Kentucky superintendents call for additional disaster days, ask state to highlight educators

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Graphic reading: Superintendents Huddle, Tornado Recovery, Jan. 6, 2022

Leadership from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) held a virtual meeting with superintendents on Jan. 6 to continue supporting districts recently impacted by tornadoes.

This week, KDE officials met with the state’s various education organizations to get a better understanding of what they are hearing from districts during this time.

“We understand you’re really, really busy and you’re still dealing with the aftermath of what has happened to your communities,” said KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney. “So, we haven’t heard from everyone. That (meeting) gave us an opportunity to hear from our partners what they have been hearing from districts that we have not yet heard from.”

In addition, KDE staff met with the U.S. Department of Education (USED) earlier this week to discuss Project SERV funds. These funds help districts recover from violent or traumatic events in which learning environments have been disrupted.

USED officials will attend KDE’s next Superintendents Webcast on Jan. 11 to provide additional details on the opportunity to apply for funds to district leaders.

With the Kentucky General Assembly convening this week, Dawson Springs Superintendent Leonard Whalen expressed the need for legislators to grant additional disaster days for local school districts. Disaster days allow a district credit for days missed due to a disaster towards the fulfillment of school days and minimum instructional hours.

During last week’s meeting with superintendents, department staff noted that providing these days would require action from the General Assembly.

“There is an interest in the legislature in providing support to tornado-impacted districts,” added Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “That would need to go through the legislative process, but we have a good head start on that.”

As local school district employees continue working to rebuild their local communities, Bowling Green Independent Superintendent Gary Fields closed the meeting by calling on the state to highlight their efforts.

The day after the tornadoes ripped through the state, he recalled visiting the neighborhoods throughout Bowling Green that were devastated by the storms.

“The first people in these neighborhoods were our employees,” Fields said. “It was all the educators in these communities. I think if we can find a way to celebrate that and to acknowledge what all those individuals were doing, … not only would it be uplifting to the employee, but also a way to lift up the profession.”

Glass said he and other leaders from KDE have plans to visit the affected areas in the near future.

“We need to get out and visit all of your communities and highlight all of those efforts,” Glass said. “It’s a great suggestion and we will follow through on that.”

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