After one candidate drops out, remaining candidate likely to be next Kentucky education commissioner

Stephen Pruitt
Stephen Pruitt

Stephen Pruitt will likely be the next Kentucky commissioner of education, pending the outcome of a background check, a vote by the board and successful contract negotiations, Kentucky Board of Education officials announced late Friday.

"Dr. Pruitt is very excited for the opportunity and has indicated to the board that, if offered the job, he would accept," Kentucky Board of Education Chairman Roger Marcum said in a news release.

Pruitt was one of two candidates for the commissioner position, opened when Terry Holliday retired last month.

The other candidate, Christopher Koch, interim president of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and former Illinois commissioner of education, withdrew from consideration Friday. The news release did not say why.

Pruitt is senior vice president at Achieve Inc., a Washington, D.C., education reform organization, where he has served since 2010.

Pruitt, whose organization works with states on education standards, was a leader in the development of the new science curriculum measures known as Next Generation Science Standards, the Kentucky School Boards Association News Service reported.

KSBA reported that according to documents on the Kentucky Department of Education website, Pruitt consulted with the state staff, Kentucky teachers and others in the development of the science standards now being taught in Kentucky classrooms. He began helping the agency in 2010, leading a group that took a National Academy of Science framework to draft the new standards for Kentucky and at last a dozen other states.

"He brings a wealth of educational experience from the classroom, the state and the national levels. He is personable and a good communicator," Marcum said.

Pruitt's experience includes chief of staff, associate state superintendent, director of academic standards, and science and mathematics program manager with the Georgia Department of Education; and high school chemistry teacher in Fayetteville and Tyrone, Ga. He earned a bachelor's degree from North Georgia College and State University; a master's from the University of West Georgia; and a doctorate in philosophy from Auburn University.

"Kentucky has a great history of reform, of doing great things for Kentucky's kids," Pruitt said in the release. "I think I bring a unique perspective to the position — having been a classroom teacher, which is where my heart will always be — to working at the state and national levels. I look forward to working with teachers, principals, superintendents, the Kentucky Department of Education staff, legislators and all of the education partners around the state to make the students of Kentucky prepared for their next step in life."

Marcum would not say whether one candidate was the favorite.

"We felt very good about both of our remaining candidates," he said. "I think the board would have been happy with either Dr. Koch or Dr. Pruitt."

Once the background check on Pruitt is complete, provided there are no problems, Marcum will call a special meeting of the state Board of Education. At that time, the board is expected to vote to offer Pruitt the job. The meeting will likely be scheduled within the next few weeks, officials said.

Once the terms of the commissioner's contract are negotiated, the board is expected to ratify it at its meeting Oct. 6. No start date has been announced. Associate Commissioner and General Counsel Kevin C. Brown is serving as interim commissioner.