Advocate staff report
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday used KSBA’s annual conference to announce that he wants to impose new requirements for school board member training and superintendent evaluations. His plan will require ethics and fiscal oversight education for board of education members and public, written reviews of superintendents in part based on targets such as graduation rates, college and career readiness and closing achievement gaps.
Speaking during the Saturday luncheon session at the conference, Holliday said he was acting because “we’re seeing far too many cases when adults are making choices on what’s right for them rather than what’s really right for students and their future. In the past couple of years, there have been no fewer than a half dozen Kentucky school cases where the adults have not done the right thing for the future of our children.”
Holliday offered no additional explanation, although at least three Kentucky school districts have undergone special investigations by the Auditor of Public Accounts related to fiscal management by district personnel and lack of oversight by the school board.
Among the steps Holliday said he would either take unilaterally or seek authority from the Kentucky Board of Education are:
- Amending existing state regulations on school board member training to add an ethics requirement and another for financial training.
- Requiring all 174 school boards to submit their plans for evaluating the superintendent to the Department of Education by December.
- Mandating that superintendent evaluations include measurable goals on fiscal management and progress on student achievement, similar to his own evaluation by the state board.
“This is not about making excuses. It’s about the adults owning their responsibility and executing it to the fullest extent. It is up to us at the Department of Education to fulfill our responsibility in supporting our school districts,” Holliday said.
The commissioner said he was pushing for changes to superintendent evaluations to show teachers and principals, who will soon face new annual job performance evaluations, to see that higher expectations apply to everyone.
“So, the next step I’m taking is requiring all school boards to submit a comprehensive written plan, just like you’re going to have to do for teachers and principals, for superintendent evaluation, by December of this year as part of the approval process outlined in the statute,” he said. “These plans must include, at a minimum to get approved, progress toward the delivery goals of the district set by the No Child Left Behind waiver and the department. Those currently include graduation rate, closing achievement gaps, college and career readiness.”
Holliday said future superintendent evaluations will have to include four specific measures relating to district finances.
“They are, one, establish a balanced operational budget for school programs and activities. Two, utilize collaborative, transparent processes to ensure resources are allocated and expended in accordance with the district goals and needs. Three, leverage district resources to attain their highest and best use to improve student learning while maintaining compliance with legal, ethical and policy standards. Four, effectively communicate the district’s budget and resource allocation to the local board and constituents,” he said.
“And I’m including a requirement to have the summative evaluation of the superintendent in writing and placed in the minutes of the board meeting where the summative evaluation is discussed in open session. This is a matter of transparency and an important step toward building trust and credibility among staff, parents and community members,” Holliday said.
“Now I’m not suggesting anything any different than what the state board is doing as part of my annual evaluation. It includes clearly stated expectations tied to progress toward goals," he said.
"So, from the commissioner to the classroom: No more excuses, no more abdication of responsibility, no more accepting the status quo. The future of our children and your schools and your district and our state hang in the balance.”