Superintendent tells how Kentucky’s School Based Decision Making Council (SBDM) laws tie elected board members’ hands

Discussion shows how SBDM laws render parents and school boards powerless

Parents in the Boone County Public School District are getting an interesting education these days. They are learning that their locally elected school board and their school superintendent have absolutely no authority regarding what may be some very bad curriculum choices recently made in one of the district’s middle schools.

The disturbing situation in Boone County Public Schools got an interesting airing during the local board of education’s November 10 meeting.

Several parents spoke first, indicating a host of problems surrounding the Camp Ernst Middle School’s adoption of a computer-based curriculum.

One key issue according to the parents is that the program follows California’s social studies standards, which disagree with Kentucky’s current standards for that subject (Note: Kentucky has not adopted new social studies standards in years. Common Core did not include standards for this area although parents say school staff told them the changes were made because of Common Core).

Other problems parents cited include a highly biased presentation of world religions (with excessive emphasis on the Muslim faith only) and a limited span of subject coverage that already has allowed some students to complete the entire school year’s course of study as of mid-November. Reportedly, there is no other scheduled activity for these kids and they now spend their school time playing video games.

There are technical issues, as well. Apparently, the Camp Ernst Internet system isn’t up to the bandwidth requirements of a school-wide online instruction program. Students report they lose school time due to slow equipment responses.

There might even be legal issues. Parents indicate that teachers at the school never reviewed the full curriculum before it was put in place. Even worse, parents also collected meeting minutes for the Camp Ernst Middle School’s SBDM. Parents indicate they can’t find any indication that the Camp Ernst Middle School’s SBDM ever took a formal vote to adopt this controversial educational program.

Following the parents’ presentations, Boone County’s highly regarded, award-winning superintendent, Randy Poe, made some very key comments.

This is where a lot of people in the room got a real education.

Poe started out by clearly listing absolute restrictions placed on local school board authority in Kentucky, saying:

“The board cannot investigate a Site Based Council.”

He then added:

“The board doesn’t have any control over the particular curriculum that’s offered.”

Poe later added to his discussion about curriculum choices and pilot programs, saying:

“What a Site Based Council does with that is their particular choice. It’s not ours.”

So, there it is, coming from one of the state’s most experienced and highly regarded superintendents. Thanks to the state’s very problematic School Based Decision Making laws, neither local school board members, nor the superintendent, nor parents have any real control over the curriculum and many other key decisions made by each school’s SBDM. Under Kentucky law, those prerogatives are exclusive to the SBDM in each school, and I can assure you those laws are enforced.

Here’s some more education for adults: The SBDM is, by law, firmly under control of the teachers in each school. You see, the SBDM laws provide that the makeup of each council must be in a ratio of three teachers to only two parents, and a majority vote rules.

So, forget the nonsense some Kentucky politicians feed you about how the Bluegrass State has local control of schools. That just isn’t true if you are a parent, a taxpayer, a superintendent or even a locally elected school board member. The “local control” only involves teachers in a school.

And, if those teachers want to adopt a curriculum that stresses one religion over all others, right now there is nothing that a local school board or its superintendent can do about it. In fact, the local board isn’t even allowed to investigate what is happening.

Randy Poe says so.


  1. Jordan Byrne says:

    I attended the meeting that Mr. Innes writes about. It is a terrible situation when our elected School Board officials have no say in what is happening in our schools. Our legislators must eliminate Site Based Decision Making Councils in the schools.

  2. I think the SBDM has too much power. It comprises of the prinical, 3 teachers and 2 parents. What teacher in their right mind would ever go against the principal.

    • Richard Innes says:

      I do agree that the amount of SBDM power and lack of accountability are issues, of course.

      But, don’t under-estimate teacher power in Kentucky’s schools.

      In 2014 teachers in Jefferson County’s Male High School did revolt against their principal, accusing him of cheating on state testing. News reports indicated teachers were also unhappy with the principal’s personnel decisions. That principal lost this battle and was fired. So, don’t under-estimate teacher ability to control their schools under SBDM laws.

  3. Terry Donoghue says:

    What good is the school board if they cannot stop this? Are you telling us that the Superintendent never meets with the principals to discuss what is being taught in the schools? Why then are we paying Randy Poe over$200,000 to over see education in Boone County?

    • Richard Innes says:

      I think some meetings occur, but under Kentucky law a superintendent has to lean over backwards to not appear to be trying to influence curriculum and spending choices in his schools. It is an awkward and inefficient system, at best.

  4. Concerned Citizen says:

    In the 1970’s we experienced a similar event in a particular Boone County grade school. It seems that there were one or two school teachers there that were just a little bit too taken with the women’s liberation movement of the time. These couple of teachers (women) were doing a bit more than “encouraging” the girls of the classrooms that they could be more than housewives and mothers. They should adopt careers and that being a wife and mother was inferior to a career. But worse than anything, they were actually inferring that “husbands and fathers abandon families” and in very subtle terms, “men were bad.” You can only imagine what message little boys were getting in those classrooms. There were a number of children who went home worried their father was going to leave because the teacher said so.

    Well thank our lucky stars of the time that most of those children’s mothers were housewives. Kids were coming home very upset and telling their mothers. One mother got on the telephone with another mother. Next thing you know, those angry women stormed that particular school and those specific teachers and made it known in no uncertain terms, “How dare you insult these good men these kids call ‘Dad’. Stop it right now!”

    And it sure did shut these goofy teachers up in a hurry.

    So my advice, band together with the other parents and take your concern directly to the school and that staff. They are the bosses and decision makers. The school board only allocates money.

    • Richard Innes says:

      Concerned Citizen: Thank you for sharing this interesting story. I am on the periphery of the present day situation, but I am confident that parents are doing something very similar to what your 1970s crowd did, plus more.