The Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council for 2023-2024 held its first meeting on Aug. 29, where members discussed how to best prepare students interested in becoming future educators and the characteristics they hope to see in Kentucky’s new education commissioner.
The meeting started with the introduction of two new positions on the council this year. Ramia Dutt, a senior from DuPont Manual High School (Jefferson County) will be Chair, and Bentley White, a senior at the Kentucky School for the Deaf, will be Vice Chair.
White thanked fellow members for “trusting me with the position.”
“I would like to reiterate that Kentucky is a large and diverse Commonwealth and people have tons of different backgrounds from all over the place. I am in a really unique position on this council, because my school is a school that has students from everywhere.”
KDE Associate Commissioner Byron Darnall in the Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness asked students which programs might make it more likely to recruit students into the teaching profession.
Kentucky has been growing its Educators Rising program, a career and technical student organization for middle and high school students interested in education-related careers. Darnall also discussed apprenticeship programs, which would embed students with professionals, enabling them to learn firsthand about roles in education.
“It’s more of a coaching, mentoring, job-embedded pathway that would be quite different than the traditional pathway that is the predominant means of becoming a teacher,” he said.
Council members said students generally are interested in getting experience in their future careers as early as they can.
Anopa Musoni, a junior at Lafayette High School (Fayette County), said he thought advertising the program would be helpful, along with giving students a chance to see what the work would be like through an apprenticeship or experience. He said it is important to make it “accessible to everybody.”
Students also had a discussion with Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass, who will step down from his position on Sept. 29. Glass will become associate vice president of teaching and learning at Western Michigan University.
“It’s been a real delight and honor to do this work for the past three years,” Glass said. “I have loved every minute of it, even the hard times, and I’ve especially loved getting to work with and know all of you.”
Glass asked council members what qualities they hope the Kentucky Board of Education will look for in the next commissioner. Students said they want a commissioner who actively listens to students’ needs, prioritizes safety within schools and has the best interests of Kentucky’s students at heart.
Reese Blakeman, a senior at Somerset High School (Somerset Independent), said “I believe the new commissioner should be dedicated to the engagement and involvement of students as they attempt to define their paths” and “open-mindedness and strategic ambition are pertinent in this role.”
Students also said they hope the new commissioner will mirror the passion they saw from Glass, and that whoever takes his place should also be open-minded about different initiatives.
“I would like a commissioner that actively seeks out the opinions of both students and teachers across Kentucky,” said Manas Garla, a 10th-grader at Western Hills High School (Franklin County). “I would also like them to be approachable and open to collecting ideas to improve the education system.”
Council members also discussed what they hope the new commissioner will prioritize in his or her first year, including student voice and supporting every role in education.
“I would like the commissioner to be a person that educators and students can rely on as a person to go to. As the chief learner, they need to be the image of education and help promote whatever is best for students in the Commonwealth,” said Vijaykumar Karthikeyan, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Fayette County).
The next meeting will be held in person on Sept. 26 at the Kentucky Department of Education building in Frankfort.