It's been a generation since Kentucky liberated the leadership of public schools from raw patronage politics.
No one's yearning to turn back that clock.
But some of the revolutionary reforms of 1990 are showing their age, as the Fayette County Board of Education is discovering as it strives to make the search for a new superintendent as inclusive as possible.
At a meeting Monday, several Fayette board members wisely expressed support for adding a student and a representative of the Equity Council to the committee that will screen superintendent candidates.
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The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team is pushing to include students, and the local NAACP asked that the screening committee include a representative of the Equity Council, which looks out for the interests of poor, minority and disabled students.
While board members are receptive to the requests for broader representation, they say they lack the authority to make such additions under current state law.
It's generally thought that local boards do not have the authority to add members beyond the six prescribed by the law, which was part of the Kentucky Education Reform Act — although, as far as we know, no one's ever tested it.
The Fayette board is expected to consider a resolution next month urging the legislature to provide more flexibility in constituting superintendent screening committees — a good idea worth exploring.
As we said, the creation of a formal process for selecting a superintendent — in which teachers, parents and school staff have a voice — was a huge improvement over the political cronyism that ruled too many districts.
The legislature went on to improve the law in 1998 by mandating that superintendent screening committees have at least one minority member in districts where eight percent or more of the students are ethnic minorities. The amendment authorized parents to choose a minority member in such cases.
Such an election was not necessary in Fayette County this time because Daryl Love, the only black member of the school board, was named to the screening committee.
In the end, the five elected board members are responsible for the search and for hiring a superintendent.
The Fayette board conducted a commendably open and inclusive search in 2010. The board should again provide opportunities for all who have a stake in Lexington's public schools to also have a voice in choosing the district's next top leader.