I posted a fairly extensive blog on Saturday about a dubious legislative agenda item from the Kentucky Board of Education. The board wants the law modified to allow the Kentucky Commissioner of Education to remove school superintendents and local board of education members in districts where students have had chronically low academic performance for six years.
I pointed out in the previous post that superintendents and local boards have virtually no say about how schools are actually run under KERA. That’s because the real authority to run schools rests with each school’s Site Based Decision Making Council.
Firing the superintendent or someone on the local school board is mostly like shooting innocent bystanders and claiming victory while the real culprits escape any accountability.
Since Saturday I have been checking around, and it looks like the only possible way a superintendent can try to influence what happens in a school is to demote (not fire) the principal. If the principal has tenure in the school system as a teacher (most do), the principal can’t be fired, just demoted. The demoted individual remains in the school system – and on the payroll.
It gets worse. Even if a superintendent removes a school principal for cause, a court case several years ago decided that the new principal isn’t selected by the superintendent. Instead, the very same, low-performing school’s site base council picks the replacement. Imagine that! In fact, in the specific court case I was told about, the site base council actually turned right around and rehired the very same person the superintendent had fired!
Furthermore, if the law is changed and a superintendent is removed, he also has tenure protected if he served four or more years. Since the proposed legislation would only remove the superintendent after six years, the local board would be saddled with more dead weight on their payroll.
So, as I said in the previous post, removing a superintendent or local school board member when kids have low academic performance is mostly a smoke screen for looking tough. Nothing in this proposal is likely to have important impact where it counts – in the schools.
Maybe when we finally see some legislative language on this proposal, I will revise my opinion (the state board voted for this action in principle without any legislative language being considered). However, right now it looks like this Kentucky Board of Education legislative agenda item wasn’t thought through, and this situation probably won’t do anything more than raise more questions about the lack of real effectiveness of the state board and the ability of the system to really make positive changes for kids.