KBE votes to move Breathitt Co. schools from state management to assistance

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Breathitt County schools Superintendent Phillip Watts speaks to the Kentucky Board of Education at its meeting Dec. 4.
Breathitt County schools Superintendent Phillip Watts speaks to the Kentucky Board of Education at its meeting Dec. 4. Following eight years of being under state management, the board voted to approve Commissioner Wayne Lewis’ recommendation to move the district from state management to state assistance.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Dec. 4, 2019

(FRANKFORT, KY) – Following eight years of being under state management, the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) voted Dec. 4 to approve Commissioner Wayne Lewis’ recommendation that Breathitt County Schools move to state assistance. This action will move superintendent and local school board authority from the commissioner back to the local board and superintendent. No Kentucky districts remain under state management following this action.

“The district you are considering now for state assistance is a very different district from the one that went into state management. Dr. Kelly Foster’s leadership has been central to the progress of the district. Mike Murphy has done a fantastic job as the district’s state manager, and Superintendent Phillip Watts is more than capable and ready to take on leadership of Breathitt County School as the district leaves state management,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis, who added that eight years ago Breathitt was truly a broken district.

In August, a Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) team conducted a comprehensive management audit of the Breathitt County school district. The audit team conducted 212 interviews with various stakeholders, including advisory board members, school-based decision making council members, district and school administrators, certified and classified staff, the state manager and Education Recovery staff. Based on the findings of that audit, Lewis recommended the district for state assistance.

KDE Associate Commissioner Kelly Foster commended the Breathitt Board of Education for its “tremendous focus around children” and using the district’s resources efficiently.

Also during the Dec. 4 KBE meeting in Frankfort, the board voted to approve the 2020 KBE/KDE Legislative Priorities as its legislative agenda. The top priority on the agenda is to advocate for the passage of legislation that confirms the reorganization of the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB).

The reorganization increased the efficiency and effectiveness of the board by eliminating the EPSB agency and creating the Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness within KDE, while ensuring the governor-appointed board retains all of its statutory powers and authority. The board continues to be comprised of Kentucky educators and two postsecondary representatives. It is currently chaired by Campbellsville University’s Provost Donna Hedgepath and co-chaired by Simpson County teacher Justin Mitchell.

Other legislative priorities include:

  • fully funding full-day kindergarten in all districts;
  • advocating for the passage of legislation consistent with the Kentucky Career and Technical Education Task Force’s recommendations;
  • legislation that provides greater flexibility and autonomy to school and district leaders to develop and implement innovative approaches in instruction, assessment, organizational structure, hiring, salary, incentives, supervision and professional development; and
  • legislation that helps to expedite KDE’s approval process for school district facilities requests.
Kentucky Department of Education Division Director Jennifer Stafford and Program Consultant Bill Buchanan present the 2019 kindergarten screener results to the Kentucky Board of Education at its Dec. 4 meeting.
Kentucky Department of Education Division Director Jennifer Stafford and Program Consultant Bill Buchanan present the 2019 kindergarten screener results to the Kentucky Board of Education at its Dec. 4 meeting. Of the 48,176 students tested at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, 51% tested as kindergarten-ready.
Photo by Mike Marsee, Dec. 4, 2019

Members of the KBE Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee also heard a review of 2019 Kindergarten Screener Results. Of the 48,176 students tested at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, 51% tested as kindergarten-ready. That was a slight decrease compared to the 51.1% readiness rate in 2018.

“A highlight of the results showed that students who attend state-funded preschool are steadily increasing readiness percentages annually,” said KDE Division Director Jennifer Stafford.

This is the seventh year the kindergarten entry screener has been administered. The screener is administered during a window which starts 15 days before the first instructional day and extends through the 30th instructional day. Readiness data, along with other data, is used for planning instruction, initiating the Response to Intervention process and communicating with the public about the importance of quality early care and education environments.

In other business the KBE approved the following items:

  • Amendment to 703 KAR 5:140, Requirements for School and District Report Cards (Second Reading)
  • Amendment to 704 KAR 7:090, Homeless Children and Youth Education Program (Second Reading)
  • The 2018 Carl D. Perkins Consolidated Annual Report (CAR)
  • Amendment to 704 KAR 3:370 Kentucky Framework for Personnel Evaluation (Second Reading)
  • Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) Advisory Board Appointment
  • 2019 Local District Tax Rates Levied
  • New District Facility Plans: Jessamine County and Somerset Independent School Districts
  • 2019-2020 Local District Working Budgets
  • Amendment to 702 KAR 5:080, Bus Drivers’ Qualifications, Responsibilities and Training
  • Amendment to 702 KAR 7:125, Pupil Attendance (Second Reading)
  • Recommendation to surplus the Walker Hall Building at the Kentucky School for the Deaf
  • Nomination of KBE Priority Award Winner
  • Nomination of Robinson Award for Diversity and Equity in Public Education Winner
  • Discussion and Approval of Commissioner’s 2019-2020 Goals
  • Statement of Consideration for 703 KAR 5:240, Administrative Procedures and Guidelines
  • Statement of Consideration for 703 KAR 5:280, School Improvement Procedures

The board also denied applications of Waiver of Administrative Regulations from Bell, Carroll, Graves, Henry, Knott, Owsley, Pulaski and Trimble county school districts.

The next meeting of the KBE will be Feb. 4 at the Kentucky Department of Education in Frankfort.

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