internal Board Business

XXIV. Adjournment

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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Whitlock promotes Moberly at EKU, then C-J promptly demotes him.

This morning the Courier-Journal took a swipe at EKU President Doug Whitlock's promotion of House budget committee chairman Harry Moberly to what C-J called the position of "executive director for administration."

His "demotion" came as a surprise to those of us thought Whitlock promoted him to Executive Vice President for Administration.

In an e-mail sent to faculty yesterday Whitlock said,

"The University has a significantly underutilized administrative resource in Harry Moberly, Jr., Esq. Mr. Moberly has valuable experience at EKU, having been a fulltime faculty member for two years and having served as Director of Judicial Affairs and Services for Individuals With Disabilities for 17 years. In these, and other assignments at the University, he has demonstrated abilities in working with and through others to build consensus and achieve results. Further, his legislative experience as a member of the House Education Committee, Co-Chair of the Education Assessment & Accountability Review Subcommittee, Chair of the House Budget Subcommittee on Education and subsequently as Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations & Revenue, has given him an understanding of education at all levels and considerable budgetary expertise. His contributions have been recognized by virtually all of the major education advocacy organizations in the
Commonwealth. So that the University might more fully utilize his skills, I am appointing him as Executive Vice President for Administration.

Pointing to past "parochialism of local legislators" C-J suggests a conflict of interest saying,

" must judge whether it's a good thing that House budget committee chairman Harry Moberly Jr. now has an even bigger job at Eastern Kentucky University, over whose public funding he presides. Formerly director of Judicial Affairs and Services for Individuals With Disabilities at EKU, Rep. Moberly has been raised to executive director for administration, reporting directly to a president who, understandably, will be focused like a laser on how much taxpayer money his campus gets.

OK. I get the point. But I'm having a hard time imagining that Moberly hasn't been a loyal Eastern advocate for some time now. What has really changed?

Mountjoy tapped by Beshear for Education Cabinet Secretary

Helen Mountjoy, 61, of Utica, will head the Education Cabinet under Beshear. She has served since 2006 as executive vice president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation. Mountjoy, a Democrat, has also been a member of the Kentucky Chamber's Postsecondary Education Task Force and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Mountjoy was chair of the state board of education from 1998 to 2004. Previously she was a program specialist at the Hager Educational Foundation in Owensboro and director of alumni and public relations at Brescia University in Owensboro.

"Helen has a wealth of knowledge and experience in our state education system," Beshear said. Mountjoy said she looks forward to working with new state Education Commissioner Rep. John Draud, R-Edgewood. His long experience as a legislator will help the board of education when it comes to presenting a legislative agenda, she said.

This, and photo, from the State-Journal.

Students rally for rights @ EKU

Photo by Jessica House

Groups promote domestic benefits on campus

Domestic partner benefits has been a heavily-debated subject throughout the year both in Kentucky and throughout the nation. Legislators and citizens have butted heads concerning the possible ramifications of such policies, as well as misconceptions of what domestic partner benefits are.

...The topic reached Eastern Tuesday as students representing various groups, such as the Women's Studies Program and the Pride Alliance, gathered to petition and call for change on campus. "Our Web site claims we can have it all," said Zana Durbin, vice president of the Pride Alliance. "That's what we're asking for."

The event began on Powell corner earlier in the day as students stood outside in the cold passing out fliers and holding signs presenting the argument that equal rights was a necessity at Eastern.

Durbin said the project began in a class with only eight people, but grew exponentially once the Pride Alliance and her professor, who belongs to the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, got involved. As word spread, other groups, such as Student Government Association and the Honors Program, joined and the project gained legs leading to a proposal the groups recently pitched to Eastern President Doug Whitlock, Durbin said. "It's been kind of a grassroots movement that's spread," she said.

The rally in the ravine boasted five speakers representing different departments who all said domestic benefits are key for Eastern to grow as a university.

Richard Freed, a professor in the English department, said he was on the Board of Regents in 2000 when the faculty senate voted for equal benefits on campus, but the proposal was tabled and pushed aside. "I was told by our current president at the time, Hanley Funderburk, that it was too expensive and it (basically disappeared)," he said. ...

Meg Gunderson, a professor of English, theatre and women studies, spoke on how the refusal of Eastern to address domestic benefits is blatant discrimination. She said the faculty senate was ready in 2000 to make it law, but the administration was not ready.

...In addition to the speakers, people were encouraged to sign a petition that would be presented to Whitlock. Durbin said Whitlock was intrigued by their proposal, which also included the past documents from 2000 and UK's domestic partner plan.

Durbin said Whitlock promised to present the issue to the Board of Regents in the future.

This from Marty Finley at the Eastern Progress.
The following is the text of the speech delivered by Meg Gunderson who teaches in both the Dept. of English and Theater and the Dept. of Women’s Studies at Eastern:

Equality and Common Sense

Thank you to all of you for being here to support bringing benefits to all, not just some, EKU employees. Thank you to Jerry Thomas, professor of Minority Politics in our Dept. of Govt for encouraging this class project. Thank you to all the students involved in the project.

Today, I am of two minds: I am excited, I am troubled.
One: I am thrilled that we are here together to bring benefits equally to all EKU employees and their partners, regardless of with whom they may live… and regardless of whom they may love. At this moment, in this ravine, is this group of people who support equal benefits, equal access to health insurance, equal access to health care, equal access to a dentist visit, equal access to an eye exam, equal access to an antibiotic, equal access to a pap smear, and equal access to an x-ray.

I am glad we are here today; but I said I was of two minds: I am excited, I am troubled.
It is remarkable that we need to be here at all. Why would EKU choose to exclude some employees and their families from equal benefits? This issue is not a decision to make, nor a policy to consider, nor a debate in which to engage. Rather, treating each EKU employee equally is, quite simply, common sense.

We are at an institution of higher education, a place that values critical thought, that encourages the use of logic; yet, ironically, that same set of institutional values promotes a discriminatory policy. To knowingly and to willfully exclude any member of EKU’s staff or faculty from access to the same benefits offered to other employees and their families is discriminatory. A choice to exclude is a choice to discriminate.

Yet, I argue there should be no choice, nor debate. Instead, EKU’s administration must simply use common sense. Five years ago, EKU’s Faculty Senate recognized that some EKU staff and some EKU professors were prevented from insuring their partners, their loved ones, their children.

Imagine a room: a large, open space with beautiful woodwork on the walls, and soft leather chairs. In that room is a long table at which are seating 20 EKU employees, all of whom are respected, hard-working members of our community. Some of those employees clean classrooms, some cook food, some update software, and some of them teach students. Again, all 20 are respected, hard-working members of our community. Now imagine a policy that tells some of this group that their families are not covered by our insurance plans. Would you not ask, why?

Let’s examine what possible reasons we might be offered to explain why only some of those 20 wonderful, diligent employees should not have equal benefits when, after all, they perform equal work, and they perform that work equally well. Why should we discriminate against these employees?

Reason One: The bottom line. Money. To offer more people benefits costs more money. True. Yet, in a group insurance plan that already covers thousands, how much more cost is it to insure a few more? Very little. Three studies cited by the Human Rights Campaign all show that total benefits cost raised less than 2%, with most going up less than 1%, when an employer offered domestic partner benefits.

While there may be modest monetary cost to offer benefits to all, a lack of equal treatment of all EKU employees is greater. It is common sense that discrimination is more costly than equal benefits for all at EKU. What other reasons might our EKU
administrators offer to explain why we should not treat all employees equally?

Reason Two: Blame the insurer. Our administration may claim that EKU cannot cover domestic partners of EKU employees because the group insurance policy we now have does not include the term, “domestic partner.” Thus, it is not EKU, but rather our insurer, Anthem, that discriminates against some EKU employees and their families because Anthem does not offer coverage to domestic partners.

Could we use common sense to resolve this issue? Yes. EKU could insist that Anthem revises its group policy language to include the term, “domestic partner,” as it defines those included in the group coverage. What if Anthem’s corporate policy is discriminatory and denies coverage to some employees of groups it insures?

Could we use common sense to resolve this issue? Yes. Find another insurer. Yet, our administration may argue such a change would involve too much work. Perhaps they might even invoke reason one again – cost. The cost of labor either to change
our policy or our insurer is too expensive; to which I respond again: the cost of discrimination is more costly than equal benefits.

Reason Three: Now, we start digging more deeply as we mine the ethical consciousness of our institution. EKU administrators may argue that domestic partner benefits is such a contentious issue, that to offer equal benefits to an employee’s domestic partner would insult the beliefs of some EKU students and their families, let alone some of the alumni of EKU. There is no need to mince words here, so I label the most significant reason why domestic partner benefits are not
supported at EKU: fear of homosexuality and a belief that the only “right”sexuality is heterosexuality.

When we hear the term, domestic partner, many attribute it to a lesbian or gay couple.

This brings us to Reason Four: The slippery slope: if we acknowledge the right for lesbians and gays to have equal benefits, then before long, we will be forced to acknowledge their right to be married. We may even have to acknowledge the equal rights of bisexual and transgendered people, too. The equal rights of any citizen should be obvious. If EKU’s administration posits that offering benefits to a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered family is too upsetting to the beliefs of some members of the EKU community is, then it avoids the issue: to exclude any employee at EKU from equal benefits is an exclusionary and discriminatory policy.

Our EKU administration, in providing equal benefits to all employees and their families, regardless of with whom they live… or whom they love, can and should use common sense to end this discrimination.

In March of 2000 (seven years ago!) the Faculty Senate used common sense. It put forth a motion to bring equal benefits to all who work here at EKU. Every vote cast supported the proposal. None voted against it. Yet, the administration did not push it through, rather it chose to wait, it chose to deny equal benefits, it chose to discriminate against some employees and their families.

The entirety of the Faculty Senate in 2000 recognized that to offer equal benefits is common sense.

Given the administration stalled in 2000, we are brought to Reason Five: Wait. Now is not he time. If this logic were used in the past with other movements for equality,
we would be a very straight, very male, and very white institution. If EKU said wait to earlier movements for equality, this University would close its doors to students who are female, who are latino, who are asian, who are black, and to students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. If choosing not to discriminate against EKU students is common sense, then it is also common sense not to discriminate against EKU employees.

Thus far, I provide you with arguments that stem from our institution, and our space in eastern Kentucky. Let’s expand our view and look at some of our neighbors.

Not only is treating all employees equally common sense, it is also common practice. Other institutions of higher education in KY (not to mention many universities in other states) recognize the rights of all employees to have equal benefits, and they include: Univ. of KY, Univ. of Louisville, Berea College and Centre College. EKU can and should join this list; it is an issue of common sense.

Furthermore, should we look beyond the realm of academia, there are nearly 350 corporations that offer equal health benefits for domestic partners listed in the 2008 Corporate Equality Index compiled by the Human Rights Campaign (

If these institutions openly recognize the equal rights to benefits of all employees, why would EKU deny equal benefits?

I hope that soon, I will no longer be of two minds. I hope that soon, I will feel included in this community, rather than excluded simply because I am a lesbian. I want to feel that EKU will recognize my rights, my partner’s rights, and the rights of all my co-workers here at EKU.
After all, domestic partner benefits is common sense.

It is also an issue of common humanity. Treating EKU’s employees equally is an issue of equal human rights. Should an EKU administrator hear my words today, or look me in the eyes, I hope they see a human, a professor, a mentor, a worker deserving of the same benefits as other workers at EKU.

In this moment, EKU can uphold our role as a university that engages in critical thought, and logical decisions, or it can remain mired in outdated policies that maintain discriminatory practices.

Today, I offer a challenge to EKU. Be a force for change. Do not discriminate. Embrace equality. Show every employee at EKU that when they do equal work, they deserve equal benefits.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

C-J underwhelmed by Draud.

Today's editorial in the Courier-journal

The appointment of 69-year-old state Rep. Jon Draud, R-Edgewood, as Kentucky's education commissioner is something of a disappointment.

Obviously, we hope things work out well, but if they don't, blame the state Board of Education, which stubbornly refused to reopen the process for a second national search, after the initial choice proved an embarrassment.

...One wonders about Mr. Draud's values, given the piece he wrote after some celebrated school shootings, blaming the First Amendment and suggesting it shouldn't bar the government from stopping the entertainment industry from teaching kids violence.

...As a legislator, he keeps up with issues. His votes occasionally cross party lines. Some find his self-confidence off-putting, but journalists who have covered him generally give him good marks.

Critics will watch closely to see whether Mr. Draud has the physical stamina and creative energy this job requires. It's a hands-on job. And there's no time for tucking them under one's backside.

Mr. Draud will have a honeymoon period in which to show where he's headed. If it turns out he's carrying water for the private school lobby, or favors the narrow agenda of right-wing K-12 fundamentalism, that quickly will be obvious. But then so will a wiser course.

Partner benefits rally planned tomorrow at EKU

A group of students wants Eastern Kentucky University to be the next public school to offer domestic partner benefits to faculty and staff.

The students will hold a rally tomorrow in support of EKU extending health benefits to unmarried couples, both gay and straight.

...A university committee is looking at the possibility of offering such benefits, EKU President Doug Whitlock said in an interview last night.

"It is certainly being reviewed," said Whitlock, who was approached earlier this month by two students asking that the university offer partner benefits.

Whitlock said he told the students that he "believes in fundamental fairness" and that he thought institutions should be allowed to decide what benefits they offer. He also told the students of the benefits committee's review.

Whitlock, who took office last month, said he has not had an opportunity to discuss the issue with the university's board of regents.

Tomorrow's rally is being organized by the EKU Pride Alliance, a student group focused on gay, lesbian and transgender issues, said university spokesman Marc Whitt. It will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the EKU Ravine.

Kentucky Fairness Alliance Executive Director Christine Gilgor is scheduled to speak at the rally.

This from the Courier-Journal.

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.

Louisville public schools approves bias protection for gay, lesbian workers

This from Toni Konz at the Courier-Journal

RELATED VIDEO: School board meeting on gay-bias policy

The Jefferson County Board of Education voted late last night to extend employment, discrimination and harassment protection to gay, lesbian and bisexual workers.

The 4-3 vote came after more than two hours of heated comments from about 50 people who supported or opposed the policy change.While they spoke, supporters in the crowd held up signs reading, “Fairness for All” and “Protect all Workers,” while opponents raised signs that said, “Protect the Children.”

About 400 people attended, and some had to sit in an overflow room because the board room at the Van Hoose Education Center, 3332 Newburg Road, reached its capacity almost an hour before the start. Some arrived in church vans.

The Fairness Campaign of Louisville — as well as several gay, lesbian and transgender employees, students and parents — had asked the board to include both sexual orientation and transgender status in the district’s employment and harassment policies...

Kids name their class teddy bear 'Muhammad,' teacher arrested

A British schoolteacher has been arrested in Sudan
accused of insulting Islam's Prophet,
after she allowed her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad

SUDAN -Colleagues of Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, said she made an "innocent mistake" by letting the six and seven-year-olds choose the name.

Ms Gibbons was arrested after several parents made complaints.

The BBC has learned the charge could lead to six months in jail, 40 lashes or a fine.

Officials from the British embassy in Khartoum are expected to visit Ms Gibbons in custody.

"We are in contact with the authorities here and they have visited the teacher and she is in a good condition," an embassy spokesman said.

The spokesman said the naming of the teddy happened months ago and was chosen by the children because it is a common name in the country.

"This happened in September and the parents did not have a problem with it," he said.

The school has been closed until January for fear of reprisals.

This from the BBC.

Kentucky Post wants Draud, Beshear to shoot higher

This from the Kentucky Post.

The Kentucky Board of Education certainly did not make the same mistake twice in its year-long search for a new commissioner. Burned earlier this year when post-hiring questions led to the withdrawal of an out-of-state candidate, the board has now turned to a well-known figure from Northern Kentucky: Jon Draud....

...In short, Draud's educational background and his intimate understanding of the political process ought to be a big asset in his new job, which makes him responsible for more than 668,000 students in a state that, while it continues to bask in the glow of reforms passed 17 long years ago, is actually struggling to catch up with much of the rest of the nation.

From the tenor of comments given to reporters in the wake of his hiring, it appears that Draud's initial tasks include securing more funding for public pre-school programs, improving performance on federally-mandated proficiency tests and reviving enthusiasm for the 1990 school reform agenda.

This makes sense as far as it goes. The benefits of a nurturing, stimulating environment during the first years of life have been amply documented, and in many communities, particularly those where poverty is rampant, the public schools are a logical avenue for helping families provide such an environment during the day. And Kentucky has properly set a goal of having every school reach "proficient'' levels on its accountability testing system by 2014. But, as school board chairman Joe Brothers noted, while many elementary schools on are track to meet that goal, only 25 percent of middle schools and 12 percent of high schools are now at that level.
Those are challenging tasks, but we hope that Draud and governor-elect Steve Beshear aim even higher.

The goal, particularly here in Northern Kentucky, must be to improve the overall quality of education well beyond proficient - to expand the depth and reach and variety of offerings and increase the number of students successfully going on to college. Eight of the 14 districts in Northern Kentucky, after all, already meet all their federal No Child Left Behind targets, and five of the six that don't missed this year on just one or two measures. Only Covington, which met just eight of 16 targets, can be fairly said to be struggling to achieve the minimum standards system wide.

What most of our districts need is a structure and a set of incentives that are flexible enough and aggressive enough to promote quality, to capitalize on the resources of the region and push students and educators to reach further than they are now.

Given that the state board of education dismissed Beshear's request to launch a new search for a commissioner (and, implicitly, to reject Draud and the other finalists), the relationship between Draud and the new governor will probably be tentative, at least initially. But both men are pragmatists and appear to be big thinkers. Both must realize there's an enormous amount of work to be done. Hence, we expect Beshear to be as a sincere as we are in extending congratulations to Jon Draud.

Now, please, gentlemen, get to work.

Hughes: Gracious in defeat

HARDIN COUNTY — Richard Hughes believes the new education commissioner will lead the state in the right direction, even though he wasn’t selected for the position.Hughes, former superintendent of Hardin County Schools, will continue teaching at Morehead State University.

Hughes and two other candidates lost out Sunday to Jon Draud for the state education commissioner position.Hughes said he felt the board was very conscientious in selecting the best candidate for the state.“I think it was a very open and fair process,” he said.Hughes said he “would’ve loved to have had the position,” but it would have been difficult for the board to have found a better person for the job than Draud.

“He is one of the most capable and caring administrators that I know of,” Hughes said.Draud is a state representative for the 63rd District, and formerly was an associate professor at Northern Kentucky University and superintendent of the Ludlow Independent school district, according to a Kentucky Department of Education news release.Hughes said he has no immediate plans beyond teaching graduate-level leadership courses at Morehead State...

This from the News-Enterprise.

Educators agree with board’s pick

This from the Glasgow Daily Times:

GLASGOW — Area educators are pleased with the Kentucky Board of Education’s choice for commissioner.

...Dr. Sam Dick, superintendent of Caverna Independent Schools, likes the fact that Draud has experience, not only as a superintendent, but as a state legislator. “Of course I do not know this individual personally, but he certainly seems to be able to bridge two worlds for us,” he said. “He has seen both sides of what it takes and that is one of the things that impresses me. My expectations are high.”

One of the obstacles for many educators across the state is conveying their needs to the General Assembly.

Bill Ritter, interim superintendent for Glasgow Independent Schools, agreed with Dick and said, “I also like the fact that he is a proven Kentucky educator and very familiar with the Kentucky Reform Act of 1990 for educational improvements.”

Dr. Jerry Ralston, superintendent of Barren County Schools, does know Draud and said he was a good choice for the job. “I think he is a very experienced educator,” Ralston said. “I think he will understand how to approach the General Assembly and get the funding we need to address issues, such as assessment, instruction and facilities and he will know how to take the approach to get the funding in our districts to meet our needs.”

Pat Hurt, superintendent of Metcalfe County Schools, also knows Draud personally.She worked with him while employed with the Kentucky Department of Education. Draud served on school audit teams and Hurt became acquainted with him while he was involved with that aspect of education. “I think it speaks volumes of a gentleman who is no longer working in schools,” she said. Hurt believes Draud has always had an interest in what it takes to improve Kentucky’s schools and has continued to keep his “ear to the ground” in regards to that issue. “I think he is in it for the right reasons,” she said...

Monday, November 26, 2007

More coverage of the Draud selection

This from the Herald-Leader:

Draud said two words that will define his work are cooperation and collaboration.

"We've got to get people cooperating together to be successful," he said.

One of his top priorities when the General Assembly meets in January will be to get funding for early childhood education. Another priority will be to help every school meet the state's goal of reaching proficiency status by 2014 in the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System.

"A high percentage of elementary schools are on track to be proficient by that time," said Joe Brothers, chairman of the Kentucky Board of Education. But the number drops to 25 percent of middle schools, he said, and 12 percent of high schools.

Asked whether meeting the 2014 goal was possible, Draud said, "I wouldn't have taken the position if I didn't think it was possible." But, he added, "It's going to be a very, very difficult challenge."

It will take participation of business and civic leaders working with educators to create "a sense of urgency" about education. Draud plans to ask the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to spearhead regional meetings to champion education.

"We can't do it just with teachers and administrators and school superintendents," he said.

And this from the Courier-Journal.

"I am confident that I can provide the leadership necessary to accomplish the education goals of our commonwealth," he said. "I feel very well-prepared for this position. Kentucky's education stakeholders have offered tremendous support, and I feel a sense of urgency to rekindle the spirit of the reform movement of 1990 so that our schools can reach proficiency." ...

...Brothers said one factor that helped board members decide that Draud was the best person for the job was "the number and the status of folks who wrote letters of support for him."

He said diverse groups such as the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, the Education Professional Standards Board, the Kentucky School Boards Association and the Kentucky Education Association all supported Draud as their top candidate.

Bill Scott, executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association, said yesterday that Draud's background as both a state legislator and a public school educator will give him a unique opportunity to "bridge both worlds as education

"His experience will give him a tremendous network of relationships to draw on as he helps lead Kentucky schools forward," Scott said.

Photo by Joe Munson at the Kentucky Post.

Flash Poll #5 Results

Well, Flash Poll #5 is history and a few brave souls undertook the task of looking deep into the minds of our board of education and prognosticating the future. One reader thought KBE might reopen the search and 7 went for the fake and KBE would do something really stupid. But eight geniuses foresaw the truth that Jon Draud would be named the new Commish.

The last question remains unresolved, but ten seers think Governor-elect Steve Beshear will soon opened a new search - for Kentucky Board of Education members.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – During a special-called meeting today, the Kentucky Board of Education announced that it has selected Jon Draud as Kentucky’s commissioner of education.

Draud was one of four finalists for the position, which was vacated in November 2006. Kevin M. Noland, deputy commissioner and general counsel for the Kentucky Department of Education, has served as interim commissioner during this time.

“The board is very pleased with the selection of Jon Draud as commissioner,” said chair Joe Brothers. “He has been a middle and high school teacher, a school principal, a district superintendent, member of a local board of education and a legislator. Jon has won numerous awards in the positions in which he has served. The breadth and depth of his experience are evidence of his strong commitment to education, and he has received the support of our education partners, legislators and citizenry.”

“I applied for the position of commissioner because I am confident that I can provide the leadership necessary to accomplish the education goals of our Commonwealth,” said Draud. “I feel very well prepared for this position. Kentucky’s education stakeholders have offered tremendous support, and I feel a sense of urgency to rekindle the spirit of the reform movement of 1990 so that our schools can reach proficiency. Cooperation and collaboration will be the keys to our success.”

Draud is currently a state legislator, representing Kentucky’s 63rd District, and has been vice-chair of the House Education Committee since 1999.

He also serves as director of School/University Partnerships at Northern Kentucky University. Draud has served as an associate professor at NKU; superintendent of the Ludlow Independent school district; assistant superintendent of Lockland (Ohio) Public Schools; member of the Kenton County Board of Education; and a school principal and teacher.

He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Kentucky University; a master’s degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati; and a doctorate from the University of Cincinnati.

Among his many honors, Draud is a 2007 recipient of the Paul Mason Legislative Advocate for Children Award, presented by the Kentucky Parent Teacher Association. He also served on the Southern Regional Education Board’s board of directors in 2005 and has served on many state government task forces.

The process to select a commissioner of education began when the board identified the desired characteristics of a successful candidate. A nationwide search was conducted to recruit candidates, and the board strongly encouraged Kentucky candidates to apply. The board solicited and received input from stakeholder groups, the general public and references. More than 50 applications were received, with approximately half from Kentuckians. The board narrowed the applicants to a list of semi-finalists, then selected four finalists for interviews.

Draud will begin work immediately, but his official start date has not yet been determined. His salary will be $220,000 per year, plus housing and relocation expenses. Draud will enter into a four-year contract with the board.

SOURCE: KDE press release.
Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer

Brad Hughes at KSBA reports, "His exact start date has not been set, as he must resign his position in the House of Representatives and wrap up a post he holds at Northern Kentucky University."

Background on Draud from Kentucky School News and Commentary.

Hebert says it's Draud

This from Mark Hebert @ WHAS:

Draud Will Be New Education Commissioner

WHAS 11 News has learned that State Representative Jon Draud will have a new title on Sunday, Kentucky Education Commissioner.

Sources familiar with the search for a new school chief tell me that they expect the republican from Northern Kentucky to be approved by the State School Board. In a phone conversation this evening, Draud would neither confirm nor deny that he expects to be the next commissioner, saying that announcement needs to come from the board. But Draud did say that he plans to be at the special school board meeting Sunday afternoon in Frankfort....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kentucky initiative will help adults finish degrees

Kentucky will announce an initiative Monday aimed at helping working adults with a large number of college credits -- but no diploma -- finish their bachelor's degrees.
Project Graduate, which will target 11,000 adults age 25 to 50 with 90 or more credit hours, is being led by the state's Council on Postsecondary Education. A typical bachelor's degree requires 120 to 125 college credits.

"They're awfully close to being able to complete a degree," said Brad Cowgill, the council's interim president. "We want to find out who they are and say, 'Welcome back.' "

As part of the effort, the state's eight public universities have developed plans to reach out to former students, and the state's independent colleges are developing similar plans. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System also is participating...

This from the Courier-Journal.

Catholic Diocese finishing payments to victims of abuse

The final payments are going out to victims of sexual abuse in the $85 million class-action settlement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington.

Each of the more than 350 victims in the case will receive 100 percent of what two special masters determined they should get.

While the money helps, it doesn't heal old wounds caused by sexual abuse and doesn't absolve the church from its responsibility to victims, say two abuse victims who now work as advocates for others.

"Sadly, settlement alone does not equal recovery," said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, who works as outreach coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The settlement is between the Covington Diocese and more than 350 people abused by priests and diocese employees since the 1950s in 57 counties across a large swath of Kentucky. It calls for victims to receive from $5,000 to $1 million based on the severity and duration of the abuse they suffered. Some money has also been set aside to pay for counseling for abuse victims...

This from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

C-J: Targeting for success in JCPS

We long have advocated a massive infusion of resources -- a critical mass of help -- for the truly struggling schools in Jefferson County's public system, so the proposal from Superintendent Sheldon Berman to jump-start progress, eventually in more than 40 elementaries, with smaller class sizes, full-time school nurses and retooled lessons makes some sense to us.

Doing more for a smaller number of schools might give this kind of targeting a better chance to show results, but the system's new leader deserves the opportunity to put his best ideas to the test at the five pilot sites he chooses...

...As for reducing class size, this has intuitive appeal. Teachers who have fewer students to reach should be able to do more for each of them. And there is a body of research that suggests smaller classes do produce positive results in performance -- sometimes lasting results.

However, other research suggests real, durable results require classes of, say, 15 or fewer students. And the program Dr. Berman has in mind wouldn't finance classes that small.

The EPE Research Center notes, "In recent years, reducing class size has gained increasing prominence as a school-improvement strategy. Some 40 states now have class-size reduction initiatives in place. … Teacher unions routinely tout class-size reduction as an alternative to private school vouchers."

However, smaller class size could complicate the task of finding enough truly qualified teachers. It also could create serious space dilemmas at some schools...

...Reduced class size enjoys a better reputation today, as an improvement strategy, than it did in 1988 when a landmark U.S. Department of Education report said any major attempt to apply it in the public schools would be very expensive and probably "a waste of money." But the best results require truly small classes and teachers who know how to use them.

This editorial from the Courier-Journal.

New commissioner to carry on reform efforts

Tomorrow afternoon the Kentucky Board of Education plans to announce their pick for the next education commissioner. Assuming there are no last minute changes of heart about defying the advice of Governor-elect Steve Beshear their choice ought to be Jon Draud. Of course, this is exactly the kind of thing one hates to say out loud, given the board's contrary nature and propensity for choosing the wrong path.

Mark Hebert reports the chatter:

This Kentucky state lawmaker from northern Kentucky has heard rumors that he's the favorite to be the next School Commissioner. And Jon Draud isn't the only one hearing that. The other rumored favorite for the job, former Florida state school chief Jim Warford has also heard Draud is the favorite. But both candidates say school board members and Chairman Joe Brothers haven't tipped their hands, only telling them what they're telling me.

“We will vote and select a Commissioner, to be announced Sunday afternoon,”
says Brothers.

This recap and look ahead from Joe Biesk at the Associated Press as reported by WHAS TV.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky’s new education commissioner, unlike predecessors who were chasing distant goals, will face the looming task of leading the state closer toward completing its education reform movement started nearly 20 years ago.

The Kentucky Education Reform Act, passed by the General Assembly in 1990, called for sweeping changes and accountability within the state’s system of educating its youngsters. Its goal of having all Kentucky students reach the level of proficiency is targeted for 2014.

To reach those goals, the next commissioner needs to help re-energize an education system that still has many schools consistently lagging behind, said Bob Sexton, executive director of the Prichard Committee.

“The biggest one (duty) is kind of energizing the movement that we’ve had here for many years, giving it a big boost of forward motion—particularly aimed at reaching the goals that have been established for 2014,” Sexton said. “The commissioner will be challenged to find ways to help move forward the schools that are chronically not moving forward—the ones that are not making progress that will get them to or very close to their goal.”

The Kentucky Board of Education was expected to settle on a new commissioner Sunday.

Kentucky, a state that has been known nationally for its school reform efforts, has been without a commissioner since Gene Wilhoit left last year for a job with an education organization in Washington. Wilhoit’s departure sparked a year of upheaval.

First the board, with the help of a search firm, hired Illinois educator Barbara Erwin. She accepted the job, but bailed out shortly before she was supposed to start because of “noise by the media” concerning her work background.

Shortly after, the 11-member board appointed by Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher installed Wilburn Joe Brothers as chairman over Keith Travis who remains on the board.

Most recently, the panel ignored Gov.-elect Steve Beshear’s request to reopen its search so that more candidates could apply. Beshear, a Democrat who defeated letcher earlier this month, thought the state’s recent uncertain political climate may have discouraged some potential candidates from coming forward.

Nevertheless, the board opted to continue its search and select from a group of four finalists that included: Republican state Rep. Jon Draud, a retired superintendent of the Ludlow school district; Richard Hughes, a retired Hardin County school superintendent; Larry Vick, the Owensboro school superintendent; and Jim Warford, a former chancellor of the Florida Department of Education.

Kentucky has had three education commissioners since the General Assembly passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990.

Thomas Boysen was the first, holding the post from 1991-1995. Wilmer “Bill” Cody was the second, before Wilhoit who was the longest-serving appointed commissioner.

Kentucky’s first three commissioners started their tenures in the early stages of the reform effort when the target date for proficiency was still many years away, Sexton said. It’s possible that Wilhoit’s successor could still be commissioner when 2014 finally rolls around, he said.

KERA came about after a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling found the state’s schools were inadequate. The General Assembly overhauled Kentucky’s school system, seeking to even out school funding throughout the state.

It implemented, among other things, an accountability system and gave more power to local education officials.

Melissa Evans-Andris, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Louisville, said Kentucky is still perceived as a one of the “leaders of the pack” nationally about 17 years after KERA passed.

The education reform set Kentucky up for some of the provisions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Evans-Andris said. A strong commissioner is necessary to be a public advocate for Kentucky schools and carry out the board of education’s direction, she said.

“The primary goal for the new commissioner is to get a grip on what agenda has already been established,” Evans-Andris said.

Results from the Kentucky Core Content Tests released last month showed many students scored well in reading, most of the more than 428,000 students scored either “proficient” or “distinguished.”

Seventy-two-percent of the elementary students scored either proficient or distinguished in reading, while about 21.5 were apprentice and 5.8 were novice. High school students didn’t fare as well, as the percentage of pupils scoring either proficient or distinguished dropped to 60.1 percent, with 34.9 percent at the apprentice level and 5 percent as novice.

But in math and science, only 39.3 percent of high school students were proficient or distinguished in math and 41.7 percent in science.

According to the latest test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Kentucky’s eighth graders were performing near the national average in math and above the national average in reading.

Still, not all schools are on a trajectory to reach proficiency by 2014, said Stephen Miller, an associate professor of educational foundations, at the University of Louisville. If schools are still off course three or four years from now, that could prompt questions such as whether the goals are too high or are more resources needed, Miller said.

“Time is of the essence,” Miller said. “We can’t wait. We need to start thinking about those things now and the new commissioner is going to have to address those things pretty early on.”

A new commissioner, along with the new governor, need to work together to bring in a refreshed sense of urgency to help the consistently lagging schools turn around, Sexton said.

“We need some new energy and some new thinking,” Sexton said. “Every state is struggling with the chronically underperforming schools and we really need to pay
attention to that.”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A half adequate education in Kentucky?

The Prichard Committee recently released a report that looked at funding for education in Kentucky since 1990 and the impact of benefit expenses on the delivery of educational services to students. The study suggests that the rising insurance and benefit costs for school employees have eaten into that funding that might have otherwise gone for programs that directly impact children.

The report authored by Susan Weston and Steve Clements offers a review of major trends in state funding from the earliest implementation of the Kentucky Education Reform Act in fiscal year 1991 through the budget recently enacted for fiscal year 2008.

Susan Perkins Weston, an attorney, is the former executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Councils, now doing some consulting. Stephen Clements is the director of the University of Kentucky's Institute for Educational Research and a faculty member of the Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation.

Weston and Clements note the resurgence of public conversation surrounding the funding of Kentucky’s public schools in recent years; a conversation that had languished for the previous decade and a half.

They also point to the state’s fiscal and budget crises from 2002 to 2005 and its impact on school funding: Cuts to extended school services and textbooks while regional service centers and school rewards were axed.

In 2004, teacher protests forced a special legislative session to commit extra funding to health insurance for state and school district employees.

In 2006, after state revenues had recovered, the General Assembly increased school funding substantially, targeting teacher salaries and adding two days to the calendar.

Their analysis revealed:

  • Kentucky took a major step in state support for education efforts from 1990 to 1992.

  • Those efforts continued from 1992 to 1996, completing start-up investments and adding funds to ongoing initiatives with limited additional dollars.

  • New initiatives and an extra investment in technology were added from 1996 to 2000.

  • Funding took a step backward from 2000 to 2004, reflecting overall state fiscal difficulties.

  • An important recovery from 2004 to 2008 served mainly to keep up and catch up with growing costs for existing efforts.

  • In every period since 1992, inflation and faster-than-inflation growth in benefit costs consumed a major portion of the total increases.
The study focused mainly on state funding since state dollars cover the bulk of P-12 schooling costs and are directly controllable by Kentucky’s lawmakers.

Funding is not the only element needed to provide academic excellence for Kentucky’s children, but it is one essential component deserving of steady attention and wide participation. And it is especially important to know how much of Kentucky’s education-directed resources are being spent on programs to improve student achievement and how much are being consumed by such areas as rising health insurance and benefit costs.

In the end, expanded services need to reach the children who need them, if all are, indeed, going to achieve proficiency.

Weston and Clements chose the metaphor of a half-full glass (or was it half-empty?) to illustrate their view of Kentucky's school funding circumstance. I have tended to think of it as how much gas you have in the tank, because reaching any goal always depends on how far you want to go.

So what is an "adequate" education? Well...that depends, because it changes.

When Kentucky began its system of schools in 1837, a Kentuckian could be considered "educated" with a 4th grade skill set. The goal of the common school movement was free public grammar schools.

The industrial revolution needed more skilled workers, and by 1900, it became obvious that the new goal needed to be a high school education for Kentucky citizens. It took more funding to get there but with the new century came high schools in every county and a "nornal school" in every region. Americans were uncommonly proud of their schools; schools upon which a great democratic society was being built.

Kentucky is at a crossroads once again. The level of education among the workforce needs to be advanced if Kentucky is to continue to prosper. The global imperatives of the information age make the new basic level of education a college degree.

Anything less will be inadequate to keep pace with our competition.

Kentucky must travel the road that leads to more college graduates. But do we have the fuel to get us there?

At the p-12 level, we talk about this in terms of each and every child reaching "proficiency;" which opens the door to a college education for all.

Weston and Clements talk about adequacy this way:


Ultimately, the big question is: do Kentucky schools have the financial resources they need to deliver proficiency for all students?

Proficiency is the short definition of what an “efficient system of common schools,” as explicated by Rose v. Council for Better Education (the 1989 state Supreme Court decision that preceded KERA), should deliver.

Naturally, the question could be broken down into several parts: What efforts are needed to deliver proficiency? Are there special efforts needed for students with unusually intense learning challenges, including those with exceptional disabilities, those with grave poverty challenges and those with limited English?

What will it cost, on an ongoing basis, to deliver that mix of services?

What transitional costs are required to get there, such as added professional development, added or reconfigured facilities, and other help to retool in preparation for using use new approaches? Are the most appropriate mechanisms in place for ensuring that schools and districts make decisions that will most effectively lead to proficiency?

Is that revenue, in fact, being provided?

The Rose Opinion reads, "The system of common schools must be adequately funded to achieve its goals. The system of common schools must be substantially uniform throughout the state. Each child, every child, in this Commonwealth must be provided with an equal opportunity to have an adequate education."

"Proficiency" is indeed a short definition for an efficient system. Among the essential, and minimal, characteristics of an "efficient" system of common schools Chief Justice Robert Stephens included,
1. The establishment, maintenance and funding of common schools in Kentucky is the sole responsibility of the General Assembly.
2. Common schools shall be free to all.
3. Common schools shall be available to all Kentucky children.
4. Common schools shall be substantially uniform throughout the state.
5. Common schools shall provide equal educational opportunities to all Kentucky children, regardless of place of residence or economic circumstances.
6. Common schools shall be monitored by the General Assembly to assure that they are operated with no waste, no duplication, no mismanagement, and with no political influence.
7. The premise for the existence of common schools is that all children in Kentucky have a constitutional right to an adequate education.
8. The General Assembly shall provide funding which is sufficient to provide each child in Kentucky an adequate education.
9. An adequate education is one which has as its goal the development of the seven [enumerated] capacities...

SOUREC: Rose v. Council for Better Education, 790 S. W. 2d 186.

Several 2003 studies found that Kentucky’s 2002 education funding was falling short of needed levels, and a lawsuit brought by the Council for Better Education used those findings and data on student achievement progress to seek new legislative action. In 2007, the Franklin Circuit Court ruled that student progress was rapid enough to preclude a court ruling for more funding— but added that a suit might be proper if progress slowed down.

I find this analysis somewhat incomplete, particularly as regards the separation of powers argument. Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate said it was not the court's role to dictate to the legislature a specific method for determining whether the schools are being adequately funded. In the Rose case, lead attorney Bert Combs carefully avoided seeking a specific remedy for fear the whole case might fall - as it did in Wingate's court. Instead, Combs sought only a declaratory judgment that left solutions to the legislature.

The CBE leadership chose not to appeal the decision. Whether in or out of court, the
debate on funding sufficient to support adequate education is sure to continue into the future.

Whatever the next steps in the academic debate, adequacy is also an issue for Kentucky’s citizens. However complex it may be to work out what our children need and however strenuous it may be to fund those needs, it is our shared duty to seek understanding and to work together to provide the learning that is right and good for the next generation.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

President Abraham Lincoln had always expressed the quandary of God’s presence during the Civil War.

In September 1862 Lincoln was increasingly concerned by the tremendous growth of causalities. Following the disastrous loss at the second battle of Bull Run he wrote a Meditation on the Divine Will.

“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God can not be for and against the same thing at the same time,” Lincoln wrote.

But to most Americans - north or south - God was on their side. Union and Confederate soldiers both prayed to the same God. Both read the same Bible. Both invoked the same God to aid him in battle against the other side.

Lincoln’s thoughts read like an ancient philosopher’s argument. “By his mere quiet power on the minds of new contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

In a country split and ravaged by war - truth, for Lincoln, had begun to dawn. God was not at America’s beckoned call. America was at his.

In October 1863, with the Union victory in the Civil War all but assured, President Abraham Lincoln was looking for ways to reunite the country. He proclaimed a national holiday to be spent in reflection – a day of thanksgiving.

The proclamation, written by his Secretary of State William Seward, called upon each citizen to regard America’s vigorous growth despite the long war. “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.”

Once again, America finds itself in a war – not a civil war but one that divides us spiritually nonetheless.

As we pause to celebrate Thanksgiving 2007, and acknowledge our blessings, let us also remember our disobedience and “commend to His tender care those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers” in our present conflict.

First-grader suspended over drawing

Six-year-old allegedly threatened other students
as well, school reported

EAGLE POINT — A first-grader was suspended Tuesday for drawing a stick figure shooting another in the head with a gun and allegedly threatening students.

Little Butte School officials sent 6-year-old Ryan Weathers home after receiving complaints from parents saying he threatened their children, said Douglas Weathers, the boy's father.

"He's not a violent kid," Weathers said. "He did not mean any harm."

School district officials declined to comment. State law bars them from discussing disciplinary actions against specific students.

The disciplinary report given to Weathers stated the reason for the suspension was the boy "threatened to shoot two girls in the head." ...
This from the Mail Tribune.

Girl, 13, gets detention for hugging two friends

Illinois middle school bans public displays of affection;
parents urge change

MASCOUTAH, Ill. - Two hugs equals two days of detention for 13-year-old Megan Coulter.

The eighth-grader was punished for violating a school policy banning public displays of affection when she hugged two friends Friday.

“I feel it is crazy,” said Megan, who was to serve her second detention Tuesday after classes at Mascoutah Middle School.

“I was just giving them a hug goodbye for the weekend,” she said...

...District Superintendent Sam McGowen said that he thinks the penalty is fair and that administrators in the school east of St. Louis were following policy in the student handbook.

It states: “Displays of affection should not occur on the school campus at any time. It is in poor taste, reflects poor judgment, and brings discredit to the school and to the persons involved.” ...

This from

Teacher loses fight to take gun to class

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - An Oregon high school English teacher will not be allowed to carry her gun to school, a state circuit court ruled on Friday in a decision closely watched by both sides of the gun debate.

Shirley Katz, who has a legal permit to carry a concealed handgun, argued she needed the Glock semi-automatic pistol to protect herself from her ex-husband. She sued the school district when it told her carrying a gun was against a district policy prohibiting guns.

Circuit Judge G. Philip Arnold agreed with the district, saying "The District has a right to enforce this policy." he noted that employees "accept their jobs subject to, and knowing, the policy."

"We are pleased," said Dr. Phil Long, superintendent of the Medford School District. "This case was a distraction from our real mission, which is educating children."

The teacher had support from pro-gun rights groups. In light of multiple school shootings, some gun advocates have argued that teachers, and maybe even students, should be armed to prevent such tragedies in the future...

This from Yahoo News.

Is this the end of cursive writing?

In today's schools, the keyboard is king.
But studies suggests that penmanship still matters.

Second-grade teacher Diane Arciero waves her hand – draped in a homemade, white bunny puppet – from side to side in time to "If You're Happy and You Know It" playing on her classroom's CD player.

As the song reaches its familiar refrain, the 24 students in her class at Boston's Hugh R. O'Donnell Elementary School join in singing with her and the bunny: "Where do you start your letter? At the top!" they shout, pointing index fingers in the air in unison.

It's hardly the handwriting instruction most American adults grew up with, but cursive traditionalists are happy to see any type of instruction. Their revered written art is an endangered species given the rise of computers, the growing proportion of class time spent preparing for standardized tests, and the increasing perception that cursive writing is a difficult and pointless exercise. Yet new evidence suggests there are benefits to mastering this skill – including higher SAT scores – that don't appear until long after traditional instruction ends in fifth grade. It's a controversial claim.

Cursive's proponents point to less-practical benefits as well. The romantic allure, for one. "When you look in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, you don't see printed invitations," says Janie Cravens, who taught for 25 years in Alabama and Georgia. "Despite what many people seem to think these days, there's still demand for calligraphers and people who can write in cursive beautifully." She is vice president of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting based in Webster, N.Y.

"You still need to be able to write a signature and a personal thank-you note as well as read cursive," says Cathy Van Haute, a pediatric occupational consultant. And "you can't tell me everyone has easy access to a computer."

Robert Martin, principal of O'Donnell Elementary, agrees. "It's a dangerous path to go down if the only way you can communicate or record information is electronically or with printed letters. Cursive teaches things like how letters connect and a different type of hand-eye coordination that's important."

Cursive enthusiasts also point to recent College Board data on the new writing section of the SATs, introduced in 2006. The data indicate that the 15 percent of students who wrote their essay in cursive did slightly better than those who used some other type of handwriting. Cursive proponents say this is because those writing in cursive could write faster, allowing them to write longer essays.

Steve Graham is skeptical of such a conclusion. The special education professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., says "It's like saying there's been a rise in peanut butter sales in New York and a rise in mental illness, therefore peanut butter causes mental illness," he says....

This from the Christian Science Monitor.

Photo by Erin Brethauer/Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times/AP

Teacher Suspended for Alleged Racist Rhyme

KAUKAUNA (AP) - A River View Middle School teacher accused of using a racist rhyme in class has been suspended.

The teacher allegedly used the rhyme - "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe" - Monday while trying to pick a student to do a task.

Kaukauna Area School District officials learned of the incident Tuesday and put the teacher on leave with pay Wednesday, Superintendent Lloyd McCabe said. They are still investigating.
A student's parent reported the incident to school officials, McCabe said. He said he hopes to work out an agreement so the results of the investigation and disciplinary action can be made public.

This from Fox WLUK TV.

Students Wear Confederate Flag Shirts To Heckle Peace-Shirt Group

COCOA BEACH, Fla. -- Students at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High School are waging a war on peace.

Recently, sophomore Skylar Stains decided to hold Peace Shirt Thursdays at the school. Skylar and her friend, Lauren Lorraine, started wearing peace shirts and soon recruited more friends to wear them. Now, the "Peace Shirt Coalition" as they call themselves, has close to 30 students from all grades.

"We've worn handmade peace shirts every Thursday since the first week of school, without fail," Skylar said.

But what started out as a light-hearted gesture soon started to be taken out of context.

Students started approaching the group members, yelling obscene things at them, said Lauren.

"People just turned on us like that," she said. "At least 10 boys stood up and yelled things at me at once, and we couldn't even walk through the halls without a harsh comment being made."

The heckling began early in the school year, according to group members. They said they were putting small posters promoting peace on friends' lockers with their permission....

... "People tore them down and drew swastikas and 'white power' stuff on them," Lauren said.
Skylar had similar things written on her posters.

"Someone taped an 'I Love Bush' sign over my 'Wage Peace' sign," she said. "So I tore it down, threw it away, and the whole commons starting booing. I walk by later and find that someone has completely tore my sign down and placed an 'I Love America, Because America Loves War' sign up." ...

...Soon, a second group started to wear Confederate flag shirts to oppose the peace group, Skylar said. She saw shirts with sayings such as "This is America, get used to it," and "If peace is the answer; it must be a stupid question." ...

This from

Kentucky Board of Education to Meet

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Kentucky Board of Education will meet Sunday, November 25, at 4 p.m. in the State Board Room of the Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort.

The board will enter into closed session to discuss the candidates for the position of commissioner of education, then consider the appointment to that position.

A full agenda follows.

4:00 P.M. (EST)


Sunday, November 25, 2007

4:00 P.M. (EST)

I. Call to Order
II. Roll Call
III. Discussion of candidates for the commissioner's position (Closed Session)
IV. Consideration of appointment for the commissioner's position
V. Adjournment

SOURCE: KDE press release

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Silberman signs 4 year pact, foregoes pay increase

Congratulations to Fayette County Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman on his contract extension.

Silberman scores for providing Fayette County with its biggest missing puzzle piece: leadership. It is here that Silberman's impact is felt most, permeating all areas of district activity.

He also scores for keeping his commitment to the district in the face of other opportunities like education commissioner; albeit, with much bigger headaches, more travel, and a relatively small increase in salary. Clearly, at $212,479 Silberman is OK in the income department. He waived any increase to this year's salary. H-L reported,
For 2008-09, Silberman will get the same annual increase as other certified employees and changes to his benefits also will mirror those of other certified employees. He will get similar raises in each of the other three years of the contract.
He also showed the backbone to pass a tax increase to address, at long last, Fayette County's large and growing facilities problems.

And there isn't much of a downside. True, there have been some grumblings in the education community about Silberman's decision-making in a couple of personnel matters; most notably at Harrison Elementary and the persistently curious situation at Booker T Washington Academy. But taken as a whole, the ledger is tilted heavily in favor of Silberman and the board was correct to renew his contract.

Photo by former Herald-Leader photographer Janet Worne. (We miss you in Ky.)

This from Lisa Deffindall in an FCPS press release:
Four more years
Superintendent requests no salary increase

Fayette County Board of Education members voted unanimously Monday night on a four year contract extension for Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman. The contract, which at Silberman’s request does not include any salary increase, would run through June 30, 2012.

“I feel blessed and honored to continue to work with such a great group of people who truly care about kids,” Silberman said. “The rubber hits the road in our classrooms and our teachers are taking the steps needed to bring all of our students to proficiency. I look forward to the work ahead.”

When Silberman took the helm of the Fayette County Public Schools on July 1, 2004 he publicly made a commitment to serve the district for at least a decade. He is now in the fourth year of his first four year contract. Monday night’s board meeting was the earliest the school board could offer him an extension.

“Fayette County is blessed to have a superintendent of caliber of Stu Silberman. … He is obligated to this district and he is here for the long haul,” said Fayette County Board of Education Chairman Larry Conner. “He has assembled a leadership team that has brought this district from mediocrity to excellence.”

During his tenure with the district, Silberman has been praised for raising student achievement, restoring trust with the community, assembling a strong leadership team and focusing the district on students. Major accomplishments in the past three years include posting record-breaking gains on the Commonwealth Accountability and Testing System and No Child Left Behind, developing and implementing 2020 Vision, garnering community support for district facilities needs, trimming more than $4 million out of the district’s annual central administrative budget and moving
district communications from an area of weakness to one that has earned state and national awards.

Under Silberman’s leadership, district operations have been streamlined, and the school district has implemented a zero-based budgeting process for the first time ever, which enabled leaders to build a balanced budget without budget cuts for the second straight year, despite several unfunded state mandates. The gains being made in Fayette County under Silberman have been recognized across the state and nation, as shown by the fact that he was aggressively recruited for the state commissioner’s post and regularly receives job inquiry calls from school districts around the country.

School board Vice Chairwoman Becky Sagan thanked Silberman for ignoring recruitment efforts and staying with Fayette County.

“Our work is not done in Fayette County,” she said. “We’re going to show that every child can learn, every student, every school can achieve at high potentials. And Stu is the leader to get us to that. So Stu, I thank you for the willingness to accept the contract extension and stay with us and bring us to the greatness that we’re getting to.”

When Silberman was hired in 2004, he was the fifth Fayette County Schools superintendent in three years.

In August, Silberman received all-distinguished ratings on his annual evaluation and was granted an annual salary of $212,479 for 2007-2008. His new contract allows for the same annual increases as other certified employees receive and, as provided by Kentucky statute, will renew annually unless the board votes not to do that.

Monday, November 19, 2007



Please note: KSN&C added a slideshow to the right sidebar of the blog.

I like the reminder of stories past, and generally think graphics can help the appearance of a blog. But this morning from work I experienced a noticable slowdown. Since I just added the slideshow, I am suspicious that it may be the culprit.

If you notice a slowdown on your end, please let me know. I may need to take it down.



Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

This from PBS/NOVA

In October, 2004, a war broke out in a small Pennsylvania town when Dover teachers became the first in the country required to tell students that evolution is not the only theory.

It started when the Dover Area School Board passed a policy requiring that its high school science classes include a controversial subject called Intelligent Design. The Dover school board directed science teachers read their students a one-minute statement stating that gaps in the theory of evolution exist - and putting forward intelligent design as an alternative - directing students to an intelligent design textbook called Of Pandas and People that would be made available.

Proponents of Intelligent Design claim that many features of living organisms are too complex to have evolved entirely through the natural process of evolution, as Charles Darwin proposed. Instead, they claim some aspects of those organisms must have been created - fully formed - by a so-called "intelligent designer."

But many Dover residents—and an overwhelming number of scientists throughout the country - were outraged. They say intelligent design is nothing but religion in disguise—the latest front in the war on evolution.

In September 2005, this battle would land the school board in Federal court. The future of science education in America, the separation of church and state, and the very nature of scientific inquiry were all on trial.

The climax of the trial would be the judge's ruling on a question stemming from a different line of evidence: when they introduced intelligent design into the classroom, were members of the Dover School Board motivated by religion?

If so, that would amount to a violation of part of the first amendment to the Constitution—the establishment clause—which mandates the separation of church and state. In order to prevail plaintiffs had to prove, either 1) that the school board acted for the purpose of promoting religion or 2) that its policy has the effect of promoting religion. Either purpose or effect. Either one.

Once the plaintiffs showed direct connections from an earlier explicitly creationist draft of the current text, Of Pandas and People, the court had strong evidence that religion was being thrust into the schools. Plaintiffs claimed intelligent design was creationism re-labeled. But they were surprised to find an actual paper trail that could be documented in a court case.
It became the best single piece of evidence at trial.

Four days after the trial ended, Dover residents rendered their own verdict on intelligent design with a huge turnout for the school board election. By a narrow margin the people of Dover cleaned house.

Televangelist Pat Robertson spoke out after the election saying, "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city...

A month later the 139 page opinion (in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District) of Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science. Finding it had been introduced for religious reasons, Judge Jones decided ID violated the establishment clause and it was "unconstitutional to teach intelligent design" in Dover science classes.

"Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of Intelligent Design make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general.

To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions. The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the Intelligent Design Policy."

Citing what he called the "breathtaking inanity" of the school board's decision, he found that several members had lied "to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the intelligent design Policy."

“...It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purposed behind the ID policy...”

"The crushing weight of the evidence indicates that this was ... a considered pattern by this School Board that the board set out to get creationism into— science classrooms. And intelligent design was— simply— the vehicle that they utilized to do that."

The Discovery Institute also was displeased. Soon after the decision, the institute published a 123-page book distancing itself from the case and criticizing the ruling as "judicial activism—with a vengeance."
The verdict turned out to be more controversial than Judge Jones had imagined. Following the trial, he received death threats. Jones and his family had to be placed under round the clock protection.

Since no cameras were allowed in the courtroom,
the PBS science education program NOVA
dramatized key scenes from court transcripts
and has been running the two-hour program this past week.

entire program AND MORE is available at PBS.

Watch Chapter 1
inQuicktimeWindows Media: hi low
The rural community of Dover, Pennsylvania is torn apart in the latest battle over the teaching of evolution, and parents file a lawsuit against the town's school board in federal court.
running time 10:50 chapter 1 transcript

Watch Chapter 2
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More than 150 years ago Charles Darwin developed the theory of evolution to explain how the diversity of life arose, laying the foundation for modern biological science.
running time 7:04 chapter 2 transcript

Watch Chapter 3
inQuicktimeWindows Media: hi low
The Dover School Board attempts to introduce into science classrooms the idea that life is too complex to have evolved naturally and therefore must have been designed by an intelligent agent.
running time 8:47 chapter 3 transcript

Watch Chapter 4
inQuicktimeWindows Media: hi low
The court is asked to decide whether the School Board promoted religion or had religious motivation, and whether intelligent design is science.
running time 9:32 chapter 4 transcript

Watch Chapter 5
inQuicktimeWindows Media: hi low
A 2004 discovery in the arctic of a transitional fossil from fish to land-dwelling animals is the latest substantiation of Darwin's theory of evolution.
running time 8:36 chapter 5 transcript

Watch Chapter 6
inQuicktimeWindows Media: hi low
The ongoing scientific quest to investigate the unknown has led to some of the strongest evidence for evolution, including findings in modern genetics and molecular biology.
running time 9:26 chapter 6 transcript

Watch Chapter 7
inQuicktimeWindows Media: hi low
After experts point out that supernatural causes cannot be tested scientifically, the defense begins its case for intelligent design.
running time 8:24 chapter 7 transcript

Watch Chapter 8
inQuicktimeWindows Media: hi low
In court, biochemist Michael Behe argues that the concept of irreducible complexity is evidence for intelligent design, while biologist Ken Miller points out the weaknesses in that concept.
running time 9:11 chapter 8 transcript

Watch Chapter 9
inQuicktimeWindows Media: hi low
As the legal teams battle it out in court, the clash between evolution and intelligent design takes a toll on the Dover community.
running time 7:25 chapter 9 transcript

Watch Chapter 10
inQuicktimeWindows Media: hi low
The court looks at evidence that the Dover School Board was motivated by religion.
running time 9:49 chapter 10 transcript

Watch Chapter 11
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Some proponents of intelligent design would like to see the theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral, and political life.
running time 8:52 chapter 11 transcript

Watch Chapter 12
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After six weeks, the trial concludes with closing arguments that were as divided as Dover itself had become, and Judge Jones renders his unequivocal verdict.
running time 10:38 chapter 12 transcript