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Published in Print: November 3, 1999, as Ky.'s Commissioner of Education To Step Down at End of Year

Ky.'s Commissioner of Education To Step Down at End of Year

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Kentucky's education commissioner announced last week that he will leave his post at the end of the year.

"I believe that I have substantially accomplished what I was charged to do by the board when I came to Kentucky," Wilmer S. Cody said in a written statement announcing his resignation.

Mr. Cody, who had been Louisiana's commissioner before moving to the Bluegrass State in 1995, led the overhaul of Kentucky's innovative testing system.

Wilmer S. Cody

He fired the contractor that made several errors in the initial system and implemented changes called for by the legislature. ("Ky. Bids KIRIS Farewell, Ushers In New Test," April 22, 1998.) He has also overseen the establishment of a statewide network of teaching academies and helped upgrade the state's school construction bond rating, said Helen W. Mountjoy, the chairwoman of the state board of education.

"Most importantly, our schools are showing real progress in meeting the high standards we've set for them," she said in an interview.

"He's been especially helpful in getting us through the changes in assessment and accountability,'' said Robert F. Sexton, the executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a Lexington-based citizens' group that has been a leading advocate of the push to overhaul Kentucky schools. "He's calmed things a little bit."

Contract Renewal?

While Mr. Cody is leaving voluntarily, his future in Kentucky was not assured. His original, four-year contract expired last summer, but an automatic one-year extension kicked in when the state board postponed renewing it.

The board had planned to start discussing a contract extension next month, Ms. Mountjoy said.

"I couldn't give you a sense of" whether the board would have renewed his contract, she said.

At its regularly scheduled meeting this week, the state board was expected to accept Mr. Cody's resignation and form a committee to search for a successor.

In a letter to Ms. Mountjoy, Mr. Cody, 62, said he would lead a research project from his home in New Orleans starting next year. The sponsor and scope of the research will be announced then.

He added that he would return to Louisiana to care for ailing parents."I need and want to spend more time and provide more support than is possible were I to continue as commissioner."

Mr. Cody has been the superintendent in Chapel Hill, N.C., Birmingham, Ala., and Montgomery County, Md. He also worked at the U.S. Department of Education and for the National Education Goals Panel.

He is the second appointed commissioner of education since the Kentucky Supreme Court ordered the state to retool completely its education system in 1990.

Vol. 19, Issue 10, Page 21

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