Education

Investigation finds middle school council violated education law

Kentucky’s system that gives school councils authority is under fire. Should it be changed?

Kentucky school superintendents once had broad hiring power. Now, Kentucky schools are run largely by councils of teachers, parents and an administrator. This video is of state Sen. John Schickel who is calling for changes.
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Kentucky school superintendents once had broad hiring power. Now, Kentucky schools are run largely by councils of teachers, parents and an administrator. This video is of state Sen. John Schickel who is calling for changes.

Jessie Clark Middle School’s decision making council and teachers will have to get training as a result of a violation of Kentucky education law.

The decision was released in a Nov. 15 report from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability, obtained by the Herald-Leader under the Kentucky Open Records Act. The OEA, Kentucky’s education watchdog, monitors the elementary and secondary system in the state.

School councils are made up of teachers, parents and administrators and are at the center of a statewide debate as to whether they should continue to have as much decision-making power as they do.

Jessie Clark is one of at least eight OEA investigative reports issued across the state in the last year requiring training for school staff or council members on school council law, documents show.

The OEA was investigating a complaint at Jessie Clark Middle School that the elections at the end of the 2017-18 academic year for teacher representatives on the school council were conducted improperly, the report said.

The OAE found that Jessie Clark Middle School violated state education law by having a bylaw detailing teacher election procedures.

As a result of the violation, Jessie Clark council members must receive three hours of training by a trainer approved by the state department of education on the topic of school council elections by January 31, 2019. On Tuesday, Jessie Clark Principal Jennifer Kendall said school officials will comply with state laws and regulations and she will extend the training to all teachers at her school.

All bylaws, policies and guidelines will be available on the school website and in the front office of the school.

“We value transparency in all (school council) business,” Kendall said.

District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said the district stands behind its principals and will provide support.

“The findings are all related to procedural issues easily resolved with additional training and a website update, and I am confident that all recommendations from the Office of Education Accountability will be followed,” Deffendall said.

The school decision making councils, one result of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990, were at the heart of a Nov. 19 debate before the General Assembly’s Interim Joint Committee on Education.

Some people testified that laws regarding the panels of teachers, parents and administrators are a source of confusion and should be changed or clarified in 2019, in part to give school boards or superintendents more power. Others said that such changes would be detrimental to school districts and that the councils, which make decisions ranging from principal hiring to textbook selection, have improved student achievement.

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