By Jennifer Wohlleb
While current Kentucky school board members work this year to meet the revised training requirements established last year for ethics, finance and superintendent evaluations, newly elected board members who take office beginning Jan. 1, 2015 will have a new set of training standards to meet.
House Bill 154, enacted by the 2014 General Assembly, increases the training requirements for more veteran board members, but leaves untouched the current number of hours required for new board members.
Starting with those new to board service as of Jan. 1, board members with 0-7 years of experience need a minimum of 12 hours of training in a calendar year. Once they have 8 years or more experience, they’ll need a minimum of eight hours per calendar year.
Currently serving school board members, including those re-elected this year and beyond, are exempted from the change.
“This legislation has left everything the same for first-term board members,” said Kerri Schelling, KSBA’s director of Board Team Development. “But for everyone else it added four additional hours. For second-termers (those in their fifth through eighth years of service), who currently need a minimum of eight hours, will need 12. And once you’re in your third term or more you will need a minimum of eight hours each year.”
Schelling said even though these changes will not affect current board members, the increased requirements are not likely to be difficult to meet for those newly taking office in January.
“The vast majority of board members already go beyond their minimum number of required hours,” Schelling said. “So it’s not really as onerous as it appears. In 2013, 91 percent exceeded their minimum. What these new requirements do is focus attention on how important the role of school board is in education. Board members have always shown tremendous interest in professional development and in their own growth, and this change acknowledges that commitment to learning.”
Even though it will not be difficult for members to earn the additional hours, the changes in HB 154 do present some minor challenges.
“As the state’s official record keeper of board training, after Jan. 1, 2015, KSBA will have to operate under a dual tracking system which will take some getting used to for us, for members and for superintendents,” Schelling said. “Anytime you have multiple structures in place that govern the same group of people, there is bound to be some confusion. In order to determine whether a member has met their required hours, it will no longer be sufficient to just know how many years they have served. After January we’ll also have to know when that service began.”
However, the changes made to training regulations last year by state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has put KSBA in a great position to meet the increased demands.
“KSBA has the infrastructure to support these new requirements,” she said. “The number of hours members must earn in the mandated topics did not change (with HB 154) and that was one of the things that KSBA worked very hard for. We wanted board members to have more opportunity for flexible hours to pursue topics that are of personal interest to them and that meet the needs of their districts, in addition to their required topics of ethics, finance and superintendent evaluations.”
Finance officers also affected
The same law that revised training requirements for school board members also contained provisions that further delineate the training finance officers must have and sets up a certification system for incoming finance officers, starting in 2015. It also beefs up requirements for state education department oversight of school district finances. These are the main provisions:
• A school finance officer hired on or after July 1, 2015 must be certified by the Kentucky Department of Education before holding the position.
• The state school board will follow through with a regulation that outlines the criteria for certification. The regulation will cover initial qualification requirements for certification; an application and appeal process for certification; and a renewal process.
• The topics of the regular training school finance officers are required to receive – 42 hours over two years – will be prescribed by regulation drafted by the state school board.
Qualifications for training providers and consequences for failing to receive the training also will be specified under that regulation.
• The finance officer must give the school board a “detailed monthly financial report,” including the previous month’s revenues and expenses, for its approval. In addition to current requirements for publishing district financial statements, the monthly report must be posted on the district website for a minimum of six months following its approval.
• The state education department must review district annual financial reports and provide local boards a written report about the district’s financial status within two months.