As the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) continues to build on its new vision for education in the Commonwealth called United We Learn, leadership from the department encouraged district leaders to share the news of the new Kentucky United We Learn Council.
KDE is looking for a diverse group of stakeholders – particularly those from underserved communities – who are interested in working and learning together as part of the council, KDE Chief Performance Officer Karen Dodd said during the Sept. 13 Superintendents Webcast.
“If you want to be a part of discussing what a vibrant learning experience for a student looks like, that would be a great place for you to be involved,” she said.
United We Learn is the vision of Kentuckians for the future of public education in the Commonwealth. The vision builds around three big ideas: creating a more vibrant experience for every student; encouraging innovation in our schools, especially when it comes to assessment; and creating a bold new future for Kentucky’s schools through collaboration with our communities.
Potential council members are those who are interested in advancing the United We Learn vision.
To be considered, those interested can fill out the online application. Members of this inclusive council will represent all areas of the state and all stakeholder groups identified in the application.
Building on the United We Learn discussion, Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass asked the superintendents to take part in an interactive activity where they were asked to answer what new ideas they’re implementing this year to bring innovation into their district.
Examples included Metcalfe County expanding its work-ready and vocational partnerships, as well as using creative and personalized scheduling, which allows students to find unique paths to success.
In Russell County, the district has partnered with Lindsey Wilson College to launch a teacher preparation program to recruit future educators.
Updates from KDE’s Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness
Byron Darnall, associate commissioner of KDE’s Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness (OELE), told superintendents the department plans to “broadly interpret” House Bill 277 (2022) so that the requirements for emergency substitutes outlined in Senate Bill 1 (2021) can provide relief to districts currently having difficulties finding substitute teachers.
“Districts are finding themselves in difficult spots as far as their substitute pool,” he said. “Hopefully this will provide more reprieve in terms of the needs with substitutes. We know this is extremely important to each and every one of you all.”
OELE will provide more information directly to superintendents, Darnall said.
Darnall also discussed Kentucky’s partnership with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to pilot a program that will accelerate accomplished teaching in the Commonwealth.
The Accelerate Accomplished Teaching grant will provide 100 early career educators with professional learning opportunities to guide and support them through the process of becoming NBCTs.
Previously, teachers had to have a minimum of three years in the classroom to be considered for National Board Certification.
“We are the only state that National Board is working with to see the impact that this process can have, and hopefully will have, on our early career teachers,” Darnall said.
Applications for the program will close Sept. 30, with professional learning expected to begin in January 2023.
Educators interested in participating in the program may contact Jocelyne Waddle, a program consultant in OELE.
Update on flood-impacted eastern Kentucky school districts
Glass provided the superintendents with an update on his recent trip to eastern Kentucky with Lu S. Young, chair of the Kentucky Board of Education, to visit seven eastern Kentucky school districts impacted by the July flooding and provide support to superintendents and staff.
Details on the visits are available on Kentucky Teacher:
- Day 1-Aug. 30: Commissioner Jason E. Glass visits Jenkins Independent, Knott County and Letcher County schools following catastrophic floods; and
- Day 2 -Aug. 31: Communities working together after devastating flooding brings ‘renewed sense of hope’ during KDE school visits to Breathitt, Hazard, Jackson and Perry.
“We had a wonderful visit with all of the superintendents leading those flood-impacted communities,” Glass said. “We really were blown away by the level of devastation. Pictures and videos just don’t do it justice. And then also, we were equally inspired by the way the communities and the schools have pulled together to emerge from that.”
Glass said all the impacted districts have either returned to school or have a plan in place to return to school soon.
“We’ve come a long way from where we were a couple of months ago right after this first happened,” he said. “We honestly were not sure when schools would be able to open. For them to have gotten things cleaned up, really is a testament to the way communities have come together.”
Updates from the Kentucky Department for Public Health
Connie White, M.D., deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), joined Tuesday’s webcast to discuss new COVID-19 omicron variant booster vaccinations developed by Pfizer and Moderna.
“For the average younger, healthy adult, we are hopeful that this will be a once-a-year booster, just like you get a once-a-year flu booster,” she said. “However, people over the age of 50, people with autoimmune disease, people with other medical issues may, down the road, benefit from having another one of these.”
Additional information on the new omicron vaccine, as well as a search tool to locate the nearest vaccination provider, is available on DPH’s COVID-19 vaccine webpage.
White added that the omicron booster can be administered along with the flu vaccine.
“This is an excellent opportunity,” she said. “It’s fall. It’s time for your flu shot anyway. So, this is an opportunity for you to get your flu shot and your omicron booster all at the same time.”
Asked about the potential health risk of staff in schools continuously having to fight off COVID-19, White said the human immune system fights off viruses all the time.
“It’s incredible that we are as healthy as we are, especially people that work around children,” she said. “You are exposed to all different kinds of viruses and bacteria, so I don’t think you’re going to suddenly get immunodepleted or something like that. I think if you are healthy and you’re taking care of yourself and you don’t have an immunodeficient illness, I think your body will be able to handle that.”
In other business, the superintendents:
- Heard updates from Toni Konz Tatman, KDE’s chief communications officer, which included details on the 2023 Kentucky Teacher of the Year ceremony. The 2023 Kentucky Teacher of the Year will be announced on Tuesday, Sept. 20. The announcement and celebration of the 24 educators who were named 2023 Valvoline™ Teacher Achievement Award winners in July will take place at the Capitol rotunda in the first in-person ceremony in three years. The event also will be live-streamed. Eleven outstanding teachers from across the state are semifinalists for the award; and
- Received updates on resources available through KDE’s Office of Teaching and Learning from Micki Ray, KDE’s chief academic officer. First, the new Curriculum Development Process Toolkit, which can be found in Appendix A of the Model Curriculum Framework webpage, contains examples of key products and video clips featuring districts in the Designing High-Quality Local Curriculum Pilot program. Another resource is the Mathematics Achievement Fund (MAF) mini-grants. These grants will provide funding for the purchase of instructional resources in mathematics and pay for teachers to engage in professional learning on the new mathematics materials. Additional information can be found on the Competitive Grants from KDE webpage. Questions about the mini-grants may be sent to KDERFP@education.ky.gov.