AG clarifies opinion limiting itinerant staff doing limited work in schools where principal is a relative; revision sought by 3KT organizations

KSBA eNews Service, Frankfort, March 13, 2012

AG modifies ruling barring district staff from doing working in school if related to principal
Staff report

Attorney General Jack Conway has modified a 2011 opinion that barred any district staff member from doing work in a school where the employee is a relative of the principal.

In a March 12 clarification letter to House Speaker Greg Stumbo and state Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Joe Meyer, Conway issued a more flexible set of limitations on “districtwide” or “itinerant” staff working in a school. The new guidelines would allow such school work as long as the employee:

* is not hired by the related principal;

* is not evaluated by the related principal; and

* is not working inside the related principal’s school for a significant and material amount of time (in most cases more than one-half of the employee’s contracted time).

Originally, the 2011 opinion was sought by the Education Professional Standards Board, which was dealing with questions about whether such work violated KRS 160.380, one of several anti-nepotism provisions enacted as part of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.

However, leaders of the 3KT organization (Kentucky School Boards Association, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and Kentucky Association of School Administrators) objected to the broad interpretation of the statute, and submitted legal research in requesting a reconsideration.

“This is an important decision for all districts, but especially in smaller communities where there may be many families with professionals who work in a school system,” said KSBA Executive Director Bill Scott. “For example, under the original ruling, an itinerant music teacher who traveled among multiple elementary schools would have been barred from spending a few hours a week with students in a school whose principal was a relative as defined by the nepotism statute. We felt strongly that such a broad interpretation of the law was never intended by the General Assembly.”

In fact, in the March 12 clarification letter, Conway agreed, saying, “It is the determination of our office that…the General Assembly did not intend for KRS 160.380(a)(c) to be interpreted to define any person performing a service at a school to be “an employee of the school.”

Conway’s letter concluded that while his office stands by its opinion that the nepotism law “must be strictly construed,” it agreed that “a determination of whether an individual should be considered an employee (of a school) must be done on a case by case basis.”

Scott credited KSBA attorney John Fogle with making a persuasive argument in crafting the 3KT request.

“The members of this association and our partner organizations frequently benefit from having John’s legal and research experience on their side,” Scott said, “and this is a solid example of why we have professionals like John available to weigh in when the legal letter of the law is at issue.”

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