Monday, August 31, 2015

Marcum: KBE "taking this responsibility to properly vet the candidates very seriously."

Marcum wants 'extensive' background checks on commissioner finalists

This from Toni Konz at WDRB:
The Kentucky Board of Education has narrowed its search for the next state education commissioner to two candidates, but the board won’t say which of the five publicly identified finalists are still in the hunt for the job.

The board will spend between $10,000 to $12,000 to conduct "extensive background searches" on the two final candidates to prevent any information that may be "embarrassing or disparaging to the state" from being released, said Roger Marcum, chairman of the state board.

"We don’t want, once we’ve announced who our next commissioner is, to find out something we don’t know on whoever that person is," Marcum told WDRB News on Monday. "Either one of the finalists may be selected as our commissioner, and we want to know everything there is to know about them."

The Kentucky Board of Education released the names of the five candidates on Thursday, and the board interviewed all five over the weekend before announcing that two finalists remain.

The five are: Kathleen Airhart, deputy commissioner, chief operating officer for the Tennessee Department of Education; Buddy Berry, superintendent of Eminence Independent Schools in Eminence, Ky.; Christopher Koch, interim president of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) in Washington, D.C.; Lloyd Martin, chief executive officer for Universal School Solutions, LLC, in Jacksonville, Fla.; and Stephen Pruitt, senior vice president at Achieve, Inc., an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization in Washington, D.C.

Marcum said the background checks are to avoid repeating the controversy involving Barbara Erwin, the woman who was named education commissioner in 2007, only to resign from the job before her first day after media outlets across the state questioned the integrity of her resume, as well as other concerns.

"We don’t want what happened with Dr. Erwin to happen again," said Marcum, who noted that none of the current board members were on the board that appointed Erwin commissioner. "We are taking this responsibility to properly vet the candidates very seriously."

Terry Holliday was named education commissioner in 2009 and has been in charge of overseeing the education of 675,000 students in Kentucky's public schools. His last official day on the job is Monday, Aug. 31.

The state board has appointed Associate Commissioner and General Counsel Kevin Brown to serve as interim commissioner starting Tuesday, Sept. 1, until a new commissioner is installed.

Marcum told WDRB News the state has no objection if the five named candidates "self-disclose" whether they’ve made it to final vetting.

However, two of the candidates told WDRB News Monday they were asked not to disclose any information about the search process or what qualities they would bring to the job if selected.

A third candidate -- Berry, the superintendent of Eminence Independent Schools -- said in an email Monday that he’ll “leave it up to the board” to say which candidates remain in the running.

“This is their search and their process, and I’ll let the announcement of which of us five are finalists come from them,” Berry said.

Marcum said he will call a special meeting of the state board once the background checks are complete in two or three weeks.

"I do feel that we are being transparent with this process," Marcum said.
PREVIOUS | Two finalists remain in Kentucky Education Commissioner search
PREVIOUS | Five candidates named in Kentucky Education Commissioner search
PREVIOUS | Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday announces retirement
PREVIOUS | SUNDAY EDITION: Five years later, Kentucky education chief Terry Holliday puts reform back on track

Final Words

This from Dr. H's Blog:
This is my last blog as commissioner of education for Kentucky. It has been my privilege to serve the children of Kentucky. I am extremely proud that Kentucky educators have helped more students graduate from high school and achieve college- and career-readiness than at any point in the history of the Commonwealth. Student achievement on state assessments, the ACT, and other national assessments continue to show Kentucky students are making progress.

While I am proud of these accomplishments, I am also aware that there is much work to do for the new commissioner and the Kentucky Board of Education. 

Achievement gaps persist and unless addressed, many children will not be able to reach their potential. Early childhood expansion is critical if we are ever going to close achievement gaps. 

While we have excellent teacher preparation programs in Kentucky, we must review the certification requirements for our upper elementary and middle school teachers who focus on mathematics. 

The Governor’s Bullying Task Force recommendations need to be fully implemented in our schools. 

Funding for critical support systems like school transportation and career and technical education must be increased. 

These issues and others will present many challenges to the Kentucky Department of Education leadership and the Kentucky General Assembly.

While we have achieved much and there is much left to do, my fondest memories of Kentucky will be the people. I traveled to every county in the state and visited every school district. I visited more than 800 schools and personally talked with thousands of educators, parents and community leaders across Kentucky. I am convinced that the people of Kentucky are kind, caring and committed to support public education. 

It has been the pinnacle of my career to work with a terrific Governor and First Lady. 

Members of the General Assembly have been strong advocates of education and Senate Bill 1 (2009) has provided the road map for the last six years. 

The team at the Kentucky Department of Education is second to none and will continue to do terrific work in support of our schools and students. 

Kentucky teachers are the best in the nation and will continue to motivate students. 

Finally, the reason educators do what they do is for the children. It is the reason I have done what I do for so many years. The Kentucky students I have met during my time as Commissioner are bright, eager to learn, and motivated to succeed. Kentucky has a very bright future with these students as future leaders.

Best wishes to all.

And then there were two

State board trims commissioner field, firm to be hired to 
conduct in-depth background checks on unidentified pair

This from Brad Hughes KSBA:

It will be another two to three weeks before Kentuckians know who is to be the state’s sixth education commissioner, but leaders of the state board of education expressed confidence Saturday that either of the two remaining candidates will be a winning choice for the Commonwealth.

After “give and take conversations” Friday evening and Saturday morning in Lexington, members of the Kentucky Board of Education took less than 90 seconds in public session to reduce the applicants to replace retiring Education Commissioner Terry Holliday to “candidate 8921” and “candidate 5379.”

Department of Education staff will work with the board’s search consultant, Greenwood/Asher & Associates, to hire “an appropriate entity to conduct in-depth background checks” on both individuals.

While KBE Chairman Roger Marcum didn't identify those still under consideration, he and KBE Vice Chairman Jonathan Parrent said the search process has put Kentucky in a win-win situation.

“We had an unbelievably thorough, great discussion about extremely well-qualified candidates,” said Parrent, a Madisonville community college executive. “They are both outstanding professionals who I know will move Kentucky forward.”

Marcum said, “I’m very optimistic that once Kentuckians see who we’ve selected, and that either one could do a great job of leading the foundation that we’ve built and the work that remains to be done, that this will be the right person to lead us where we need to go with education in Kentucky.”

Marcum, a former superintendent, said he hoped the KBE will meet within two to three weeks and formally offer the job to one of the two candidates.

Holliday retires on Monday after six years as commissioner. Associate Commissioner and General Counsel Kevin C. Brown becomes interim commissioner on Sept. 1 to serve until the new leader takes over. Marcum said Saturday he still hopes that will happen within a 60- to 90-day window after the position is offered and accepted.

The five interviewed over the weekend were:
• Kathleen M. Airhart, Ed.D., deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the Tennessee Department of Education.
• Buddy Berry, Ed.D., superintendent of Eminence Independent Schools in Henry County.
• Christopher A. Koch, Ed.D., interim president of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation in Washington, D.C.
• Lloyd D. Martin, Ph.D., chief executive officer for Universal School Solutions, LLC, an Ohio education consultancy firm that he owns.
• Stephen L. Pruitt, Ph.D., senior vice president at Achieve, Inc., a nonprofit education reform organization in Washington, D.C.

More background checks “to be sure”

When the KBE launched its search for Holliday’s successor in June, more than one member made points about wanting the most thorough process possible. In 2007, the state board hired Illinois superintendent Barbara Erwin, but she resigned just before starting work after resume errors and leadership issues were made public.

Marcum said the deeper background checks, which will cost between $8,000 and $10,000, and the choice to abandon a goal of hiring someone before Holliday’s retirement date, are solid decisions.
“We’re taking that extra time because we want to be sure that we’ve properly vetted the candidates. It’s obvious that we’re getting closer and closer to the decision. We want to make sure we’ve done everything we can do to ensure that we’ve checked out the background of the folks we are considering,” he said.

“This background check will be more extensive than what we’ve done on any of the other applicants. There is some expense to that and we didn’t want to spend that extra money until we knew we were really serious about these candidates,” Marcum said. “With these two people, we feel that way.”

Two stood out, many offered input

Out of the five finalists interviewed, the two moving forward "separated themselves" from the others, according to Marcum.

“That’s clear. We have two really strong candidates left for the board to consider,” he said.

Since the Department of Education released the identities of finalists Thursday afternoon, Marcum said KBE members have heard plenty about the applicants under consideration.

“We got a lot of feedback, more than I ever expected,” he said. “It started soon after the press release. From that point on, it was constant – either text messages, emails and phone calls. That tells me how concerned the entire Kentucky community – not just the education community – is about this process. The feedback has been very helpful. And as a result, the board is going to be able to arrive at a really good decision for Kentucky’s kids. That’s been our goal all along.

“I am confident when we make our final decision, it will be a unanimous decision,” he said. “My goal in leading this process has been to make sure that we are in full support of whoever we hire as our next commissioner, and I’m confident that whoever is selected of those final two will have the support of the full board.”

Marcum said the upcoming special KBE meeting will be in its normal meeting place in the Department for Education’s office in Frankfort. He expects the meeting will be webcast live as is the KBE’s practice when meetings are conducted there.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


A couple of heavy hitters are among the finalists for Kentucky Education Commissioner.

That's the good news. 

But the agenda for Saturday's decisive KBE meeting also indicates that the Board may extend a job offer - effectively removing any meaningful public input prior to selection, should that come to pass.

The lack of public vetting might not doom the new Commissioner, but it's hard to imagine that it would engender much support for the appointee. It's much more likely to put wind in the sails of those legislators who would prefer that Kentucky's Education Commissioner be directly elected - a big step backward.

This from the Kentucky Board of Education (via Press release):
Today, the Kentucky Board of Education announced the names of the five candidates it is currently considering for the position of commissioner of education.
         The five are:
·       Kathleen M. Airhart, Ed.D. – Airhart currently serves as the deputy commissioner, chief operating officer for the Tennessee Department of Education, a position she has held since January. She has primary responsibility for the divisions of state finance, federal programs, audit, information technology, and human resources. Prior to that she was deputy commissioner, chief academic officer with the Tennessee Department of Education and provided direct oversight to the divisions of curriculum and instruction, career and technical education, special populations, audit and consolidated planning and monitoring. Airhart’s previous experience includes: teacher; compliance consultant; special education supervisor; and superintendent for the Putnam County school system in Cookeville, Tennessee. She earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and educational specialist degree from Tennessee Technological University and a Doctorate of Education from Tennessee State University.

·       Buddy Berry, Ed.D. – Berry is in his sixth year as superintendent of Eminence Independent Schools in Eminence, Kentucky. Berry’s previous experience, all in Kentucky, includes: mathematics teacher and head football coach at Owen County High School and Jeffersontown High School; guidance counselor at Shelby County High School; mathematics teacher at Eminence Ind. High School; and Highly Skilled Educator with the Kentucky Department of Education. Berry earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky; a master’s from Bellarmine University; a superintendency certificate from Eastern Kentucky University; and a Doctorate of Education from Northern Kentucky University.

·       Christopher A. Koch, Ed.D. – Koch (pronounced cook) currently is the interim president of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), a position he has held since May. Prior to that he was Illinois State Superintendent of Education from December 2006-May 2015. Koch’s previous experience
includes assistant superintendent, chief education officer, and director of special education with the Illinois state education agency; education program specialist with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education; and special education/vocational teacher in four states and in various settings including an Outward Bound program, college preparatory school, youth detention center and psychiatric hospital. Koch earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree and Doctorate of Education from The George Washington University.

·       Lloyd D. Martin, Ph.D. – Martin is currently the chief executive officer for Universal School Solutions, LLC, an education consultancy firm that he founded in 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. Martin’s prior experience includes: superintendent of Mansfield City Schools in Mansfield, Ohio; executive director of K-9 education –
cluster 1, and regional director with the Duval County Public Schools, in Jacksonville, Florida; executive principal with the Dayton Public Schools in Dayton, Ohio; and principal, assistant principal, leadership trainee, and social studies teacher with the Columbus Public Schools in Columbus, Ohio. Martin earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University; a master’s degree from the University of Dayton, where he also earned a Doctorate of Philosophy.

·       Stephen L. Pruitt, Ph.D. – Pruitt is currently senior vice president at Achieve, Inc., an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization, where he has served since 2010. Pruitt’s prior experience includes chief of staff, associate state superintendent, director of academic standards, and science and mathematics program manager with the Georgia Department of Education; and high school chemistry teacher in Fayetteville and Tyrone, Georgia. Pruitt earned a bachelor’s degree from North Georgia College and State University; a master’s from the University of West Georgia and a Doctorate of Philosophy from Auburn University.
 “The pool of candidates for this position was excellent because of the extensive outreach and Kentucky’s strong history as a progressive leader in public education,” said Kentucky Board of Education Chair Roger Marcum. “Narrowing the pool has been difficult, because of the wide-ranging and vast experience the many candidates would bring to the job. We continue to focus on the characteristics for the commissioner’s position that the board agreed upon and on which Kentucky educators, partner groups and the public provided input early in the search. The board looks forward to continuing exploration of each candidate’s thoughts, ideas and views this weekend.”
         The board will meet tomorrow and Saturday in Lexington to conduct second interviews with each of the five candidates.
         During the search, the board and search firm, Greenwood/Asher and Associates, Inc. made more than 330 contacts, reviewed detailed information on more than 44 individuals and interviewed 13 candidates.
         The new commissioner will replace current Commissioner Terry Holliday, who is retiring next week.
         The board has selected Associate Commissioner and General Counsel Kevin C. Brown to serve as interim commissioner starting Sept. 1 until a new commissioner can begin.

This from KSBA:
According to the advance agenda, the state board will consider one of three options Saturday after completing the interviews:
* direct staff to contract for in-depth criminal and background checks on one or more of the finalists;
* vote to select a new commissioner and extend the job offer; or

* schedule another special meeting to continue the search process.
With the exception of making those decisions, much of the Friday and Saturday KBE meetings will be in closed session as permitted by the Kentucky Open Meetings Act regarding personnel decisions.

Holliday's final day on the job is next Monday, Aug. 31. On Sept. 1, Associate Commissioner Kevin Brown becomes interim commissioner, serving until the new top KDE official can start work.

Here is the full agenda for the meeting:

Kentucky Board of Education Special Meeting
Friday (beginning at 4 p.m. ET)
Embassy Suites, 1801 Newtown Pike, Lexington, KY 40511

I. Call to Order (Open Session)
II. Roll Call
III. Discussion of reference and background check feedback and individual candidates for the commissioner's position with the search firm representatives (Closed session per KRS 61.810(1)(f))
IV. Working dinners and individual discussions with selected candidates for the commissioner of education's position (Closed session per KRS 61.810(1)(f))
V. Recess

Saturday (beginning at 7 a.m.)

I. Meeting continues (Closed Session cont’d - Full Board) (Note: The day's meeting includes a working breakfast and lunch.)
II. Interviews with individual candidates for the commissioner of education's position and discussion of information gathered during individual interviews (Closed session per KRS 61.810 (1)(f) cont'd)
III. Consideration of a possible motion to direct staff to contract with an appropriate entity to conduct an in-depth criminal and background check on candidate(s) for commissioner's position, if appropriate (Open session)
IV. Consideration of a possible motion to select the new commissioner of education and issue an offer of employment, if appropriate (Open session)
V. Consideration of a possible motion to convene a special meeting(s) to continue the interview and search process and direct the search firm likewise, if appropriate (Open session)
VI. Adjournment

OEA Confirms Katte's Conflict of Interest

Shelton's Approval did not Avert the Conflict

Katte Improperly Skirked Council Approval

It is a salutary doctrine that he who is entrusted with the business of others 
cannot be allowed to make such business an object of profit for himself.
---Commonwealth v. Withers, 98 S.W.2d 24 (Ky. 1936)

A final report issued by the Office of Educational Accountability on August 13, 2015, concluded that former Meadowthorpe principal Joel Katte had a conflict of interest when he took a position as a paid consultant for the Franklin-Covey/The Leader in Me (LIM) program. The conflict of interest was not removed when he received permission from the district to serve as a consultant. Yet OEA's remedy extends only to Katte and the Meadowthorpe School Council, despite the fact that Shelton, Human Resources Director Melodee Parker, and Director of Elementary Principals Loraye Jones were aware of his paid consultant position.

The district's support of Katte lead to the raising and spending of thousands of dollars without Council approval in violation of state law. KRS 156.480 (2) reads:
No employee of any county or independent school district with decision-making authority over the financial position of the school district shall have any pecuniary interest, either directly or indirectly, in an amount exceeding twenty-five dollars ($25) per supplying any goods, services, property, merchandise...of any nature whatsoever for which school funds are expended. If any person specified in this subsection receives, directly or indirectly, any gift, reward, or promise of reward for his influence in recommending or procuring the use of any goods, services, property, or merchandise of any kind whatsoever for which school funds are expended, he shall upon conviction be fined not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred ($500), and his office or appointment shall without further action be vacant.

Fayette  County School District Board Policy 03.1721, "Conflict of Interests" essentially quotes state law, yet district staff attorney Shelley Chatfield told OEA that while she did not find Mr. Katte's consultant work to run afoul of Board Policy, she felt it "was not the best practice" for him to continue as a paid consultant.

The OEA found that Katte "received indirect benefits for his consultancy arrangement. He acted as a paid consultant for the Covey organization from spring 2013 through summer 2014, during his tenure as principal. While Mr.  Katte was a consultant, the Covey company was paid school funds, such as Meadowthorpe Leadership Day proceeds and Fayette County School District money, for LIM expenses. Mr. Katte was paid by the Covey organization during the same time period for his LIM consultant work. There is legal authority to conclude that Mr. Katte's arrangement constituted an indirect conflict of interest."

Despite Katte's assertion that his troubles at Meadowthorpe had nothing to do with his decision to accept a district staff position, had he remained, it seems likely that he would have been exposed to possible legal action that could have led to the loss of his appointment as principal.

Katte explained his reasoning for leaving Meadowthorpe saying, "I feel called to support the teaching staffs of the Lexington Day Treatment Center, Fayette Regional Juvenile Detention Center, and our Family Care Center that educates young mothers to ensure these programs' students receive a world-class education that will set each student up for a healthy, successful, and rewarding life."

As if...

View the full report here.

Hat tip to Erica.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Names of final candidates to be next education commissioner could be made public later today

This from KSBA:

If all goes well, the names of the remaining candidates in the search to replace retiring Education Commissioner Terry Holliday could be known today.

Meeting at a Lexington hotel, the Kentucky Board of Education is in closed door talks with its search consultants on the "leading candidates" to become the state's sixth commissioner of education. The advance agenda provided by the Kentucky Department of Education states that, "if appropriate," the KBE will consider inviting its finalists back for a second set of face-to-face interviews this Friday and Saturday at the same location.

This morning, the state board voted to interview an additional candidate by telephone prior to beginning its discussions on winnowing the field down to finalists. The interview was conducted in closed session, as were those of a dozen semifinalists who met the KBE Aug. 14-15 in Louisville. After that meeting, KBE Chairman Roger Marcum declined to elaborate on how many "leading" candidates remain under consideration. In the intervening time, the Florida-based contract search firm, Greenwood/Asher & Associates, has conducted background and reference checks on those candidates.

According to the agency's news release, today's meeting also will include discussion of "if and when" the state board will release the names of finalists for the commissioner's job. Marcum has said that issue hasn't been discussed so far, but he added he didn't envision a scenario by which the state board would not make the names of final candidates public prior to making a selection.

Holliday's last day on the job will be next Monday, Aug. 31. On Sept. 1, Associate Commissioner and General Council Kevin C. Brown will become interim commissioner, serving until the new KDE chief can take over her or his duties later this fall.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Testing Doesn't Measure Up for Americans

Heavy Opposition to Two Key Elements of NCLB:
Accountability and Teacher Evaluation based  on Test Scores

This from Gallup:
The verdict is in, and test scores are out as the ultimate measure of school effectiveness, according to more than three-quarters of U.S. adults surveyed for the 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Instead, more U.S. adults believe engagement with class work and feeling hopeful about the future are important indicators of school effectiveness.

PDK, a professional association for educators, and Gallup have partnered on this important education poll work for decades, and these current findings reveal an intense desire for a new measure of what makes schools great. About one in 10 U.S. adults say students' scores on standardized tests are very important measures of school effectiveness.

Still, test scores continue to be central to any conversation about school performance. They inform strategies on how to close the achievement gap and are a straightforward tool for reporting outcomes and comparing schools. But test scores -- as different as they may look from student to student and school to school -- fall short in helping us understand what makes schools great and students successful.

Test scores cannot be the sole common denominator by which we understand or describe diverse student bodies and school systems. School is not only where students learn and apply information, but also where they can discover and practice what they do best and learn to be a better version of themselves. Schools should be places where students are excited about learning and where they begin to build the foundation for their own unique future.

The public's overwhelming support of the importance of engagement with class work and student hopefulness about the future mirrors the direction that many schools nationwide are taking by adopting positive behavior and positive school culture programs. Many of these programs focus on noncognitive learning domains that are critical to student success.

Adding positive measures to the school effectiveness equation is a core value of the Gallup Student Poll -- an annual Web survey for fifth- through 12th-graders that measures student engagement with school and hope for the future, among other elements that help schools make students ready for the future. The results from this survey complement test scores and other metrics tracked by schools.

Like thousands of other parents around the nation, I'll soon be registering my oldest daughter for her first college entrance exam. I will encourage her to plan ahead, prepare well and perform the best that she can. But before she receives her score, I will remind her of three important truths: her value is not determined by test scores; the opportunity to do good in this world is not measured by the exam; and her potential exceeds the parameters of the exam to tell the tale of her unique talents. Remind a student of these three truths today, so they know that test scores, while important, are not the full measure of a person or an education.
 This from the Washington Post:
Americans overwhelmingly think there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in public schools and that test scores are not the best way to judge schools, teachers or students, according to a national poll.

The results released Sunday come from the 47th annual PDK/Gallup poll of attitudes toward public schools, the longest-running survey of Americans’ views on public education.
The survey showed that the public rejects school accountability built on standardized tests, which has been federal policy through No Child Left Behind, the signature education initiative of President George W. Bush.

Signed into law in 2002, No Child mandated annual tests in reading and math and required schools to raise scores every year or face penalties. Through its own policies and grant programs, the Obama administration has further emphasized testing by requiring states to evaluate teachers based on test scores.
“You see a solid public rejection of [testing] as a primary policy,” said Linda Darling Hammond, a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, after reviewing the poll.
A majority of respondents — 64 percent — said too much emphasis has been placed on testing, and a majority also said the best way to measure the success of a school is not through tests but by whether students are engaged and feel hopeful about the future.

“Too many kids in too many schools are bored,” said Joshua P. Starr, a former superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland who is now chief executive of PDK International, a network of education professionals. “Parents maybe see that and they want their kids to be engaged in schools.”

Many Americans also said they think students should be judged by multiple measures, including student work, written teacher observations and grades. And they overwhelmingly think teacher quality is the best way to improve education, followed by high academic standards and effective principals.

Although the national debate over public education has become polarized during the past several years, with bitter divisions inside and between political parties, the PDK/Gallup poll showed a surprising level of agreement in the public at large.

The 2015 survey, based on telephone and Internet polling performed in May, includes for the first time a breakdown of responses to some questions by racial groups as well as political parties.
A majority of respondents — regardless of political affiliation — opposed the notion of evaluating teachers based in part on test scores, an idea heavily promoted by the Obama administration and fought by teachers unions.

When it comes to the role of the federal government in public schools, a majority of respondents said Washington should play no role in holding schools accountable, paying for schools or deciding the amount of testing. Seven out of 10 respondents said they wanted state and local districts to have those responsibilities.

Regarding academic standards, more than six out of 10 said the expectations for what students should learn is important to school improvement. But a majority — 54 percent — is opposed to the Common Core State Standards, the K-12 academic benchmarks adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia that have been under fire by critics on the left and right.

Despite the view that there is too much standardized testing, a majority of respondents said parents should not excuse their children from tests. A majority also said they think test scores are “somewhat important” in judging the effectiveness of their local schools.

In a rebuttal to those who say states should use common tests so that the public can compare how students perform across state boundaries, fewer than one in five public school parents said it was important to know how children in their communities performed on standardized tests compared with students in other districts, states or countries.

But nearly one in three blacks said using standardized tests to compare their local schools with schools in other districts and other states is “very important.” Just 15 percent of whites gave the same response.

Overall, the public is happy with local schools, with 57 percent of public school parents giving their school an A or a B for performance. But just 19 percent had that opinion of public schools nationwide.

“Clearly, there is anxiety about what’s happening in teaching and learning,” said Andres Alonso, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a former chief executive of Baltimore City Public Schools.

Respondents said they support charter schools, and more than six out of 10 say parents should be able to choose any school for their children within their school district.

Overall, 57 percent of respondents were opposed to vouchers and 31 percent were in favor. Public school parents split in a similar way.

But by political party, Republicans were divided on vouchers, with 46 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed. Democrats were strongly opposed to vouchers, with 71 percent against and 16 percent in favor. Independents opposed vouchers by a margin of about 3 to 2.

On some issues, there were clear differences of opinion along racial lines. Blacks tended to be more supportive of the Common Core and standardized testing than whites, and a majority of blacks — 55 percent — gave President Obama an A or a B for his support of public schools, compared with 17 percent of whites.

Friday, August 21, 2015

EKU Opening Convocation

I mentioned not too long ago that there is a lot going on at EKU. President Benson's opening Convocation on Tuesday provides a great overview. Go Colonels.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Revenue Cabinet: Grand Campus should be tax exempt

This from the Richmond Register:

The state Revenue Cabinet filed a brief Tuesday with the state Board of Tax Assessment Appeals saying the Madison County Property Valuation Administrator and the county assessment appeals board failed to follow its “direction and advice” in denying tax exemption to the Grand Campus residential property leased by Eastern Kentucky University.

Several statutes require PVAs and local assessment appeals board to follow the Revenue Department’s advice in assessing value and granting exemptions, the brief states.
It adds that “property owned and occupied by … an institution of education not used or employed for gain by any person or corporation” is exempt from taxes.
The department reviewed EKU’s lease before drafting its July 2014 opinion, copies of which were provided to both the university and the PVA. And the PVA’s denial of exemption was in “direct contravention” of the the department’s advice, the brief adds.
Built by private developers and leased to the university, EKU would pay more than $253,000 to local taxing entities this year on assessed value of $26 million if it is not exempt. The university’s lease requires it to pay any taxes on the property.
Local assessment board members, in denying the exemption, said a July 2014 Revenue Department letter to EKU and a July 16 conference call with the county board expressing an “opinion” did not qualify as the “advice” that state law required it to follow. The department “declined to make judicial determination,” according to the local board’s written decision.
The board also agreed with Jerry Gilbert, the attorney for both the county school and library boards, that EKU’s agreement with the Grand Campus owners resembles a conventional triple net lease.
Madison County PVA Billy Ackerman said he denied the exemption because he received no direct instructions from the Revenue Department, and he could find no reason in the state’s manual for PVAs to grant the exemption.
After the county assessment appeals board denied the exemption following a July 17 public hearing, EKU took its case to the state appeals board.
The university’s appeal states that unlike a conventional lease, its lease gives it an “equitable interest” in the property, if not outright ownership.
If the state board refuses to grant the exemption, the Revenue Department’s brief states the Grand Campus property should be assessed at $28.5 million. That was Ackerman’s original assessment, which was lowered to $26 million by the county assessment appeals board.
The school and library boards have already authorized its attorney to take the issue to a court of law if administrative appeals fail.

After meeting on traffic concerns, city will issue building permit for new Lexington high school

This from H-L:
A building permit for a new high school along Winchester Road will be issued Thursday morning.
Officials from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and Fayette County Public Schools met Wednesday afternoon to iron out issues surrounding traffic flow into the school, and they came to an agreement.

"We had a successful meeting with school representatives this afternoon, and we have general agreement on needed traffic improvements," said Derek Paulsen, the city's planning commissioner.
The city issued a stop-work order Aug. 12 after discovering that a plan review had not been completed for the high school even though construction had begun.

As part of that plan review, different city departments must sign off on key parts of the plan, including traffic engineering. Traffic engineering had not approved the plan because it needed more information about how students would access the high school, which will have a main entrance on Winchester Road and an access road that leads to Sir Barton Way, city officials said Monday.

The school system previously had been issued a land disturbance permit. Contractors were allowed to continue to do limited site preparation work this week while the school district and the city worked out how traffic was going to enter and exit the school.

The main entrance for the high school is on Winchester Road, but school officials say many people will enter and exit the property via a new access road — Meeting Street — that connects with Sir Barton Way.

But city officials said they needed to know more about traffic flow before a permit could be issued.
At the Wednesday meeting, the two sides agreed capacity would be increased in the turn lane from Sir Barton Way to Meeting Street. There will be continued discussion on improving access to the school from Winchester Road, city officials said late Wednesday.

D.W. Wilburn Inc. has a $62 million contract with the district to build the school.

The total cost of the school is expected to be more than $81 million. The school, scheduled to open in fall 2017, is being built on 65 acres at 2000 Winchester Road. It will serve about 1,800 students.

Read more here:

Matt Bevin talks teacher pension, early childhood and charter schools at Louisville meeting

This from WDRB:
During a visit with education leaders in Louisville Wednesday, the Republican nominee for Kentucky governor talked about preschool, teacher pensions and charter schools.

Matt Bevin met with the group of about 20 educators and community officials at the Jefferson County Public Schools Van Hoose Education Center for over an hour, outlining some of his goals for education in the state.
"One of my biggest concerns is that we don't expect enough of our young people," Bevin said. "We dumb things down."

JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens said the district invited Bevin to speak to the group -- which included members of the Jefferson County Education Foundation, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and at one point, five members of the Jefferson County Board of Education.
The meeting was not advertised on the district's website and was not part of a formal school board meeting, rather more of an informal discussion on topics that are important to the community, Hargens said.

Bevin's opponent in the gubernatorial race, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has also been invited to visit with the same group of education officials in Louisville.

During the meeting, Bevin spoke about a number of hot-button education issues.

He reiterated an earlier stance that he doesn't believe the federal Head Start program is effective.
"We've put $170 billion plus into that program...are there smarter ways we could use those monies, more creative ways, ways that are designed to do the exact same thing," Bevin said.
"Everybody wants the same result. Sometimes I think we recreate and reinvent things that are working but we don't look at things that are not working."

The comment drew the immediate ire of the Kentucky Democratic Party, which sent out a press release Tuesday afternoon saying Bevin "doubled down" on his opposition to early childhood education programs like Head Start.

"Bevin's views about early childhood education are not only inaccurate, they are offensive to Kentucky's teachers and students -- but at least he's telling the truth to this group about his opposition to these vital programs," said David Bergstein of the Kentucky Democratic Party.

But in an interview after the meeting with WDRB News, Bevin said he simply wants to ensure the government is "educating our young people to the maximum potential at the most affordable price possible."

"We need to look at public education dollars at every level -- from pre-kindergarten to post-secondary," he said. "That means if we are not getting the results we want at any of those levels, lets re-evaluate what we are doing and find better ways to accomplish the task."

Bevin also addressed his support of exploring the possibility of allowing charter schools in Kentucky.
"Truth be told, we have schools that are not working," he said. "They've not been working for some time. Kentucky, as a whole, we are not where we would like to be or where I believe we could be academically relatively to other states."

Bevin said he believes opponents to charter schools are "so resistant to the idea of it that we don't even want to talk about it."

"This is how we got into the (teacher) pension crisis, this is how we got into a whole lot of other things. Everybody wants to ignore it," Bevin said. "It needs to be addressed."

On the topic of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which is currently underfunded, Bevin said he believes the state should "freeze the existing plans exactly as they are" and come up with a different solution, suggesting that Kentucky move to a defined contribution plan.

"We are playing a shell game making people believe that everything is good," he said. "And things are not good."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

State Senate Should Weigh In On Education Commissioner, Legislator Says

This from WFPL:
The appointment of Kentucky’s top education official would be subject to state Senate confirmation under a bill pre-filed last week in the General Assembly.

State Rep. Kenny Imes, a Murray Republican, said he’s seeking to add accountability to the state’s education department.
State Rep. Kenny Imes

“I think the public should have the right to have a voice in who is running our education system in Kentucky, along with their elected representatives,” he said. “The state by constitution is charged with providing the public education, and as such I just don’t think it ought to be totally run by KEA or any specific group.”

A spokesman for the Kentucky Education Association did not return an email request for comment on Monday.

The Kentucky education commissioner is appointed by the state Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor. Under current law, the Senate confirms the governor’s appointments to the education board, according to information provided by the Legislative Research Commission.
Last weekend, the state Board of Education interviewed a dozen candidates for the education commissioner post. The person chosen will replace the retiring Terry Holliday, the state education commissioner since 2009.

The board’s chosen candidate will serve a term spelled out in a contract. But this will be the last time that happens if Imes’ bill wins legislative approval in the 2016 session.

Imes said the current process for appointing a state education commissioner removes public oversight.

“Whether anybody likes it or not, politics is going to be involved in it,” Imes said. “And I just think elected people need to have more say in it because that’s where the public is going to get the accountability.”

Imes said the federal Common Core standards are an example. Kentucky was an early adopter of the Common Core, which has supporters as well as critics among educators and political leaders.
Imes said he’s also planning to file a bill proposing that the state’s top education official be elected in a statewide vote. That used to the case, but the role was changed to an appointed post in the 1990s during a push for state education reform.

Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said in an email that a goal of the Kentucky Education Reform Act in the 1990s was to “de-politicize as many aspects of public education as possible.”

“I think many across the state would see it as a step backwards to re-politicize the process,” McKim said of Imes’ proposal.

Roger L. Marcum, chairman of the state Board of Education, declined to comment, saying he hadn’t yet reviewed the bill.

Imes said he’s unsure if his proposal will get a hearing next year in the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives. But he said he’s hopeful the bill will lead to further discussion of the hiring process.

Rep. Derrick Graham, a Frankfort Democrat and chair of the House education committee, could not be reached for comment.  A spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo did not return a request for comment Monday.

Bevin would replace current state standards.

This from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce:
After legislation was passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2009 calling for more rigorous education standards, Kentucky was the first to adopt new academic standards developed by a group of several dozen states to improve students’ education attainment.

Since the standards were fully implemented in 2011, many education leaders cite the results to include higher graduation rates, more college and career-ready students, higher levels of reading proficiency in the earlier years of schooling and more.

However, there has been a lot of controversy over the issue of what are sometimes called the common core standards. The issue has become a hot button topic in the 2015 governor’s race as Republican candidate Matt Bevin has said he would like to see the state do away with the standards.

In a sit down interview with the Kentucky Chamber, Bevin said he does not believe the common core standards are working the way they were meant to.

“Granted, we had a system that didn’t work well. Understood why we were looking for something better. But we jumped for something before we even looked into the pool,” Bevin said, arguing that the standards had not yet been written before we “signed up” for them.

The standards actually had been drafted by the time in 2010 that Kentucky adopted them through the joint action of the state Board of Education, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Education Professional Standards Board (which oversees teacher certification). They were finalized a few months later before Kentucky implemented the standards.

As for the price tag of repeal, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said getting rid of the standards would cost the state around $35 million.

When asked about the estimated amount that the state would incur to do away with the standards, Bevin noted wasteful spending in other areas of state government and said that amount would not be the problem.

“The idea that 30 to 35 million dollars is the rub is a false argument. That’s not nothing, that’s real money and that’s taxpayer money,” Bevin said (at 4:30). “The biggest cost is the cost on the teachers who have to go through yet another change. That’s where I am sensitive to this issue.”

Bevin went on to say there is no perfect solution in the case of the standards and what they could be replaced with but cited states like Massachusetts and suggested that Kentucky bring its own educators, principals and others in the academic field together to form new standards that give local control.

However, the Kentucky Department of Education points out that Kentucky teachers were involved in the development of the current academic standards and Commissioner Holliday noted that the standards have been tweaked in the state and are now called the Kentucky Core Academic Standards.

From the Kentucky Department of Education:
“The drafting process for the standards included broad input from Kentucky teachers, administrators, higher education officials, education partners, the public, staffs of the three participating agencies (CPE, EPSB and KDE), a national validation committee and national education organizations. The federal government did not direct or even suggest what should be included. In fact, federal law prohibits dictating a national curriculum.”
Hear more of what Bevin had to say on the topic by watching the full interview below:

One-on-one interviews with Democratic candidate Jack Conway and Independent candidate Drew Curtis will be posted on Bottom Line in the coming weeks.

AG Conway determines KBE broke Open Meetings Law

"Neither the board nor the department considered the fact that 
[a committee created by the Board] needed to comply 
with Kentucky’s open-meetings law. It appears the board 
and its advisors believed the law didn’t apply 
and the subcommittee would be free to operate totally in secret.”
 ---Richard Innes, Bluegrass Institute
KDE doesn't believe Attorney General's opinion 
impacts ongoing commissioner search process
This from KSBA:
Attorney General Jack Conway has determined that a Kentucky Board of Education committee violated the state’s Open Meetings Act when it met to review prospective consultants to aid in the search for the next commissioner of education.

The opinion was sought by the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions - a frequent critic of the state Department of Education and public education in Kentucky in general.

The dispute centered on May meetings of a KBE subcommittee, consisting of Chairman Roger Marcum and members Grayson Boyd and David Karem. The panel was created to screen respondents to a request for proposals from firms to work on the search for retiring Education Commissioner Terry Holliday's successor. The KBE ultimately hired one of the applicants, Asher/Greenwood & Associates, a Florida company that has been recruiting candidates for the post.

According to the opinion, the Department of Education responded to the complaint in a letter asserting that “'Department employees, jointly with the three [Board] members, met [whether by telephone or in person] to review and score the applications received for the initial portion of the search firm selection process. ...This group of Department employees and three Board members existed on a time-limited basis, for completion of a single task as contemplated by the statute.’ Counsel further advised that ‘[t]his group was not viewed as a formal committee of the Board, as no committee of the Board is for a single task and no committee of the Board contains members except those who serve on the Board.’ No final actions were taken by the 'group' as the next stage of the process continued in a public meeting of the Board.”

However, in the Aug. 14 opinion, the AG held that “the Board is a ‘public agency’ under KRS 61.805(2) and it established and created the committee during its meeting on April 1, 2015. Accordingly, the committee itself was a ‘public agency’ for purposes of the Open Meetings Act. To hold otherwise ‘would clearly thwart the intent of the law.’”

“When a quorum of the committee came together to discuss public business, a meeting occurred. At a minimum, on any such occasion there [should have been] a determination that a quorum [was] present and a commencement of proceedings prior to the beginning of any discussions properly held in closed session. Established and created by the Kentucky Board of Education during its April 1, 2015, meeting, the committee was a ‘public agency’ and thus required to comply with provisions of the Act,” the opinion reads.

The Bluegrass Institute had asked that the KBE conduct a webinar training of its members in the Open Meetings Act. Conway rejected issuing such a directive, saying in the opinion, “Because the role of this office in adjudicating a dispute arising under the Act is limited to issuing a decision stat[ing] whether the agency violated the provisions of KRS 61.805 to 61.850, the Attorney General declines to comment on the remedies proposed or implemented.”

According to a statement released by the Department of Education, "KDE is in the process of reviewing the opinion. It is KDE's understanding that the Attorney General's opinion neither invalidates the selection of the search firm nor the ongoing process of selecting a new commissioner of education."

The KBE is scheduled to meet in Lexington Aug. 25 to consider selection of a short list of finalists in the commissioner search. If the timetable holds, the state board will meet Aug. 28 and 29 to interview the finalists and possibly select a new commissioner.

The full Attorney General’s opinion follows:


August 14, 2015

In re: Jim Waters/Kentucky Board of Education

Summary: Because the Kentucky Board of Education, a public agency within the meaning of KRS 61.805(2), established and created the committee comprised of Board members and employees of the Department of Education, the committee itself was a public agency within the meaning of KRS 61.805(2)(g). Accordingly, the committee was required to comply with requirements of the Open Meetings Act.
Open Meetings Decision

Jim Waters, President of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, (“Bluegrass Institute”) initiated this appeal challenging the Kentucky Board of Education’s (“Board”) denial of his June 11, 2015, open meetings complaint. Mr. Waters directed his complaint to Board Chair Roger Marcum challenging “the actions of an officially appointed Board committee that appear inconsistent with the requirements of KRS 61.805 to 850.” Mr. Waters observed that “even if a public agency is allowed to conduct some business in closed session, the meeting still must be advertised” and initially opened in public, and final actions must be taken during open session. By all indications, the committee failed to comply with any of these statutory requirements.

The committee “was created by a formal vote of the Board during its April 1, 2015 regular meeting,” Mr. Waters noted, “and charged with managing and narrowing the search for a firm to assist the Board in finding a new commissioner of education.” This dispositive fact is undisputed. Mr. Waters quoted relevant excerpts from a May 7, 2015, news release by the Kentucky Department of Education (“Department”) indicating that the committee narrowed the search from three responsive bidders to one for consideration by the Board. He also quoted the May 4, 2015, text message from Chairman Marcum to Bluegrass Institute education analyst Richard Innes indicating the committee spent “many hours” reviewing proposals in further support of this position. Thus, Mr. Waters maintained that the committee was a “public agency” under KRS 61.805(2)(g) and therefore violated the Open Meetings Act in failing to comply with either KRS 61.820(2) or 61.823(3) and other provisions, including 61.815(1). In accordance with a line of prior decisions construing the literal terms of KRS 61.805(2)(g), this office agrees with Mr. Waters’ characterization of the committee.

By letter dated June 24, 2015, counsel for the Department, which acts on behalf of the Board and “as its agent,” explained that in this capacity, the Department issued the RFP for the search firm selection process conducted under KRS Chapter 45A. The Department received and processed the applications received. “Department employees, jointly with the three [Board] members, met [whether by telephone or in person] to review and score the applications received for the initial portion of the search firm selection process.”

The Board maintained that “[t]his group of Department employees and three Board members existed on a time-limited basis, for completion of a single task as contemplated by the statute.” Counsel further advised that “[t]his group was not viewed as a formal committee of the Board, as no committee of the Board is for a single task and no committee of the Board contains members except those who serve on the Board.” No final actions were taken by the “group” as the next stage of the process continued in a public meeting of the Board. Under existing legal authority, none of these facts alter the relevant analysis. 
Because the role of this office in adjudicating a dispute arising under the Act is limited to issuing a decision “stat[ing] whether the agency violated the provisions of KRS 61.805 to 61.850,” the Attorney General declines to comment on the remedies proposed or implemented. 08-OMD-164, p. 2; 11-OMD-162.

However, the relevant facts regarding creation and establishment of the committee are undisputed and confirm Mr. Waters’ position that the committee was a “public agency” within the meaning of KRS 61.805(2)(g) that was required to comply with provisions of the Act. During the discussion of the best manner in which to review the responses to the RFP, Mr. Waters emphasized, “Board members suggested forming a committee to reduce the list of bidders to be considered by the full board membership” and Board Vice Chair Jonathan Parrent made a formal motion to create a committee for that purpose. Mr. Waters maintained, and the Board has not disputed, that the committee was created “by a formal vote of the Board[.]” The Board Chair appointed the members of the committee, including several from the Department. Mr. Waters rejected the Board’s position that a committee created for a limited time and purpose does not fall within the definition of KRS 61.805(2)(g), correctly asserting that KRS 61.805(2)(g) specifically includes “ad hoc committees.” See 00-OMD-96. “Whether this group is considered a ‘committee,’ [a ‘subcommittee,’] an ‘ad hoc committee,’ or an ‘advisory committee’ makes no difference, since all of these are covered by the definition in KRS 61.805(2)(g).” 09-OMD-168, p. 7 (Planning Commission, a public agency, “established and created the” Comprehensive Plan Committee, “and controlled it inasmuch as it assigned the Committee the task of drafting the goals and objectives and reporting back” and the Committee itself was therefore a public agency); 06-OMD-068, p. 10 (record on appeal confirmed that a committee was formed in the “common and approved sense of the word” notwithstanding characterization by the agency of it as “group” on appeal).

In responding to Mr. Waters’ appeal, the Board contrasted the committee with “groups” described in 00-OMD-141. However, it did not dispute Mr. Waters’ account of the determinative facts – the manner in which the committee was created, his description of the specific task it was delegated or the business it discussed. Instead, the Board argued that even if this “group” is determined to constitute a public agency, the group “met only one time” to discuss and then advise on a procurement issue which state law requires to be conducted in closed session. This fact is not dispositive. Rather, “the applicability of an exception permitting discussion in closed session does not, as the [Board] argues, take the committee entirely outside the scope of the” Act. 12-OMD-140, p. 9. Any meeting of a quorum of the committee at which public business was discussed or action was taken was required to be convened in open session pursuant to KRS 61.810(1). Id. (“action taken,” if any, “need not be final action”); see also 09-OMD-168. It was also subject to “the notice provisions of KRS 61.823 for special meetings, or if and when regular meetings [were] held, the schedule provisions of KRS 61.820.” Id., pp. 9-10. Assuming the committee was authorized to conduct a closed session discussion(s) under KRS 61.810(1)(a)-(m), it was nevertheless required to comply with KRS 61.815(1)(a)-(d). This office makes no finding on the Board’s argument regarding the propriety of the discussions held under KRS 61.810(1)(k) as the original complaint did not allege that discussions of the committee could not have been properly held in a closed session(s); this issue is therefore not ripe for administrative review.

“Public agency” is broadly defined at KRS 61.805(2) to include “[a]ny board, commission, committee, subcommittee, ad hoc committee, advisory committee, council, or agency, . . . established, created, and controlled by a ‘public agency’ as defined” in subsections (a) - (f), or (h) of this provision. KRS 61.805(2)(g). The Board is a “public agency” under KRS 61.805(2) and it established and created the committee during its meeting on April 1, 2015. Accordingly, the committee itself was a “public agency” for purposes of the Open Meetings Act. To hold otherwise “would clearly thwart the intent of the law.” Lexington Herald-Leader Company v. University of Kentucky Presidential Search Committee, 732 S.W.2d 884, 886 (Ky. 1987)(holding that Presidential Search Committee created by action of the UK Board of Trustees, a public agency created by statute, was itself a public agency subject to provisions of the Act); compare Taylor v. Bowling Green Municipal Utilities, No. 2011-CA-00592, 2012 WL 5371994 (Ky. App. Nov. 2, 2012)(distinguishing Presidential Search Committee in holding that group comprised of three Utility employees did not qualify as “committee” under KRS 61.805(2)(g) as the Utility’s Board had “not requested the action or approved it,” nor had the Board delegated authority to said employees and the “informal group” was therefore “not akin to a committee created by a formal action of a Board”).
Prior decisions of this office support the conclusion we reach here. See 10-OMD-149 (if screening committee was “established and created by the [Kentucky Department of Education] under the terms of the published policy, and controlled by [the Department] to the extent its duties were defined by the policy,” it was a public agency per KRS 61.805(2)(g)); see also 93-OMD-49 (a three member grievance committee appointed by the Mayor of Scottsville was a public agency); 97-OMD-139 (Housing Appeals Committee at Eastern Kentucky University is a public agency pursuant to KRS 61.805(2)(g) and its meetings are open to the public unless it can properly invoke a statutory exception); 99-OMD-77 (Finance and Budget Committee created by Franklin County Fiscal Court as an advisory body is a public agency); 06-OMD-068 (“R/V Committee” appointed by Mayor to review section of zoning ordinance and present a proposed text amendment to City Council was a public agency); 95-OMD-124; 04-OMD-148; 05-OMD-117; compare 00-OMD-141 (seven Department employees, four contractor representatives, and one employee of the Office of Education Accountability did not fall within KRS 61.805(2)(a) through (h) as the informal workgroup was “neither established nor created by the Kentucky Board of Education or the Department, nor [was] it controlled by these agencies”)(emphasis added); 09-OMD-056.

Insofar as the committee, “standing alone, constituted a public agency for purposes of the Open Meetings Act, this office considers the total composition of the [committee] itself, rather than the total composition of the [Board], in determining whether a quorum of the [committee] was present.” 06-OMD-211, pp. 4-5. When a quorum of the committee came together to discuss public business, a meeting occurred within the meaning of KRS 61.805(1); 06-OMD-211, p. 5. “At a minimum,” on any such occasion “there [should have been] a determination that a quorum [was] present and a commencement of proceedings prior to the beginning” of any discussions properly held in closed session. 12-OMD-140, p. 7. Established and created by the Kentucky Board of Education during its April 1, 2015, meeting, the committee was a “public agency” within the meaning of KRS 61.805(2)(g) and thus required to comply with provisions of the Act.

Either party may appeal this decision by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court under KRS 61.846(4)(a). The Attorney General should be notified of any action in circuit court, but should not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceedings.

Jack Conway
Attorney General

Michelle D. Harrison
Assistant Attorney General


Monday, August 17, 2015

EKU appeals tax-exemption denial

This from the Richmond Register:

The question of whether the Grand Campus student housing complex leased by Eastern Kentucky University is tax exempt has reached the second level of appeal.

At stake is more than $253,000 in revenue that local taxing districts would collect if the exemption is finally denied.
In March, Madison County Property Valuation Administrator Billy Akerman refused to exempt the property, assessed at $26 million, from taxes. EKU then took its case to the county’s Board of Assessment Appeals. After a public hearing July 17, the board upheld the PVA’s decision.
A state statute requires local assessment boards to follow the “advice” of the state Revenue Department. But the board concluded the “opinion” EKU obtained from the department was not binding on it or the PVA.
In the recording of a conversation with Revenue Department officials, board chair John Gilliam can be heard asking for the department’s advice. After first saying its “advice” was to exempt the property, David Gordon, Office of Property Valuation’s executive director, backtracked and said, “That is our opinion.”
The recording was played before the board went into closed session to deliberate.
In a decision mailed after the meeting, the board concluded EKU’s agreement with the Grand Campus owners resembles a conventional triple-net lease and does not constitute the “equitable interest” the university asserts is tantamount to ownership. Because state revenue officials continued to offer an “opinion” rather that give “advice,” board members said they did not believe it was binding, their statement added.
At the hearing, Jerry Gilbert, attorney for the Madison County School Board and the county library board, argued against exemption, calling the lease unexceptional.
In its Aug. 7 appeal to the state assessments board, the university notes its expressly asked the Revenue Department in July 2014 if the property would be tax exempt. EKU also informed the board it submitted the lease to state revenue officials and told them the property would not be leased without assurance it was tax exempt.
In its opinion to EKU, the Revenue Department stated the agreement between EKU and the Grand Campus owners was “inconsistent with those of a convention lease. Rather the agreement reflects an intention to transfer practical ownership of the Property to EKU.”
Also under the agreement, “virtually all present rights of ownership … vest in EKU,” the opinion stated. And “the fact that Grand Campus will retain bare legal title poses no obstacle to this interpretation.”
The opinion noted EKU had first refusal rights if the property were to be sold. And insurance proceeds would be shared with the university’s in proportion to its remaining “equitable interest” if the property were destroyed by fire or other disaster.
By Friday, the school and library boards had not responded to the university’s appeal. After the state board’s decision, either party may take the issue to a court of law.