News release: New board, reform-minded commissioner offer optimism for closing gaps, improving Ky’s education performance
(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Kentucky Board of Education named Wayne D. Lewis Jr., executive director of Education Policy and Programs in the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, as the commonwealth’s interim education commissioner today.
Lewis, Ph.D., replaces Stephen Pruitt, who in September 2015 was unanimously approved as the sixth education commissioner in Kentucky’s history.
“The Bluegrass Institute thanks Stephen Pruitt for his service to the commonwealth and congratulates Wayne Lewis on his appointment to this critical position,” Bluegrass Institute President and CEO Jim Waters said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “We are confident that Dr. Lewis and the board of highly qualified members will work together to provide the kind of leadership and policy implementation that ensures all Kentucky students have access to the kind of education that prepares them for future success.”
Lewis’ appointment comes following several new appointments to the state education board by Gov. Matt Bevin, including former Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner and Kathy Gornik, the Bluegrass Institute’s former board chair.
Lewis, a former special education teacher in public schools in Louisiana and North Carolina, is an associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s educational leadership studies program, where he’s also an affiliated faculty member with the African American and Africana Studies Program.
Lewis, an advocate for educational alternatives for parents, makes the case for charter schools opposite of charter-school opponent Martin Solomon, Ph.D., in this published online debate sponsored by the Bluegrass Institute entitled: “Does Kentucky need charter schools?”
Also joining the board are Tracey Cusick of Union, a mother of 10 children who presently serves as parental advisor to the KBE; Joe Papalia of Louisville, CEO of Munich Welding and Deposition Technology Innovations and member of Kentucky’s Postsecondary Council on Education; Laura Timberlake, CEO of Big Sandy Superstores; Ben Cundiff, owner/operator of Cundiff Farms since 1967; and Amanda Stamper, Bevin’s former communications director.
They join current Bevin appointees Bowling Green’s Gary Houchens, Ph.D., associate professor in Western Kentucky University’s Department of Educational Administration, Leadership and Research and Bluegrass Institute Scholar since 2014; Milton C. Seymore, who pastors Energized Baptist Church in Louisville; Atlas Machine and Supply Inc. chairman Rich Gimmel; and Alesa G. Johnson, Somerset Community College’s chief workforce solutions officer.
“We commend Gov. Bevin for appointing such accomplished and high-quality individuals to this board, which, frankly, can engage as much or as little as it so desires,” Waters said. “We’re optimistic that working with the reform-minded Lewis, they will do much to raise the standard of educational achievement in our state and close currently alarming – and widening – achievement gaps between white and black children in key academic areas. Our children’s – and Kentucky’s – future depends on it.”