Interim Education Commissioner Appears Before Legislature

The interim Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) appeared virtually before the joint interim committee on Education on Tuesday, where she reported the KDE is preparing to undergo a national search for a full-time replacement.

Former embattled KDE Commissioner Jason Glass officially exited his position in September after accepting a role as associate vice president of teaching and learning at Western Michigan University. Glass and Republicans in the General Assembly clashed over criticisms of state guidance for trans students.

Robin Kinney, the interim Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Education, said the KDE has issued a request for proposals for a national search firm and is currently scoring those results.

“The last time we hired a national search firm it took around eight months,” Kinney said to find and name a candidate. That last search took place during COVID-19, so there is hope the search this time will be faster.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, said he was “okay with an eight-month timetable” to hire a replacement for Glass. In his opinion, it would be wrong to bring in a replacement during the 60-day legislative session.

Kinney faced brief questions on Tuesday from lawmakers related to telework for KDE employees and thoughts on “cultural distracting issues.”

During the pandemic, the Kentucky Department of Education switched to a hybrid remote model where employees work remotely up to three days a week. Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, asked if employees would come back to work during her interim tenure.

Kinney said she supports telework, which helps retain employees, adding she would look to the incoming commissioner of education to develop large policy decisions.

“I am in the office 5 days a week,” she said. “We have a mixture of opportunities for our employees.”

On the carefully phrased question of “cultural distracting issues,” the interim commissioner said the KDE is focused on academics, but she does believe in “supporting the whole child.”

“We are there to support each and every student and we will focus on academics,” she said.

“As it relates to physical, mental, and social” – we will be there for those too, Kinney said.