Photo from KBE meeting, June 8, 2022.

KDE Associate Commissioner Kelly Foster (left) and Menifee County Superintendent Tim Spencer (right) spoke at the Kentucky Board of Education’s meeting on June 8, 2022. After eight years of being a state-managed or state-assisted district, Menifee County Schools was released from state assistance by the board. (Photo by Jacob Perkins, June 8, 2022)

After eight years of being a state-managed or state-assisted district, Menifee County Schools has been released from state assistance.

During the Kentucky Board of Education’s (KBE’s) regular meeting on June 8, the board heard from Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Associate Commissioner Kelly Foster on the management audit of and the school district and approved its release.

“Under the successful leadership of Superintendent Tim Spencer and the Menifee County Board of Education, the Menifee County School District has embraced the continuous improvement framework and built capacity across the school district,” said Foster. 

KBE designated Menifee County Schools a state-assisted district in December 2014, and in July 2015, the board approved the education commissioner’s recommendation that the district become state-managed. The district has received ongoing support from KDE throughout.

After a management audit in September 2019 the KBE accepted the commissioner’s recommendation that the district transition back to a state-assisted district.

In February, KDE conducted a new management audit of the Menifee County School District and 192 interviews with various stakeholders, including board members, school-based decision making council members, district and school administrators, certified and classified staff, the state manager and Education Recovery staff.

The interviews led to KDE finding no pattern of a significant lack of efficiency and effectiveness in the governance and administration of Menifee County Schools and that state assistance was no longer necessary.

“The district’s improvement planning process has been strategic and intentional from Day One,” said Foster. “Relationships have been built across the school district and the community to ensure that the students of Menifee County have a high-quality educational experience. The district and the community have stayed the course throughout this process and the end result is sustainable systematic change.”

Menifee County Superintendent Tim Spencer joined the board meeting to share his thoughts on this accomplishment.

“With the support of the Kentucky Department of Education and Associate Commissioner Dr. Kelly Foster, we have been able to systemically change the Menifee County School District.  We have the appropriate staff in place, the appropriate community support and the appropriate mission to continuously improve,” said Spencer. “Despite all of the changes we have put into place, we cannot take credit for these improvements within our schools without giving credit to our students.  They have truly made this leap from state assistance possible.” 

Spencer said he is energized about Menifee County’s future. The district opened a new $18 million K-8 building last summer and is working to build a new central office. Construction for a new district-wide student virtual learning lab begins June 10.

The board members praised Spencer, his district and the Menifee County community for coming together to overcome the challenge before them.

“We hope that among the things that happen next that the Menifee county community, teachers, leaders and students celebrate … the fulfillment of your community aspirations,” said KBE Vice Chair Sharon Porter Robinson.

United We Learn

Education Commissioner and Chief Learner Jason E. Glass shared with the board the development of the United We Learn vision.

“Since coming to my position almost two years ago, I’ve seen so many positive efforts underway in Kentucky that support this new direction,” said Glass. “But we also know things are overdue for change at scale.”

Instead of coming into his role as commissioner with a prefabricated plan, Glass chose to listen to Kentuckians directly about what they wanted for the future of education in the Commonwealth. KDE hosted virtual listening sessions that reached over 1,200 people and formed the Kentucky Coalition for Advancing Education, comprised of a wide range of educators, community and family members, students and policymakers. The coalition used feedback from students, teachers and community members to develop a report on the current and future state of education and determine what needed to be changed.

“Through these efforts, we heard from Kentuckians that we shouldn’t wait any longer to make the meaningful and profound changes that need to be made,” said Glass.

At the Kentucky Education Summit in November 2021, KDE unveiled the collective vision for the future of education, United We Learn. The vision is built around three main themes: creating a more vibrant experience for every student; encouraging innovation, especially when it comes to assessments; and creating a bold new future for Kentucky’s schools through collaboration with our communities.

 The United We Learn vision seeks to engage students, make learning more authentic and commit to expand opportunities, value differences and eliminate barriers.

“We have to take steps as an education system to make sure that we’re reaching every student, wherever they are and giving them the individual support they need to succeed,” said Glass.

The United We Learn vision also focuses on innovation within the education system. One area Kentuckians told the coalition they needed more innovation was in assessments. Glass said Kentucky’s assessments need to be responsive to the needs and desires of many students, families, educators and communities to capture the diverse skills that students need to be successful in the workforce.

United We Learn also is working to find ways for schools to genuinely involve and empower their entire community to contribute to student success. This involves bringing community members into decisions for districts and schools in meaningful ways, including mentorships, internships, intentional relationship building efforts and other partnerships within the community.

“Community-wide empowerment and learning opportunities will help develop well-rounded students through professional, civic, cultural and financial learning opportunities,” said Glass.

Glass said much of this United We Learn work is already underway across the Commonwealth. Many of the Local Laboratories of Learning (L3s) are currently working within their own communities to pilot new approaches for student experience, assessment and community engagement.

KDE also has partnered with PBLWorks to build the capacity of teachers to design and facilitate quality project-based learning (PBL) for students in Kentucky. The $7 million investment through 2024 will include virtual training and coaching for teachers and principals and work to expand PBL to schools across the state. Glass said the goal is to initially reach about one-third of the educators in Kentucky.

KDE also is working to engage Kentucky’s education stakeholders to take part in the United We Learn effort. Glass has met with Kentucky’s colleges of education, superintendents, policymakers, KDE staff and community members to build more understanding about how their work fits into the vision. 

“I’m optimistic and inspired by the positive feedback we’ve received so far,” said Glass.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved the recipients of the 2022 Grissom Award for Innovation in Special Education to presented at the board’s regular August meeting;
  • Heard a report from the Council on Postsecondary Education;
  • Heard a report from Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman on the Education and Labor Cabinet;
  • Heard a presentation from the Kentucky Student Voice Team on its Race to Learn Report;
  • Heard an update from KDE Chief Academic Officer Micki Ray and the Kentucky Association of Educational Cooperatives on how Kentucky is regionally using its federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations to have a statewide impact;
  • Approved consent agenda items, including:
    • Certification of non-public schools;
    • Indirect cost rates;
    • Appointment of an at-large member to the Kentucky High School Athletics Association Board of Control;
    • 2022-2023 preschool grant allotment and funding rates;
    • Hearing officer’s and litigation reports; and
    • Committee assignments for KBE members;
  • Presented the 2022 Karem Award for Excellence in Education Policy to Leon Mooneyhan, chief executive officer of the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, and Brigitte Blom, president and CEO of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence;
  • Met in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee and Operations Committee. The Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee heard a report from the Portrait of a Graduate subcommittee. The committee also recommended and the full board approved amendments to 704 KAR 3:305, minimum requirements for high school graduation;
  • The Operations Committee heard an update from KDE Associate Commissioner Kelly Foster on state assisted schools. The committee also recommended and the full board approved:
    • Bullitt County School District’s request for a waiver of the property appraisal requirements in 702 KAR 4:090 Section 1(3) and Section 2(1)-(2) to permit the disposal of surplus property; and
    • Fayette County Board of Education’s request for approval per 702 KAR 4:050 to permit property purchase where site acquisition and preparation costs exceed 10% of the total project budget;
  • Presented the Teresa Perry Compassion Award to Monica Raines, executive administrative secretary to KDE’s deputy commissioner and chief equity officer;
  • Recognized the 2021-2022 Content Area Educators of the Year;
  • Heard from KDE General Counsel Todd Allen and the Kentucky School Boards Association’s Director of Board Team Development Laura Cole on the 2021 Report, 2021 Exceptions and 2023 Plan as required by 702 KAR 1:116, annual in-service training of district board members;
  • Heard from KDE staff about full-time enrolled online, virtual and remote learning;
  • Heard reflections from the inaugural student and teacher non-voting KBE members, Solyana Mesfin and Allison Slone, about their time on the board; and
  • Surprised Andrew Liaupsin, KDE’s video and webcasting services team lead, with a Kentucky Colonel commission as he transitions to a well-deserved retirement.