Photo of members of the Kentucky Department of Education's Commissioner's Student Advisory Council meeting in Frankfort on Oct. 13.

Members of the Kentucky Department of Education’s Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council met in Frankfort on Oct. 13. Photo by Audrie Lamb, Oct. 13, 2022

The Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council met on Oct. 13 to discuss topics including the eastern Kentucky flooding that affected school districts, charter school regulations passed by the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), and the council’s student school safety project.

The purpose of the council is to advise Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass and KDE leadership on issues relevant to high school students.

Eastern Kentucky July Floods

Glass provided members with an update on the progress school districts have made since July flooding that devastated parts of eastern Kentucky.

Following the events of July 28 and 29, KDE began offering aid and guidance to the districts affected by the flooding, with KDE leadership working closely with superintendents on recovery efforts. School has resumed in all the impacted districts. 

Council member Luke Taylor, a senior at Daviess County High School, asked what districts need most as they move forward in the rebuilding and recovery processes.

At an Oct. 11 meeting with KDE, superintendents said they are turning their efforts toward helping families and students during the holiday season. 

Top priorities include making sure displaced families who are still living in temporary housing get their needs met through programs such as a Thanksgiving meal outreach.

In August, Hunter Combs, a council member and junior at Knott County High School, published a Kentucky Teacher guest column about his experience as the events unfolded. During the meeting, Combs discussed recovery in his school district and community.

“We didn’t think we’d be back to school this year,” Combs said. “We’re lucky to be back right now.”

Many of Combs’ friends were among those who lost their homes in the flooding. As the region recovers, Combs said his community is working toward a new normal.

Charter Schools

Joud Dahleh, the student ex-officio member of the KBE, provided an update about KBE’s two-day meeting on Oct. 11-12.

She said the board approved 10 regulations relating to public charter schools in Kentucky, and “it was a controversial subject and there was a lot of discussion.”

Glass said five of the 10 regulations were emergency ones.

Updates to the regulations are necessary to conform to the requirements set by House Bill (HB) 9, a bill that modified Kentucky’s charter school law and set up a funding mechanism for charter schools.

The regulations addressed several topics, including student applications to attend a charter school and funding mechanisms for charter schools based on student average daily attendance (ADA).

The council members wanted to explore the complex issues surrounding the topic. Students asked multiple questions, including one about services provided to exceptional children by charter schools.

HB 9 says the district where the charter school is located is responsible for providing the charter school with its allotted Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding, any additional funding provided for in the state budget and by KDE, and funding for at-risk students, exceptional child and home-hospital students.

Student School Safety Project

Over the past several months, the council has worked on a student school safety project.  

Following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the council discussed at their May 31st meeting some policy suggestions for school safety.

This past legislative session, policy discussions surrounding school safety legislation focused on school resource officers (SROs). The Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 63, which requires an SRO on every school campus in Kentucky, with exceptions allowed by the Office of State School Security Marshal. No funding was appropriated to pay for the positions or put in place the supports for law enforcement to train the new SROs.

The students worked in small groups to further develop their policy suggestions. One group devoted their discussions to proactive events before a school shooting; one to actions in the event of an active shooter; and one to recovery from the effects of a school shooting.

A collective policy recommendation from the council for legislators and other education stakeholders will be released soon. Additionally, the council may present their recommendations during the legislative session later this academic year.

In other business:

  • KDE’s Florence Chang, a strategic analyst, and Nicole Fields, community engagement coordinator, joined the council for a mental health check-in. Chang and Fields are members of KDE’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) team, part of the Office of Teaching and Learning.
  • Jennifer Larkins, director of KDE’s Office of Assessment and Accountability Division of Assessment and Accountability Support, updated the council on the release of the School Report Card. The report cards are set to be released publicly on Oct. 18.