At its Feb. 4 regular meeting, members of the Kentucky Board of Education KBE expressed their concern about the state’s lack of progress in closing achievement gaps.

At its Feb. 4 regular meeting, members of the Kentucky Board of Education KBE expressed their concern about the state’s lack of progress in closing achievement gaps. Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, talks to the board about the pressing need to close persistent achievement gaps.
Photo by Toni Konz Tatman, Feb. 4, 2020

(FRANKFORT, KY) – The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) voted at its regular meeting Feb. 4 to grant waivers to school boards wishing to hold off on 12 hours of charter school authorizer training until they receive a charter school application.

“The main reason (is) being that a lot of districts in the state feel like they are never going to receive a charter school application, so why would the burden of that charter school training be placed on them,” Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Associate Commissioner Kelly Foster told the KBE’s Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee.

Eight school districts – Bell, Carroll, Graves, Henry, Knott, Owsley, Pulaski and Trimble – came before the KBE in December asking for a waiver for the training, but were denied by the previous board.

The current board granted those eight waivers and an additional eight – Christian, Daviess, Harlan, Hopkins, Leslie, Mayfield Independent, Simpson and Somerset Independent – that came in for the February meeting.

In addition, other school boards will be granted a waiver if their superintendent requests one in writing from Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown.

The waiver is good until June 30, 2021. However, if a district receives an application to open a charter school, the school board members will have to receive the training within 10 days of the receipt of the application.

Foster also presented the first reading of an amendment to 701 KAR 8:020, which covers charter school authorizers and includes the requirement for 12 hours of charter school training for school board members.

The amendment would clarify that school board members do not have to receive the training until they receive an application to open a charter school.

Also at the meeting, KBE members expressed their concern about the state’s lack of progress in closing achievement gaps. Associate Commissioner Rhonda Simms of the Office of Assessment and Accountability presented an overview of accountability results for the 2018-2019 school year.

“When we look at reading at the elementary or if we go forward and look at math at the elementary level, the pattern of performance is the same,” Simms said. “The group that tends to be at the bottom most of the time are the English learners. Above them is students with disabilities and above them is African Americans. If you pull up ACT scores in Kentucky, you’d see a very similar pattern.

“The difference is quite glaring when you look at the very top performing group and the lowest-performing group.”

Board member Sharon Porter Robinson said KDE and KBE need to act quickly to make sure it is not just Asian and white students performing at higher levels.

“So what are we doing different? I think there’s some urgency to that question because our future workforce can’t survive on the performance of Asians and whites,” she said. “I’m just raising the sense of urgency a little bit if we can’t say what we’re doing differently.”

“If we stay flat for four or five years we’re losing ground,” Board Member Lee Todd added, “because other people are moving up. Urgency is very important.”

The board heard an update from Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio, who reports regularly to the KBE while the district is under a settlement agreement with KDE. Because Brown is serving as interim commissioner through a memorandum of agreement with Jefferson County schools, all matters related to that district are being handled by Foster.

Pollio said the district was given a corrective action plan with 276 items to correct over a two-year period, which has been a challenge but also has led to significant changes in the district.

Pollio talked about changes in the district to correct problems for students covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as the need to make major investments into the district’s buildings. He said the school board had been reluctant in the past to look into sources of new revenue for buildings, which has led to parts of buildings being condemned.

“We are going to have to be bold in our decision making,” Pollio said. “Even more troubling is if you go to our communities that have the highest need, the highest poverty and highest minority population, that is where we find the schools that are in the most need.”

In other business, the board:

  • Celebrated February as National Career and Technical Education Month by recognizing students from each of the state’s nationally recognized career and technical student organizations, including:
    • Madison Hepp of Scott County High School, state vice-president of community service, Kentucky DECA Association;
    • Logan Justice of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Fayette County), state first vice-president, Kentucky Family, Career and Community Leaders of America Association;
    • Haley Nelson, Western Hills High School (Franklin County), state president, Kentucky FFA Association;
    • Afeef Shaik of Franklin County High School, state president, Kentucky Technology Student Association;
    • Samuel Brangers of Bullitt East High School (Bullitt County), member, Kentucky Future Business Leaders of America;
    • MaKayla Nelson of Franklin-Simpson Career and Technical Center, state president, Kentucky HOSA Future Health Professionals Association;
    • Christine Webb of Monroe County Area Technology Center, Kentucky SkillsUSA Association.
  • Heard a report from KDE Chief Performance Officer Karen Dodd about the year-end review of KDE’s performance management plan.
  • Heard an update on the 2020-2022 budget and a legislative update from the 2020 regular session.
  • Approved the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century (Perkins V) State Plan.
  • Approved local district tax rates levied in Gallatin, Lincoln and Martin County school districts.
  • Approved a new district facility plan for the Ohio County school district.
  • Approved a request from Daviess County schools to waive construction project size limitations for additions and renovations to Apollo High School.
  • Approved a request from Bowling Green Independent schools to waive construction project size limitations for additions and renovations to Bowling Green Independent High School.
  • Held first reading of a new regulation relating to the School Security Risk Assessment Tool and two personnel policies.
  • Accepted with two minor changes the hearing officer’s recommendation in a nonresident student agreement appeal between Raceland-Worthington and Greenup County school districts.
  • Appointed Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman and Cody Pauley Johnson to the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child subcommittee.

The board’s next meeting will be a special called meeting Feb. 25 to hear an appeal of a charter school application that was denied by the Newport Independent Schools.

The April meeting, originally scheduled for April 9 in Frankfort, was moved to April 8-9 in Lexington to allow board members to attend the STLP State Championship.