Gov. Matt Bevin announced his appointees for the Kentucky Board of Education on Monday, including Hal Heiner, who resigned from his cabinet post as education and workforce development secretary to accept the position.
The new board will be holding a special meeting Tuesday to swear in new members, elect a chair and vice chair and discuss personnel matters in executive session. The first scheduled meeting is June 6.
Heiner, a critic of the Jefferson County Public Schools, is one of six new appointees on a list that includes Bevin’s former communications director Amanda Stamper.
Outside of Heiner and Stamper, the new appointees are Kathy Gornik, Tracey Cusick, Joe Papalia and Laura Timberlake. None of the new appointees have public school teaching or administrative experience listed in their biographies provided by Bevin’s office.
Multiple appointees, including Gornik and Heiner, have experience working with nonprofit education programs. Several also have experience serving on education boards or acting in a advisory role, with Papalia serving on the Council on Postsecondary Education and Cusick acting as a parental adviser to the BOE.
Bevin reappointed five members to the 11-person board, including Gary Houchens, the only board member with experience as a public school administrator. The others were Rich Gimmel, Alesa Johnson, Ben Cundiff and Milton Seymore.
Seymore, a Louisville-based pastor, has been a charter school advocate for years. In a Nov. 2016 meeting, Gimmel said that charter schools could help traditional public schools perform better. Heiner is also a known charter school advocate.
Only one of the 11 members is a racial minority, with Seymore being African-American and the rest of the members being white. The board is not required to be racially or politically diverse.
According to the governor’s executive order, Heiner succeeds the board’s current chair, Mary Gwen Wheeler. At the board’s meeting last week, Wheeler pushed against some of Heiner’s sharp criticisms of JCPS, saying the district faces different challenges as a more urban district.
In the meeting, Heiner said the state board shares the bulk of the responsibly for ensuring students’ education. A group of local power brokers, the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda, or SCALA, has echoed similar sentiments.
“Let’s not say this is JCPS’ problem,” Heiner said during the meeting lastWednesday. “The responsibility for Kentucky’s education lies primarily in this room.”
Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt is close to releasing a long-awaited state audit of JCPS, which the board will need to approve. The audit could recommend a state takeover of the district, the state’s largest.
“We have worked alongside the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Board of Education to do what is best for students and strengthen our systems to address areas of concern,” JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said. “I am confident that collaborative process will continue.”
The appointments come days after huge district closures and teacher protests at the Capitol, demanding more funding for education. During the protest, Stamper tweeted about students who were left alone since their working parents couldn’t afford childcare.
Heavy on my heart this morning are the children who’ve been left at home by themselves because their working parents can’t afford the extra childcare expense due to school being cancelled.
— Amanda Stamper (@amanda_stamper) April 13, 2018
After a Republican-led legislature voted to override his tax, pension phase-in and budget vetoes, Bevin told reporters that he “guaranteed” a student was sexually assaulted or ingested poison due to being left alone because teachers were protesting.
Sunday, Bevin attempted to apologize for the remarks, saying, “I apologize for those who have been hurt by the things that were said. It was not my intent whatsoever.” While some accepted the apology, critics didn’t consider it an apology at all, pointing out that there is a difference between apologizing for the content and the effect of a message.
This post has been updated.