Kentucky Opens Search for New Education Commissioner


The Kentucky Board of Education wants whoever replaces Kentucky Commissioner Terry Holliday after his August retirement to have the ability to communicate with the public and educators and to effectively leveraging resources for public education.

Chairman Roger Marcum said that “implementation fatigue,” or attempting too much change in too short a time, will be an important issue the commissioner will be facing, according to Kristen Clark of The Courier-Journal.

Board members said that educators are generally afraid of change, so the new commissioner will need to be able to soften transitions. Members used the recent teacher evaluation changes, meant to improve professional development, as an example, since administrators felt the evaluations were too time-consuming.

Other topics discussed during the board’s morning session this week were student assessment and the achievement gap. Board member Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of Louisville’s 55,000 Degrees initiative, said the new commissioner will probably face problems with Kentucky’s accountability system.

The Florida-based firm Greenwood-Asher and Associates, unanimously voted to conduct the search, said its game plan is to provide a “quality pool” of candidates for the board to consider. It was Greenwood-Asher that was responsible for leading the board to former commissioner Terry Holliday. Partners Betty Turner Asher and Jan Greenwood said the search will consist of email exchanges, phone calls, meetings with stakeholders, and forums with superintendents, principals, teachers, and the public.

Greenwood-Asher and Associates also conducted the search for University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and former UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr. The firm told board members they had been involved in more than 2,000 executive searches and had a 97% rate of returning clients. The contract with the state board was for $80.000, as shown in board documents, reports Valarie Honeycutt Spears of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

WKYT-TV reports that in a letter to the board, Holliday spoke of his honor in serving the Commonwealth of Kentucky for six years and spoke highly of Gov. Steve Beshear, the State Board of Education, the Department of Education staff, and the hardworking teachers in the state. The commissioner worked on improving the rate of graduation and on having graduates ready for college and/or careers.

Holliday was a supporter of new mandated academic standards, new assessment protocols, and a balanced accountability system. He also backed a Professional Growth and Effectiveness System for teachers, principals, and superintendents and a comprehensive system of school and district improvement planning and support.

It was Holliday who introduced the Common Core math and English standards in Kentucky, making it the first state to adopt Common Core in 2010. In spite of the controversy and conflict connected to the standards, Holliday was steadfast in his support of Common Core. He even asked Kentuckians to review Common Core standards and suggest revisions or changes.

Council of Chief State School Officers Executive Director Chris Minnich said that when Holliday retires at the end of this school year, “so will one of the country’s greatest education leaders.”

Governor Steve Beshear said Holliday has been “an outstanding public servant and advocate for students, teachers and school districts in the Commonwealth throughout his remarkable career.”