The State Advisory Council for Gifted and Talented Education discussed the search for a new commissioner of education during its Nov. 15 meeting.
The council is mandated by KRS 158.648 to make recommendations regarding the provision of educational services for gifted and talented students in the Commonwealth. The council is made up of 19 voting members who are appointed by the governor, and three nonvoting members.
KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney took over as interim commissioner of education on Sept. 30 while the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) searches for a permanent commissioner.
Patrice McCrary, a KBE member, asked members of the council what qualities they want in a new education commissioner, and what the new commissioner’s priorities should be.
“I want the next commissioner to be looking at the wide range of learners,” said council Chair Julia Roberts. “We need more students who are ready to learn at advanced levels, and to have opportunities within their schools to do so.”
Council member Kirk Haynes said he hopes to see someone who has experience in public schools.
“I would like for them to have had similar experiences administrators have, so typically around three years minimum in the classroom teaching,” he said.
Many of the council members agreed with Russell County Gifted and Talented Coordinator Hannah England when she spoke about wanting to see the next commissioner look at more than test scores and numbers when evaluating students.
“I know that is important, but even with our gifted and talented hats on, we are able to look at opportunities for special considerations,” she said. “Even if the test score isn’t where it needed to be, we were able to look at the whole child to see if the potential is there.”
Council member Brenda Martin, a parent and school council member in Boyd County, said she hopes the next commissioner will encourage opportunities within schools to show empathy and support for everyone within a district “to make sure we have that focus and understanding of the challenges students and families deal with outside of the classrooms, as well as what the teachers are dealing with.”
Many of the council members said they want to see someone who will celebrate teaching and education within the Commonwealth. Council member Paulynn Covington, a middle school teacher in Fayette County, said she hopes the next commissioner will encourage the next generation of educators.
“As a middle school teacher, I would love to be supported by a commissioner who encourages and continues to feed the educator pipeline,” she said. “Not just any educator, but someone who is prepared academically, socially and emotionally.”
Within the first year, England said she would like to see the next commissioner make personal connections with staff, students and educators across the state.
“Connections are so important, so I hope the first year they could allot time to focus on each of the districts at some point,” she said. “Something to say I see you, I hear you, I acknowledge you and I am going to work with you.”
McCrary said she will share these thoughts and ideas with the KBE.
More details about the search for a new education commissioner can be found on the 2023-2024 Commissioner Search webpage.