Patrice McCrary, Alissa Riley, Diana Woods and Holly Bloodworth listen during a presentation

Kentucky Board of Education members Patrice McCrary, Alissa Riley, Diana Woods and Holly Bloodworth listen to a presentation during the April board meeting. Photo by Joe Ragusa, Kentucky Department of Education, April 9, 2024

Members of the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) discussed the results of the 2023 Impact Kentucky Survey during their meeting April 9-10.

The Impact Kentucky Survey is administered every two years. Certified educators working at least half-time are given the opportunity to provide input on teaching conditions that can be used to inform improvements within schools, districts and statewide.

“We recognize that the topic of increasing teacher retention is complex. It’s multifaceted and it’s been studied extensively over the past several decades, but more now than ever, there’s been this focus on teacher recruitment and retention,” said Amalio Nieves, education director of professional learning at Panorama Education, KDE’s partner with the Impact Kentucky Survey. “And so, recognizing the importance of working conditions in this context is pivotal.”

Nieves said an opportunity exists to focus on emotional well-being and belonging for teachers, and there appears to be a difference between how teachers feel about how they’re supported compared to administrators.

Alissa Riley, the nonvoting teacher member of the KBE, said there is so much attention focused on recruiting and retaining new teachers that educators who have been in the profession for five to 10 years may be overlooked.

“We have to put our resources into (teachers with five to 10 years of experience) because that’s a huge population of our teachers and we never ask those five-to-10, ‘What do you still need?’” she said.

Riley also said the perception of the administrators compared to teachers was eye opening. For each question, principals and assistant principals responded favorably at a higher rate than teachers.

“There’s a huge disconnect and maybe we need to dig into why that disconnect exists,” she said.

For example, when asked about how enthusiastic students are to be at school, principals responded favorably 86% of the time, while 52% of teachers responded favorably. When asked about how often student misconduct disrupts the learning environment, principals responded favorably 69% of the time while teachers responded favorably 30% of the time.

KBE chair Sharon Porter Robinson said she is optimistic that high-quality learning can take place with staff who are skilled and supported, but schools often find themselves more focused on day-to-day operations rather than longer-term professional development.

“My hope is that we can bring a perspective to this that represents all the state-of-the-art dynamics in organizational development, human resource management and development, and modern productivity in every organization, no matter what the unit of measurement happens to be,” she said.

Legislative Session
The 2024 Kentucky legislative session is winding down with only two more working days left for lawmakers before they adjourn for the year.

Several staff members with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) provided an update to the board on where legislation currently sits, including the biennium budget lawmakers approved before leaving for the veto break.

Per-pupil funding in the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding formula was increased to $4,326 in fiscal year 2025 and $4,586 in fiscal year 2026. The SEEK program is a formula-driven allocation of state-provided funds to local school districts for costs, including transportation and help for low-income and special needs students.

The budget also included property assessment growth relief, additional funding for pupil transportation and full-day kindergarten language.

There will also be $20,000 per certified school resource officer for districts each year; a total of $16.5 million in year one and $18 million in year two of the budget.

Lawmakers included language in the budget bill encouraging districts to increase compensation for certified and classified staff since SEEK funding was increased.

Several pieces of legislation have already been enacted, whether the governor signed them or let them become law without his signature, including measures on student safety, teacher certification, teacher recruitment and retention, school bus specifications and vaping. House Bill 825, which would require the Office of the Auditor of Public Accounts to conduct a special examination of KDE, was enacted without the governor’s signature.

Brian Perry, director of government affairs for KDE, said lawmakers have the ability to pass other legislation when they convene for the last two days of session, currently scheduled for April 12 and April 15, but lawmakers would not have the ability to override the governor if he decides to veto that legislation.

Brian Perry, Matt Ross, Karen Wirth and Chay Ritter speak to the Kentucky Board of Education

KDE Director of Government Affairs Brian Perry (from right) speaks to the Kentucky Board of Education about the legislative session with Associate Commissioner Matt Ross and Division Directors Karen Wirth and Chay Ritter. Photo by Joe Ragusa, Kentucky Department of Education, April 10, 2024

Bus Specifications
KBE members approved specifications for new bus purchases.

Matt Ross, associate commissioner of the KDE Office of Finance and Operations, said a council of about 25 experts in the school transportation field in Kentucky – superintendents, inspectors, drivers, trainers and technicians – meets annually in February to discuss potential changes and any issues they’re having with school buses, along with solutions other states are pursuing.

This year, the panel recommended changes to bus specifications for new bus purchases, including:

  • A battery shutoff switch to help preserve batteries in the summer during long periods of non-use;
  • Replacing all lights, including headlights, with LEDs if they are available from the original equipment manufacturer;
  • Illuminated school bus signs and stop signs for new buses to help drivers see them from a distance;
  • Heated crossview mirrors to help melt ice and snow in the winter;
  • Change requirements for school bus driver seats to allow for more comfortable seats; and
  • Changes to air conditioner condenser requirements.

The panel also recommended crossview mirror lighting as an acceptable option from manufacturers so drivers can see students walking in front of their buses better. Elisa Hanley, pupil transportation branch manager at KDE, said some manufacturers don’t offer that option, so they couldn’t make it a requirement, but the changes would make it an option for districts.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved 704 KAR 3:550, setting minimum qualifications for paraprofessionals;
  • Approved changes to 704 KAR 7:140, allowing local boards of education to award an authentic high school diploma to an honorably discharged veteran of the Vietnam War who did not complete high school prior to being inducted in the United States Armed Forces, similar to the process for honorably discharged World War II and Korean War veterans;
  • Approved repealing 780 KAR 2:010, the administration of area technology centers, due to redundant language with KRS 157.808;
  • Approved amendments to various sections of 780 KAR Chapter 3 dealing with administrative rules to conform with KRS 157.808 and update outdated language;
  • Approved amendments to various sections of 780 KAR Chapter 6 to align with KRS 157.808 and current KDE and Kentucky Board of Education policies;
  • Approved the Perkins V state plan to send to the U.S. Department of Education;
  • Approved waiver requests for Jessamine County and Henderson County related to property appraisals; and
  • Awarded the 2024 Robinson Award for Diversity and Equity in Public Education to Emily Lehman, a 5th-grade educator for W.R. McNeill Elementary School (Bowling Green Independent).