Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kiser's Legacy of Litigation

When one retires there is a natural tendency for folks to look back on that career and reflect. The Herald-Leader reflected on the career of John Kiser today and found a legacy of lawsuits claiming that he harassed and discriminated against employees. Sad really.

I knew John Kiser as an effective school administrator. As Transportation Director the ex-military man took a job few wanted, and like Mussolini, he made the trains run on time - something I appreciated as a principal. When I called his office for assistance, I got it. When changes were needed, changes were made. But he bore other characteristics of the Italian leader as well.

Evidence suggests that John may also have been a bit class-conscious. The hourly workers under his direction claimed repeatedly that they were treated very differently - disrespected, harassed, and generally made to feel inferior. He was sued repeatedly. But he was defended - protected even - by the superintendent(s).

One imagines the departure of Superintendent Tom Shelton has caused several folks to reconsider their tenure with Fayette County. Lu Young and Kiser have announced their retirements. One might expect others to feel much more vulnerable now as well. Could the school system be in line for a spring cleaning? Will Mary Wright, Rodney Jackson, Kathy Dykes, Melodee Parker, and perhaps others, follow suit?

John Kiser, longtime transportation director 
for Fayette County schools, to retire Thursday

This from the Herald-Leader:
John Kiser, the longtime transportation director for the Fayette County Public Schools, is retiring.
Fayette Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall confirmed Monday that Kiser will retire effective Thursday.

District officials will post the transportation position when schools reopen Monday, and they hope to name a new director by the end of the month, Deffendall said.

Kiser headed the Fayette Schools' transportation for more than 20 years, but he was embroiled in controversy at times.

Four Fayette school bus drivers sued Kiser and then- superintendent Peter Flynn in U.S. District Court in 1999, alleging that they were harassed by supervisors after they publicly complained about alleged age and sex discrimination in the transportation department. The suit also named the Fayette County school board.

In 2000, a federal jury affirmed the four drivers' complaints of discrimination, awarding them a total of $100,000.

The controversy began in 1998, when some Fayette bus drivers took their complaints to the district's Equity Council, which then issued a report calling for reforms and concluding that the transportation department was "in chaos from the inside out." Some of the drivers also picketed the school system's central offices on East Main Street to call public attention to their complaints.

Flynn, the superintendent, responded by arranging to provide mediators for disputes and sensitivity training.
Controversy in the department persisted, however.

Sherry King, a former Fayette school bus driver, sued Kiser, former superintendent Stu Silberman, three transportation supervisors and the school board in 2011, alleging that she was sexually harassed while working for the district. King alleged that she became a target of bullying and intimidation by Kiser and the three supervisors after she filed a grievance about the alleged sexual harassment.

Tom Shelton, who was named Fayette superintendent in June 2011, said he began hearing complaints over working conditions in the transportation department shortly after he was hired.

Shelton said he planned to conduct an inquiry into issues in the department, but he had to put that plan on hold once King filed her lawsuit.

Shelton recently resigned to become director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.
Associate transportation director Marcus Dobbs will direct the department until a permanent director is named, Deffendall said.

KSN&C Backstory:

  • Thursday, January 27, 2011 - Where Grievances Go To Die 

  • Wednesday, February 09, 2011 - Blogging from Under the Bus 

  • Thursday, May 19, 2011 - Respect and Disrespect

  • Thursday, September 15, 2011 - Fayette Transportation Director Kiser Sued for Retaliation Against Whistle Blower 

  • Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - Former bus driver for Fayette schools sues, alleging sexual harassment

  • Saturday, March 03, 2012 - Fayette Transportation Employees Accuse Department of Fraud 

  • Thursday, March 08, 2012 - Disrespect Again

  • Friday, March 09, 2012 - Fayette superintendent launches transportation department review

  • Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - FCPS Transportation Manager Openly Flaunts District Policy - Evidence of a Double Standard in FCPS Transportation Dept - Board considering a new policy requiring all board owned vehicles to be kept at work

  • Sunday, May 13, 2012 - Wasted Effort Sends Another Bad Message in FCPS Transportation

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tough challenges on redistricting

If all children in Lexington attended the public schools nearest their homes, we would effectively resegregate the schools. Unfortunately, it is not clear just how troublesome such an event might be for many citizens.

I don't mean to be overly harsh. Your average affluent parent spends something like a million times more thinking about the education of their own children and where to buy their home, than they do reflecting on our history of school segregation. But if one is a minority, the present is still a referendum on the past.

Has America really become post-racial, as the Supreme Court suggested in the landmark student assignment case, Meredith v Jefferson County Schools? Race can be a factor, but not the factor used to assign students to schools, the federal court said. More recently the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the state still had an interest in diversifying student populations in the schools. And here, the Herald-Leader approaches the question of diversity in the schools from the angle that creating diverse student populations is good.

Is it time to drop all protections for underrepresented minority groups in school planning and simply move to neighborhood schools - knowing that we don't have good school in every neighborhood?

The courts seem to say "almost," and "not quite."

What do you think?

This from the Herald-Leader:
If all children in Lexington attended the public schools nearest their homes, Wellington Elementary would have 1,163 students and Russell Cave Elementary would have 42.

Reassigning students to three new schools scheduled to open in 2016 and 2017 will be part of the upcoming redistricting plan.

But there's no way around also moving students among existing schools, as illustrated by the imbalance between Wellington, which serves an area in southern Lexington where a lot of new housing has been built, and Russell Cave in farm country north of town.

The state recommends an enrollment of 650 for elementary schools. The Fayette district accommodates the overflow at some schools by renting portable classrooms, while other schools are under capacity, which is like paying for a storage unit when there's space in your closets and attic.

New schools will have to be built if the district keeps growing at its current pace; still, it's disrespectful to ask taxpayers for new buildings when old ones have space available.

Granted, there are other considerations, such as the costs — in money and time — of transporting students. Also significant are the benefits of being educated in a diverse community of classmates.
A 29-member committee, chaired by businessman Alan Stein, has been weighing these and other considerations.

The committee will develop and recommend a redistricting plan to the elected board of education. Thanks to Stein and the other community members for shouldering this difficult but necessary task.
Nothing stirs parents like concerns for their children's education. Lexington is especially passionate about education, which is one of the city's greatest assets.

People also get worked up about property values and home sales, which are influenced by school assignments but should not drive district decisions or education policy.

As the committee and school board keep hearing passionate pleas, here's something for everyone to remember: The reason for this process is not to grease squeaky wheels. The point of redistricting is to make the whole machine work as efficiently and beneficially as possible for all concerned.

Read more here:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Examining Educator Equity

The ability of teachers to choose where they prefer to teach has led to inevitable inequalities when it comes to access to high-quality teachers for low income children. The problem is as old as schooling. But the government plans to push states to find a way to level the playing field, and that will lead to attacks on the individual teacher's choice of where to teach, and one fears, might make teaching even less attractive as a career.

This from Morning Education (via email):
The Education Department has ordered every state to develop strategies for ensuring that poor and minority students get their fair share of top teachers; the plans must be turned in by June 1. In the meantime, the department is highlighting the inequities states are Educator Equity Profiles" for every state and D.C. draw on data about the teaching corps from the 2011-12 school year. The general pattern is clear: Teachers in impoverished and heavily minority schools are more likely to be uncertified, to be rookies, to be considered 'not highly qualified,' to be at the low end of the salary scale and to be absent 10 or more days during the school year. But there are some striking differences between states. We've reviewed all the profiles and pulled out some statistics of note:
working to solve. Newly published "
- Poor and minority students in Pennsylvania are far less likely to be in classrooms with licensed, certified or highly qualified teachers. It's one of the biggest gaps in the nation: More than 20 percent of teacher in schools with heavily minority populations lack certification or licensure. In schools with low minority populations, just 0.2 percent of teachers lack those credentials.

- Louisiana has among the fewest highly qualified teachers in the U.S. About 20 percent of classes in high-poverty schools and 22 percent in high-minority schools are taught by educators who are not highly qualified. Even in Louisiana's wealthiest schools, nearly 8 percent of classes are taught by teachers who aren't highly qualified. The District of Columbia also has a high proportion of classes taught by teachers who aren't highly qualified, across all types of schools. (In general, a highly qualified teacher is one who is fully licensed by the state, holds a bachelor's degree and demonstrates competence in each core academic subject he teaches.)

- Florida doesn't have huge disparities among schools, but it appears to have very high teacher turnover. Nearly 20 percent of teachers are in their first year and about 15 percent lack proper certification. By contrast, in Michigan, less than 5 percent of teachers are rookies and less than 1 percent are unlicensed.

- There's a huge teacher salary gap in New York. The average teacher in a high-poverty school in the state earns $66,138 a year, compared to $87,161 for the average teacher in affluent schools. (Those numbers are adjusted to account for regional differences in the cost of living.) The gap likely stems from differences in credentials: Students in high-poverty schools are nearly three times more likely to have a first-year teacher, 22 times more likely to have an unlicensed teacher and 11 times more likely to have a teacher who isn't highly qualified.

- Rhode Island appears to have a big teacher absentee problem. An astounding 55 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools and 36 percent in low-poverty schools are absent more than 10 days in the school year. In some districts it's even worse: Nearly 70 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools in the town of Woonsocket miss more than 10 days a year. Other states with strikingly high absentee rates include Wyoming, New Mexico and Michigan.

- In California, the equitable distribution of effective teachers was a central issue in the Vergara trial. The federal data don't address effectiveness, but they do show some other, familiar disparities: High-poverty and high-minority schools are more likely to have first-year, unlicensed and not-highly-qualified teachers. On the other hand, gaps in teacher credentials and experience between rich and poor schools in California are far smaller than in some other states, such as New York and Delaware.

- A note of caution: The data come from existing federal sources, including the Civil Rights Data Collection and the Common Core of Data. State officials have complained in the past that those sources are riddled with errors. In Vermont, for instance, state officials put out a press release Friday announcing their intent to compare their published Educator Equity Profile with local data sources "which are considered more reliable." Still, Amy Fowler, deputy secretary of Vermont's education department, called the publication of the data profiles "an excellent opportunity" to take stock of important issues and work toward equity.

What Board members need to know about the district audit

Shelby County Board questions auditor over fraud

 After years of flawless audits, $600 K missing

The contract approved by the state 
"specifically mentions in there that we’re not here to detect fraud.”

--Mike Jones, CPA

This from the Shelbyville Sentinel-News:  

In 2011, Shelby County Public Schools received a perfect audit report from Mike Jones of Mather & Co. CPAs, who said it was the first time in his 15 years of auditing where he had witnessed no material weaknesses. In 2012 and 2013, the district had similar reports stating the district’s financial department had no deficiencies or weaknesses in their reports.

How is it then that nearly $600,000 was fraudulently taken from the district over a period of seven years?
Mike Jones

This was the question on the minds of several board members Thursday evening during the district’s meeting when Jones returned to give his audit report for the 2013-14 school year.

This year, Jones reported another nearly flawless audit –with the exception of one major chunk of missing funds from the substitute teacher pay.

“One item that we found to be a material weakness, this deals with the funds that were misappropriated in the payroll department,” he said.

Board member Eddie Mathis was the first to speak up about the oversight, asking Jones how many years his firm had been working with the district.

Jones estimated that Mather & Co. has worked with the district for seven of the last eight years, which is the same timeframe in which it is suspected that former payroll manager Benita Anglin was slowly intercepting funds through a false employee’s account.

“And you never have been able to detect this fraud,” Mathis quickly asked.

According to Jones, however, this was not what Mather & Co. was paid to do.

“Well basically that’s because we were not engaged to do so,” Jones said. “We were engaged to do a financial audit, which is required in order to receive the KDE funding, your federal funding. If you read through our contract that we have with you – the contract’s approved by the state – it specifically mentions in there that we’re not here to detect fraud.”

Though Jones did add that if fraud had been detected, they would have informed the district.
He further explained that the audit is performed by selecting random employees and checking their timesheets, contracts, and salary.

“If that person [false employee] would have been selected in our sample, when you had to produce a would have been very, very difficult because they did not exist,” he said.

However, board member Karen Sams questioned how it was possible that no one noticed money missing from the bank statements.

Jones explained that the bank statements complied with the district’s payroll system, MUNIS, which reflected a balance.

That balance, however, was made possible investigators say, because Anglin was able to manipulate and override the payroll program.

Board member Brenda Jackson questioned how actual money could disappear without a trace.
“You reconcile at the end of a month, how could you be missing money that doesn’t show up because there were real dollars that were gone from the system,” Jackson asked. “We had actual dollars gone, you shouldn’t reconcile.”

Jones quickly interjected, explaining that the money was not taken without a trace, but was rather placed in a false account and was accounted for.

“...A reconciliation is taking the bank information – the bank had this much money come in and this much money go out – you reconcile that back to the financial statements – the financial statements show this much money came in this much money came out – they agree. That fictional substitute teacher is in your books as an expense.”

Jackson then asked that if the money was in fact going to a false account, why then was it not caught when W-2s were issued.

But Jones said a W-2 was never issued for the false employee.

“If you were to reconcile the W-2s back to the financial statements they would not [agree],” he said.
Jones said the auditors would not have checked the W-2s since they are produced by MUNIS, which apparently is alleged to have been overridden by Anglin.

“The biggest way this [fraud] could have been found, if you balanced the W-2s to the general ledger. There’s someone who didn’t get a W-2. So the 941s were manually overridden.”

Jones agreed with the comments made by the state auditors following their examination, who said that Anglin had too much access to the system.

“Benita [Anglin] had the ability to add and subtract employees,” Jones said, adding that that was something she should have never had access to.

He then added that the district should consider hiring an employee to verify the internal controls of the system are being used properly.

“Jefferson County...Fayette County...they have people on the staff who that is their job to look at the internal controls,” he said.

Sams questioned whether that responsibility should have been that of a Chief Financial Officer – the district’s former CFO, Greg Murphy, stepped down from his position in October.

But Jones said that responsibility should belong to someone separate from the financial department altogether.

“You’d want that as far away from the Chief Financial Officer as possible,” he said, noting that an individual cannot audit oneself.

Jones also explained that he felt the district should consider breaking down the monthly financial reports into departments, such as by schools, central office, transportation department, etc.

“Shelby County is a very, very big district...and I don’t think it’s possible for the finance officer to be able to look at a payroll report and determine that there was a name on there receiving funds that should not have done that. The district has just gotten too big for that,” he said.

“I think burden needs to be spread out amongst the district.”

The board accepted the 2013-14 audit 4-1, with Sams sternly voting no.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Former UofL exec pleads guilty to $2.8M theft

At least six university employees accused of stealing between 2009 - 2013
Financial oversight at UofL "apparently minimal."
 --unidentified IRS special agent

Am I mistaken, or did President Ramsey vow to fix this sort of thing way back in 2008?

This from the Courier-Journal:
The former director of the University of Louisville's Department of Family & Geriatric Medicine pleaded guilty to stealing $2.8 million in one of a string of thefts and embezzlements from the university.

Perry Chadwick Vaughn
Under a plea bargain, Perry Chadwick Vaughn, 36, would serve 64 months in prison and pay $2,801,201 in restitution, if Senior U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson imposes the recommended sentence. He set sentencing for March 12.

Vaughn showed no emotion as he pleaded guilty to seven counts of mail fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns, including one in 2012 on which he omitted $776,000 in income he stole that year.

An Internal Revenue Service special agent said in an affidavit last year that oversight and review of Vaughn's management of department-affiliated private practices, from which some of the money was taken, were "apparently minimal."

Vaughn is one of at least six university employees accused from 2009 to 2013 of stealing the school's money or grant funds under its control.

An independent auditor in July recommended 17 changes to improve financial controls and oversight at the university, including hiring a chief financial officer and reviewing university-associated bank accounts. Spokeswoman Cindy Hess said several already have been implemented, including hiring a CFO, and the rest will be adopted by the end of 2015.

Vaughn, who was fired by the university, pleaded guilty to money laundering for forging bogus bank statements and reconciliations to hide payments he made to his own bank accounts.

One of Vaughn's lawyers, Rob Eggert, declined to comment on Vaughn's motivations for the crime, which the government says was carried out over six years.

The Courier-Journal previously reported that Vaughn, who lives in La Grange, used the money to buy or lease nine luxury vehicles, including two Mercedes-Benzes and a Range Rover, and to pay for real estate, luxury vacations and a $9,000 necklace.

The grand jury charged that Vaughn diverted money from the department to the practice groups, then withdrew it for himself. He also was accused of making a number of misrepresentations to U of L Audit Services by transferring funds between bank accounts to conceal his theft and by providing false bank statements to the private practice groups.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Calhoun and was investigated by U of L Police, the U.S. Secret Service, the IRS and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Friday, December 19, 2014

How The Colbert Report Made School Reform Cool

This from This Week in Education:
Take a minute to think about how much time and attention the Colbert Report has dedicated to education-related issues during its long run, which ended last night.  Colbert's guests included not only EdSecs Spellings and Duncan, but also a who's who list of mostly reform types like Joel Klein, Wendy Kopp, Charles Best, Bill Gates, Jonah Edelman's Dad, Emily Bazelon, Maurice Sendak, Geoff Canada, David Levin, Roland Fryer, Campbell Brown. Colbert also included education in numerous segments, mocking states for gaming proficiency levesl, fired Florida teachers, and simultaneously mocked and endorsed the Common Core earlier this year:

Some favorites among the (just!) 49 times that Colbert appears in the headline of a TWIE blog post include "Keep [Parental] Fear Alive," Says Colbert, his out-of-character story of being miserable in school (Colbert's "It Gets Better" Story), and a Roland Fryer interview in which Fryer pulls off a feat and gets the best of Colbert ("You're Black Now, Aren't You?"). Some of his few dud interviews related to education include one with the director of the War On Kids documentary, and his interview with Peter Edelman in which Edelman appears to walk off the stage at the end (Another Unhappy Moment For The Edelman Clan).

Need more? 21 times Stephen Colbert has dropped his act and been himself (Vox), which includes some graduation speeches, his Congressional testimony, and a few other moments, and Goodbye, Stephen Colbert (a fond farewell from the NYT).

Holliday: Education issues and the 2015 General Assembly

This from Dr. H's Blog:
Ky Ed Commish Terry Holliday
Season’s greetings! I hope that readers of this blog will take time over the next couple of weeks to relax and spend time with family and friends. The holiday season is an excellent time to recharge your batteries.  I plan to do just that, so this will be my last blog for 2014, but will return to the keyboard for a January 9, 2015 entry.

As we look forward to the New Year, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is preparing for a busy legislative session. Here are some of the hot topics we predict will be on the education agenda for the upcoming General Assembly.

     1)  Charter Schools – we will again see legislation to create charter "
     schools in Kentucky. Our state is one of only eight states without
     charters. I am hearing about the possibility of a small pilot of
     five to six charter schools in districts that have very low-performing
     schools with significant achievement gaps.

     2)  Teacher Pension Plan – the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System
     has asked the General Assembly to consider a plan that would require
     a $3.3 billion bond to shore up the underfunded retirement system.
     This system is critical for recruitment and retention of high-quality

     3)  School Funding – while 2015 is not a budget session, there are
     a number of funding issues that could surface. The Council for
     Better Education report recently released at the Kentucky
     Association of School Superintendents’ winter meeting will garner
     a lot of attention. The 
$2 billion-plus price tag is sure to get attention. |
     Also, KDE will be releasing a report on funding of the career and
     technical education programs in Kentucky. Finally, we may see
     discussion of impact of revenue shortfall and SEEK shortfall.

     4)  Dual Credit – a recent set of recommendations from the dual
     credit task force will generate discussion about how to ensure
     quality, access, funding, and transferability of courses.

     5)  Merging County Systems – several county school systems
     have been identified for state assistance and state management.
     Some county systems are very close to not having a 2 percent
     fund balance. The General Assembly previously enacted legislation
     that allowed a financially insolvent independent district to merge
     with a county system; however, currently there are no statutes that
     allow for the merger of an insolvent county system to merge with
     another system.

     6)  Closing Achievement Gaps – this issue will be part of the
     charter school issue but will also be an overarching theme of the
     Education Committees. The achievement gap in Kentucky begins
     before students enter kindergarten, continues throughout P-12,
     postsecondary, and is very obvious when we look at labor and salary
     studies for adults.

At the national level, KDE will be working to support reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – most recently dubbed the No Child Left Behind Act – and the Carl Perkins Act which is the primary vehicle for federal funding of career and technical education. We are very excited about the potential of both bills moving forward very quickly under the leadership of Sen. Alexander of Tennessee and Majority Leader McConnell.

Temperature's risin'

Fayette Schools redistricting committee passionately debates
'inequity' and Stuart Hall neighborhood

This from the Herald-Leader:
A passionate discussion between members of Fayette County Public Schools' redistricting committee unfolded Thursday about a southeast Lexington neighborhood whose residents have been among the most vocal in Lexington.

It occurred when committee member David O'Neill suggested that the committee fix an "inequity" for some residents of the Stuart Hall neighborhood, whose children he said have to pass three closer schools to get to Breckinridge Elementary, to which they are assigned. Residents of the neighborhood have attended most redistricting meetings wearing red T-shirts as a sign of solidarity.
Some Stuart Hall neighbors have been upset that their homes are assigned to Breckinridge, which is classified as needs improvement/progressing, instead of the closer Athens-Chilesburg Elementary, which is classified as distinguished/progressing and high performing. Some residents have asked to be reassigned to a planned new elementary school off Polo Club Boulevard.

After O'Neill said, "This is our time to make it right and level the playing field a little bit," Astarre' Gudino, who represents the Lexington Fayette Human Rights Commission on the committee, said that she took exception to the word "inequity" in regard to the neighborhood's concern.

"The problem is that their child is going to a school that they don't like. The problem is that their children are going to school with ... children ... that they feel that they shouldn't have to go to school with. It isn't necessarily that it's 4 miles away."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tribunal affirms JCPS firing of former Louisville Male High Principal David Mike

This from Toni Konz at WDRB:
David Mike with Attorney Will Walsh
David Mike will not be getting his job back with Jefferson County Public Schools.

Mike lost his job as principal of Louisville Male High School in October following allegations of cheating and improper ACT Compass testing at the school last fall.

The three-person tribunal -- none of whom live in Jefferson County -- heard Mike's appeal of JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens' decision to fire Mike all last week, and announced its decision to uphold his termination on Thursday. After the decision was announced, JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens released the following statement:
"JCPS students matter. Test Scores do not matter if we do not possess the highest standards of integrity. We take no pleasure in the career consequences faced by Mr. Mike. However, the reputation of JCPS was at risk because of actions taken in the administration of ACT Compass testing at Male High School under Mr. Mike's leadership. The tribunal affirmed our decision in this matter."
When making the decision, tribunal members said they got the sense that Mike was trying to gain praise by quickly raising test scores at Male. They recognized that Mike was trying to make "great changes" at the school, but ended up dividing the school and lowering its image.

During his testimony, Mike told the tribunal he did not help students cheat on the ACT Compass test. JCPS officials never accused him of helping students cheat, but stated that as principal of the school, he should have been aware of what was going on.

In closing arguments, Mike's attorney says he wasn't aware of what was going on.

"David Mike did not know that those two tests were being administered simultaneously," attorney Will Walsh said. "No one complained to him about that. He did not know there was noise and confusion. I think that's another part of failure to ensure. He did not know. There's no evidence of that."

JCPS attorney Byron Leet didn't just say Mike knew, he also claimed Mike tried to cover it up.

"It's not credible that Mr. Mike did not know," Leet said.

Ultimately, the tribunal members agreed with JCPS, saying that  "descriptions of the loud, chaotic, active atmosphere in Room 108 should have meant that Mike was aware that something was amiss as soon as he opened the door."

"It was not a conducive atmosphere for standardized testing," the report reads. "Logic and common sense should dictate that the two tests should not have been given at the same time."

The tribunal's decision can be appealed to Jefferson Circuit Court. Mike's attorney told WDRB News Thursday morning that he will talk Mike before deciding their next steps.

Mike and two other former Male High staffers -- Debbie Greenberg and Rhonda Branch -- still face a proceeding before the Kentucky Educational Standards Board as a result of the Kentucky Department of Education's investigation into testing allegations.

The board, which controls teacher certifications, acts mostly in secret when handling disciplinary cases, so it's hard to determine where exactly the cases against the three educators stand.

Greenberg retired from the district in June, while a district investigation involving Branch released Dec. 10 found that she failed to ensure a proper testing environment and during the administration of the ACT Compass at Male.

As a result, Branch has been "directed to participate in a minimum of three hours of Administrative Code Training as recommended by KDE. She is also directed to participate in ethics training and adhere to all acceptable and appropriate assessment practices as outlined by the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Department of Education."

In addition, JCPS says Branch will be reassigned to another school counseling position as her "superiors feel that it is best for the learning and counseling environment at Louisville Male High School."

Meanwhile, the site-based decision making council at Male High interviewed three district assistant principals for the top job on Tuesday.

Two of the candidates -- Matt Kingsley and Darryl Farmer -- are assistant principals at duPont Manual High School. The third candidate, Jose Alfaro, is an assistant principal at Hawthorne Elementary School.

As of Thursday, the council was planning to conduct second interviews with two of the candidates. That day has not yet been determined.

Ready for Ratings?

This from Morning Education (via email):
Speculation about the Education Department's college ratings plan is running high; it's expected out Friday and university administrators are anxious for details. On the Hill, meanwhile, Republicans are already going on the attack. They see the ratings plan as another example of the administration meddling in the free market and attempting to imposing its own values on millions of students.

"They're getting involved in something they have no business getting involved with," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, herself a former college administrator. "Absolutely, it's overreach."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called ratings a moral imperative, vital both to help families make wise choices and to protect taxpayers' $150 billion-a-year investment in federal student aid. But the opposition on the Hill means it will be almost impossible for the administration to attach consequences to the ratings. Duncan had hoped the department could start steering more federal aid to highly-rated campuses (and less to laggards) by 2018. That would require Congressional approval, however - and no one thinks that's going to happen.

States, meanwhile, have moved aggressively to implement performance-based funding for colleges and universities. At least 25 states now allocate some higher education funding based on metrics such as how long it takes students to earn a degree, how many low-income students graduate or how many STEM degrees are awarded.
The amount of funding at stake varies from 5 percent to 25 percent of the state's higher education appropriations. States experimenting with the model include Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Tennessee.

Charter schools again a focus in 2015, Senate Education Committee chair says

This from cn/2:
The push for charter schools will again be before the legislature come 2015, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Tuesday.
With only 30 days for legislators to complete their work and several of those days reserved for organizational meetings, Sen. Mike Wilson, a Bowling Green Republican and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said one of the top issues for the committee will be a perennial bill to start five charter schools in the state.

Charter Chatter begins 2 minutes in.
As GOP members of the committee seek to change the structure of education in Kentucky, Wilson said it will take a continued push to educate fellow lawmakers on the issue of charter schools before the concept is accepted.

“We continually try to educate people that this is not a Democrat or a Republican issue, it is an issue about making sure that our kids are getting the level of education they deserve, and the issue is the problems we have with the achievement gap,” Wilson said, referencing the disparity that exists between Caucasian and African-American students in test scores.

Wilson said the specifics of this year’s bill are still coming together, but the idea is to prove or disprove the concept with a pilot project allowing five public-charter schools in the state.

“We’re not trying to do a statewide thing on this — we’re trying to do a pilot program to try it and let’s see it. Let’s give it the best chance of survival and being successful and let’s see how it works,” Wilson said. “If it does then you continue to expand it, and if it doesn’t then in five years you revoke the charter.”

The outcomes in the proposed charter schools will have to be an improvement or else the schools will return to the public-school format, Wilson said.

“In exchange for the independence that they have from a lot of the restrictions public schools are under the outcomes that are expected from them — that’s what they have to prove,” Wilson said.
The main opposition to the bill in Kentucky has historically been in the form teachers and teachers’ unions.

The arguments against charters are varied, but unions traditionally assert that charter schools can “skim” high-performing students from traditional public schools — thus boosting their performance results.

And the model for some charter schools allow a business-backed, for-profit-based school, which unions say is the privatization of publicly funded schools.

Wilson acknowledged that teachers and teachers’ unions have been a stumbling block in the past, but he said once in the classroom, teachers will see the benefits of a charter program.

“I think you find once a teacher has really been in a charter school, they really like it,” Wilson said.

Just do it.

Let’s stop worrying about student voice in the superintendent’s selection process 
- and give the student’s a voice. 

So far as I can tell, there is nothing stopping the Fayette County Board of Education from giving students and other underrepresented groups a meaningful voice in the selection process for a new superintendent - except for the board of education itself.

After all, it is the board that possesses broad authority in hiring. In fact, the board of education receives recommendations from the screening committee, but the board is not required to follow any of them. 

The screening committee, only exists to assist the board and broaden community input. Plus, the screening committee is not the only group that can be tasked with vetting candidates, nor is the screening committee prohibited from interacting with other groups along the way. So long as the others brought into the process can act in confidence, and are not so numerous that folks begin falling all over each other, the extra hands can be quite helpful.

According to the Attorney General (OAG 91-3), 
“the board of education has the discretion to consult with and to receive recommendations, as well, from other sources than the committee, i. e., interested citizens or groups of citizens…Accordingly, while we find that the screening committee is limited to representation by two teachers, one board of education member, one principal and one parent, as set forth in the statute, the possibility exists for other interested groups or individuals to share any and all information with the board of education concerning qualified applicants.”
So far, the board has done everything right.

Elections seem to have been properly communicated and conducted throughout the school district and the public.

Folks may not love the coin toss used to break a tie between candidates for the parent representative slot, but the law requires the casting of lots in some form or fashion, and the coin itself performed admirably.

Fayette County Board of Education Chairman John Price did exactly as he should have done when he patiently watched the results of elections before announcing his appointment of the group’s only African American member, board member Daryl Love. His patience allowed for sober reflection on the composition of the group before his appointment rounded out the membership.

In doing so, Price acted in accordance with KRS 156.500, which states,

“The General Assembly directs that appointments made by the appointing authority (in this case, Price) to every board, commission, council or other type of advisory or decision-making body created or enacted by the Education Reform Act of 1990 reflects reasonable minority representation of the membership and that active minority participation at every level of implementation be continually encouraged.”

So far, so good.

But what about students?

What about others who may be in a position to help the board? We have seen several cases where the lack of candidate research has led to big problems.

I think it’s time for the board to do something else right and include students in the process now.

The board could create a small subgroup of a half dozen, or so, “worker bees” who would form after the screening committee had reduced candidates to the top ten. A diverse group that includes a high school student(s), along with a couple of university researchers, perhaps a journalist, and someone from business and government could prove very helpful in vetting finalists, and perhaps, avoiding big problems. 

If the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team wants to pursue an amendment to the existing law and formalize a student member on the screening committee, fine. But in the meantime, the board could, and should, implement a plan that accomplishes that objective now.