There's absolutely no surprise in a Kentucky School Board saying their leader is doing a good job. They say that about all of them - regardless. Even in the presence of evidence to the contrary, the state board has been known, in years past, to love the one they're with. Who can forget how they held fast on how wonderful Barbara Erwin was going to be for the state despite a pile of evidence that she falsified her resume. The board was so confident that they gave themselves awards as a testament to what a great job they did in hiring her. The board continued to support her right up to the minute they talked her into resigning.
But one gets the sense that Holliday's accolades are deserved.
The Commissioner's job is administrative, but it is also about articulating a vision toward implementing state initiatives. In Holliday's case, the job performance is driven by Senate Bill 1. Implement it well, and he gets a gold star. If any significant element fails, he is open to criticism even if that failure is the result of the legislature not funding its own proposals.
But Holliday is serving at a time of significant change in American education history. The school reform efforts of the late 20th century are shifting to a new form and resistance to new approaches being advocated by the Obama administration (and a handful of powerful foundations interested in reshaping education) are just now beginning to receive substantial pushback. That pushback is a direct result of the success these groups have shown in moving their agenda. It is not clear how that will play out in Kentucky, but Holliday's job will be to keep the train on the tracks, and moving.
Even in defeat Holliday has shown the ability to multi-task and nimbly move to the next opportunity. When his application for $175 million in Race to the Top funds fell short, he was already participating in three testing consortia, two of which received federal funding that will patch part of the hole left empty by RTTT. Then he got lucky and EduJobs filled in the rest...or at least enough to get the job done.
From the start, Holliday presented himself as a school leader who could develop a plan and drive that plan to success. He had a small group of vocal detractors in North Carolina but so far, the state board is hearing "very positive comments" about Holliday from constituents across the state. His plain-spoken style is effective around these parts. I like that he doesn't dumb-down his speeches, but arguably, that may not be the best PR approach.
Communication a big deal. Communicating is really what the job is all about. Plus, Holliday has embraced every new media vehicle available to broadcast his ideas to the general public. This serves to demystify the department of education's goals and clarifies where the state is going.
Holliday has also, importantly, shown a willingness to speak truth to power - whether telling the legislature of the need for more funding, or the state's superintendents about his support for charter schools, or the KEA about the need to evaluate teachers based on their students' performance. And he seems to have done so without alienating any of them. Indeed, he mustered every school district in the state and the KEA in support of the state's RTTT bid.
Holliday has also avoided any major gaffes. No $30,000 cars. No news of wastefully expensive junkets or costly squabbles with legislators. It would seem that KBE has found a steady hand to steer the schools through choppy waters. The direction Kentucky is travelling has been made clear. Kentucky is onboard with the feds and the foundations. But I suspect that in coming days more will rise up to argue against that course. Holliday's challenge will continue to be one of maintaining unity amid change.
In September, KSBA's Brad Hughes sat in on the board meeting where Holliday's evaluation was first discussed. He has some interesting observations about Holliday's performance and the modus operandi of the opponents of public education in the Kentucky School Advocate.
This from KDE:
At its regular meeting on Wednesday, the Kentucky Board of Education heard presentations and took action on a number of items.See the meeting here: Video and audio -Downloadable audio podcast.
The board held an in-depth discussion about Kentucky’s new assessment and accountability system, which is mandated by 2009’s Senate Bill 1. Staff at the Kentucky Department of Education presented a concept paper for the new system, which includes indicators related to next-generation learners, next-generation professionals, next-generation support systems and next-generation schools and districts.
The board approved a regulation that repeals another state regulation that provides guidelines for the Highly Skilled Educator (HSE) program. Since the HSE program will be replaced by a new assistance program, the regulation related to its guidelines
must be repealed.
In a related move, the board gave final approval to state regulation 703 KAR 5:190, which outlines the provision of education assistance to schools and school districts.
The board also approved its legislative agenda in preparation for the 2011 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
In recognition of her dedication to the students of Kentucky, the board presented Helen W. Mountjoy with the Dr. Samuel Robinson Award. Mountjoy is a former Secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and was a longtime
member of the Kentucky Board of Education, serving as chair of the board for many years.
The board took the following actions:
- approved its Strategic Plan Goals and Commissioner of Education’s Goals
- approved the commissioner’s 2009-10 evaluation document
- approved the revised KBE Policy Manual
- approved the district facility plan for the Knott County school district
- approved 2010-2011 local district tax rates levied
- approved the site for the proposed new Pre-K Center in the Elizabethtown Independent school district
- approved the site for the proposed new middle school in the Paducah Independent school district
- approved the guidelines for requesting the use of capital funds for
FY2010-11 and FY2011-12
The board heard presentations on the following items:
- English-Language Learners (ELLS): Focus on Closing the Achievement Gaps
- the Board Examination System
- Title IX deficiencies for schools audited during the 2009-10 school year and recommendations for 2010-11 from the Kentucky High School Athletics Association
- the pupil attendance regulation
- the 2010-2012 Biennial Budget
Hat Tip to Lisa H.