Picture of a woman listening to three students present a project

Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) member Holly Bloodworth, center, listens to students from Baker Intermediate School (Clark County) present their video project at the 2022 Student Technology Leadership Program State Championship. Members of the KBE watched student presentations during their April regular meeting, held at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
Photo by Audrie Lamb, April 20, 2022.

The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) held its regular April meeting in-person at the Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP) State Championship on April 20 at the Central Bank Center in Lexington. The board also was led on a tour of the STLP championship events by students.

Nearly 14,000 students, educators, volunteers, community members and parents joined the event to watch preschool through 12th grade students showcase what they know and can do with technology in arts, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) and demonstrate many career-ready skills. Students participated in nearly 50 different STLP competition areas, like robotics, coding, web design and newscasting.

STLP students created projects, products or services as part of the program and demonstrated their learning by competing in various technology-rich events, including instructional, technical or community development projects; digital content creation such as digital art, photography, design, programming, app development and robotics; and technical services, like student help desk, network engineering and wireless applications.

David Couch, associate commissioner in the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Office of Education Technology, said Kentucky is “the pioneer and national leader in most aspects of education technology and we actually have the largest, and I think the best, STLP program in the United States.”

Couch also said this is the 28th year of STLP in Kentucky and the 15th year Kentucky has had a state championship. The Kentucky STLP has approximately 60,000 participating students across the Commonwealth. This is the first time the state program has had an in-person event since December 2019.

Couch said the state championship began with more than 2,000 team and individual entries. Throughout the course of the day, judges identified 61 final projects and students competed until a final four were named state champions in elementary, middle and high school, as well as an overall winner. The students that earned a state championship title will move on to the International Society for Technology and Education Conference in New Orleans, La.

During the evening STLP award ceremony, KBE Chair Lu S. Young and Vice Chair Sharon Porter Robinson awarded two students the title of 2022 Outstanding STLP Ambassador: Alexander Ladd, a sophomore at Allen County High School, and Jess Thompson, a senior at the Ignite Institute (Boone County).

Recommendations from the Student Mental Health Roundtables

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, outgoing KBE student member Solyana Mesfin, a senior at Eastern High School (Jefferson County), and former KDE Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council member Logan Justice joined the board to provide an update on their work to address student mental health in Kentucky.

Last year, Coleman partnered with the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council, Kentucky’s regional education cooperatives, the Department for Behavioral Health at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and the Division of Family Resource Youth Service Centers to create the Student Mental Health Action Summits. The roundtable summits were formed to hear from students directly and collect data that could be used to better address students’ mental health.

There were 10 events held across the Commonwealth – nine in-person in many education cooperative districts and one virtual – with nearly 300 students in attendance overall. At each event, student facilitators framed the issue being discussed for students who were in attendance and presented basic student mental health data.

Coleman said during the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national state of emergency for children’s mental health.

Justice said during breakout sessions they heard about students facing many different challenges, such as low motivation, anxiety and eating disorders. They also heard many students offer potential solutions for improving student mental health, like mental health absences for not only students, but also teachers and school staff. Students said they also would like to see greater access to mental health clinicians, assessments and diagnoses, more non-academic breaks throughout the school day and updated suicide prevention trainings for students and school employees and administrators.

The data collected from the roundtables, which was used to form official recommendations on what should be done to improve student mental health, was reviewed by student advisors and Coleman. Their five main recommendations are to:

  • Allow mental health absences;
  • Increase mental health awareness and education;
  • Expand access to mental health services and treatment;
  • Offer increased and improved professional development to educators; and
  • Update and improve suicide prevention training.

Mesfin said all the recommendations are based on the foundation of including and elevating student voice.

“I certainly commend this work and I appreciate so much that the student has been at the center, the anchor, the perspective and the point of concern that really matters,” said KBE Vice Chair Sharon Porter Robinson.

Coleman said their next steps include the implementation of House Bill (HB) 44, which allows local school districts’ attendance policies to include provisions for a student’s mental health or behavioral health status. The bill was signed by Gov. Andy Beshear on April 20.

Next steps also include upcoming student mental health initiative briefings to the education community, promoting Mental Health Awareness Month in May and presenting the findings from the mental health roundtables to the Kentucky General Assembly’s Interim Joint Committee on Education.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved the recipients of the 2022 Karem Award for Excellence in Education Policy;
  • Approved the next student and teacher nonvoting members of the KBE, Joud Dahleh, a sophomore at the Ignite Institute (Boone County), and Joanna Howerton Stevens, a National Board Certified Teacher from Garrard County High School;
  • Approved consent agenda items:
    • Certification of 704 KAR 5:070, Common Kindergarten Entry Screener, to avoid expiration;
    • New district facility plans;
    • Amended district facility plans;
    • Amendments to Kentucky Tech Policy 09.36, School-related Student Trips;
    • Continuation request to waive sections of 702 KAR 7:125, Pupil Attendance; and
    • Committee assignments for KBE members;
  • Met in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee and Operations Committee. The Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee approved the creation of subcommittee to explore the development of a state level portrait of a learner/graduate;
  • The Operations Committee recommended, and the full board approved:
    • Kentucky Minimum Specifications for School Buses; and
    • Waiver requests from Trigg County School District, Mercer County School District, Scott County School District and Bullitt County School District related to 702 KAR 4:180;
  • Presented the 2022 Robinson Award for Diversity and Equity in Public Education to Jason Reeves, professor of education at Georgetown College;
  • Approved an amendment to 702 KAR 1:140, Student Record, Hearing Procedures;
  • Heard an update from KDE Deputy Commissioner Thomas Woods-Tucker and KDE Division Director Damien Sweeney on KDE’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging efforts;
  • Heard about the Impact Kentucky Executive Summary from KDE Associate Commissioner Byron Darnall and representatives from Panorama Education;
  • Heard an update from Foster, Cook and Branch Manager Sarah Snipes on the Local Laboratories of Learning (L3) districts;
  • Heard an update on family friendly school certification from KDE Chief Performance Officer Karen Dodd and Prichard Committee Senior Director of Family Engagement Brooke Gill;
  • Received an overview on the impact of HB 678 on school facilities from KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney, Executive Advisor Matt Ross, Division Director Chay Ritter and Branch Manager Greg Dunbar;
  • Heard an update on the KDE audit and expense reports for the KBE and Commissioner of Education from Kinney and KDE Division Director Karen Wirth;
  • Received an update on the 2022 legislative session from KDE Director of Government Relations Brian Perry; and
  • Received a hearing officer’s report and litigation report from KDE General Counsel Todd G. Allen.