Stu: Roger, congratulations on being elected as the chairman of Kentucky’s State Board of Education. Would you please share a little about your background?
Roger: Thanks Stu. I consider it an honor to be selected chair of the KBE. When I consider the past chairs of KBE....individuals I greatly respect like David Karem, Helen Mountjoy, and Joe Kelly. Also, to be selected by the current KBE members means a lot to me. This board has a laser-like focus on making student-centered decisions. I consider it a privilege to serve with them.
My career in KY public education began in 1975 after receiving my BS degree from Berea College in 1974. In 3 different school districts, I served 10 years as a middle school social studies teacher, 6 years as a middle school principal and gifted talented coordinator, I year as an assistant superintendent and 10 years of service as superintendent of Marion County Public Schools. After 34 years of service in KY public education, I retired in 2009. I continued my career in education when I accepted the position of Executive Vice President of St. Catharine College in July 2009 and I continue to serve in that position today. From 2003-2009, I served as member of the St. Catharine College Board of Trustees. July 2010, Governor Beshear appointed me as a KBE member. I was selected vice chair in 2011 and served two years in that position. I have also served as a Prichard Committee member since 2010. This is my 39th year as a KY educator/administrator.
Stu: Kentucky is seen as a leader in education across our country. What do you see as the strengths and accomplishments of Kentucky’s schools?
Roger: During my career there have been two major reform movements in KY....... The Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990 and now SB 1. The comprehensiveness of KERA certainly impacted all aspects of P-12 public education. This is evident in the progress made in equity of funding, improved facilities, professional growth of certified and classified staff and most importantly teaching and learning. I see the passage and implementation of KERA as the time when KY became serious about providing a high quality education for each and every child. SB I in 2009 is moving us forward in the development and implementation of the KY Core Standards for Learning (based on the Common Core Standards of 45 states), an assessment and accountability system focused on each and every student being career and college ready, and a much improved professional growth and evaluation system for the adults who serve KY’s children. Because of those two major pieces of legislation, since 1990, Kentucky has been a national leader in P-12 education reform. I am very proud of our progress during the past 23 years!
Stu: With the reductions in funding for our schools what are your thoughts about continued progress and what are the priorities of the state board around funding?
Roger: While I am proud of our progress, my greatest disappointment has been the lack of adequate funding. I keep thinking....with the significant progress made, what would/could have been accomplished if KY educators had adequate resources to meet higher expectations for all children? This has been very frustrating to observe as the funding for KERA dwindled each year since 1994 and most recently with additional funding reductions during the implementation of the reforms required by SB 1.
I expect KBE in the development of a legislative agenda for the 2014 Session of the KY General Assembly will include a call for restoration of SEEK to the 2008 level, restoration of Flexible Focus Funds to the 2009 level and the necessary funding to maintain our current technology infrastructure and replacement of end devices.
KY educators have done a remarkable job during the past 23 years of taking the framework for reform provided by KERA and SB 1 and making the reforms real in the lives of KY’s children. As a result, an increasing number are receiving a high quality education. The most recent evidence is the 2013 assessment/accountability results with more than 54% of KY’s high school graduates demonstrating career and college readiness. Only two years ago that number was 34%. The 86% graduation rate for the Class of 2013 is one of the highest in the United States.
While KY is a leader in educational reform in the US, we are near the bottom of the 50 states in regard to per pupil expenditure. Again my question remains..."what more could be done for KY’S children, if KY educators had adequate resources to meet the needs of all children?” We cannot continue to expect more in regard to results unless we restore the funding levels and provide the resources necessary to do the important work of educating each and every child.
Stu: As you move forward as chair of the board, what are your goals and major priorities?
Roger: If we are to be successful in implementing more rigorous learning expectations with career and college readiness as our goal for all KY’s children, I see two major concerns. First, adequate funding. A good beginning toward that goal would be restoration of SEEK to the 2008 level, Flexible Focus Funds to the 2009 level and providing funding to maintain our technology infrastructure and replace end devices. Second, a united education community. I know we cannot agree on all issues, but KDE/KBE must strive to build stronger working relationships with our educational partners. Those relationships must be based on mutual respect and a laser-like focus on student centered decision making.
Stu: Are there any other items about Kentucky education you would like to share?
Roger: With the passage of SB 1 in 2009, one of my expectations and hopes was we would make significant progress toward a seamless P-20 system of education in KY. While we have made progress, not as much as I hoped for or expected. As we continue to move forward, it is my hope and desire that the working relationship between postsecondary education and P-12 education will become more collaborative and cooperative with the common goal of providing all students the opportunity to receive a high quality education.
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