Let's stop worrying about student voice in the superintendent's selection process — and give the students a voice.
Just do it.
So far as I can tell, there is nothing stopping the Fayette County Board of Education from giving students and other underrepresented groups a meaningful voice in the selection process for a new superintendent - except for the board itself.
After all, it is the board that possesses broad authority in hiring. In fact, the board of education receives recommendations from the screening committee, but the board is not required to follow any of them.
The screening committee only exists to assist the board and broaden community input. And, the committee is not the only group that can be tasked with vetting candidates, nor is the screening committee prohibited from interacting with other groups along the way. So long as the others brought into the process can act in confidence, and are not so numerous that folks begin falling all over each other, the extra hands can be quite helpful.
According to the Attorney General (OAG 91-3), "the board of education has the discretion to consult with and to receive recommendations from other sources than the committee, i.e., interested citizens or groups of citizens...Accordingly, while we find that the screening committee is limited to representation by two teachers, one board of education member, one principal and one parent, as set forth in the statute, the possibility exists for other interested groups or individuals to share any and all information with the board of education concerning qualified applicants."
So far, the board has done everything right.
Elections seem to have been properly communicated and conducted throughout the school district and the public.
Folks may not love the coin toss used to break a tie for the parent representative slot, but the law requires the casting of lots in some form or fashion, and the coin itself performed admirably.
Fayette County Board of Education Chairman John Price did exactly as he should have done when he patiently watched the results of elections before announcing his appointment of the group's only African-American member, board member Daryl Love. His patience allowed for sober reflection on the composition of the group before rounding out the membership.
In doing so, Price acted in accordance with KRS 156.500, which states, "The General Assembly directs that appointments made by the appointing authority (in this case, Price) to every board, commission, council or other type of advisory or decision-making body created or enacted by the Education Reform Act of 1990 reflects reasonable minority representation of the membership and that active minority participation at every level of implementation be continually encouraged."
So far, so good.
But what about students?
What about others who may be in a position to help the board? We have seen several cases where the lack of candidate research has led to big problems.
It's time for the board to do something else right and include students in the process.
The board could create a small subgroup of a half dozen, or so, who would meet after the screening committee had reduced candidates to the top 10. A diverse group that includes a high school student(s), along with a couple of university researchers, perhaps a journalist, and someone from business and government could prove very helpful in vetting finalists, and perhaps avoiding big problems.
If the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team wants to pursue an amendment to the existing law and formalize a student member on the screening committee, fine. But in the meantime, the board could, and should, implement a plan that accomplishes that objective.