At the urging of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence Student Voice team, state Rep. Derrick Graham said Tuesday that he filed legislation that would allow a school board to place high school students on superintendent search screening committees.
The students who asked for the legislation, Graham said, "are very smart" and conscientious and have studied the issue carefully.
"They know how important it is to have good, strong leadership at the top," said Graham, chairman of the House Education Committee.
Members of the Student Voice Team had asked to have a student placed on the committee that will make a recommendation to the Fayette County school board for Tom Shelton's replacement.
But school board members said they can't put a student on the screening committee because of state law.
The six required positions on the superintendent screening committee are two teachers, elected by teachers; one classified employee, elected by classified employees; one principal, elected by principals; one parent or guardian, elected by PTA presidents; and one school board member, appointed by the board chairman.
Under the legislation sponsored by Graham, D-Frankfort, a local board of education may increase the screening committee membership to include one high school student, elected by his or her peers in the district. Such a move would not be mandatory.
The Student Voice Team recommends having the student representative elected by middle and high school students through a primary and subsequent runoff election process.
"Representative Graham's sponsorship of the bill is the first real legislative step we have seen to recognize the added value a student's perspective brings to improving our public schools," Jamie Smith, a junior at Henry Clay High School and a member of the group, said in a statement.
Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said that he had met with the students and supports the legislation in theory, but he has one main concern. Wilson said he would want to get a legal opinion on whether students younger than 18 would be able to have access to confidential information about superintendent candidates.
"We are all for having the kids involved," Wilson said. "We would want to make sure we talk to our attorneys who actually have information on that."