Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt has resigned under pressure.
The Kentucky Board of Education met for four hours Tuesday afternoon behind closed doors to discuss personnel matters. Pruitt is the Board of Education’s sole employee. When the members emerged, they announced Pruitt would resign.
According to Courier-Journal, University of Kentucky professor Wayne Lewis was named interim commissioner. Lewis is a proponent of charter schools.
Pruitt has served as commissioner since September 2015. The meeting Tuesday was a day after Governor Matt Bevin appointed seven new members to the Board of Education, meaning all 12 members of the board are now Bevin appointees.
“What we’re seeing now is a purely partisan state board of education,” said Jefferson County School Board member Chris Brady.
He said he believes the factors that led to Pruitt’s resignation are political, and questioned the credentials of Bevin’s new board appointees.
“I don’t think this is a position where you want people to do on-the-job training,” Brady said.
The seven new members Bevin appointed are Hal Heiner, Katherine Gornik, Tracey Cusick, Laura Timberlake, Joseph Papalia, Ben Cundiff and Amanda Stamper.
Hal Heiner resigned as the Governor’s secretary of the Education and Workforce Development cabinet on Monday to take the appointment on the state board. Heiner was Bevin’s primary opponent in the 2015 election.
Another appointee, Amanda Stamper, used to be the Governor’s communications director.
And Brady said he’s concerned a conservative state board will push policies like funding charter schools, which could have a direct effect on JCPS.
The state board is also expected to determine soon whether JCPS will be taken over by the state. The state’s largest school district, with more than 100,000 students, has been in the midst of an audit, ordered by Pruitt, since February 2017.
A management review began in July, 2016, prompted by the Kentucky Department of Education’s finding of “significant deficiencies” within the district.
The possible outcomes of the audit could include the state taking no action, the state offering assistance to JCPS, or a total state takeover of the school district.