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State School Board Dealing With Internal Tensions

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The State Board of Education wants to
accelerate the search for a new commissioner amid tensions over the
pullout of its first choice last week.
Several members acknowledged that tensions have risen since
Illinois educator Barbara Erwin declined the commissioner job on
July 13, citing news media scrutiny of her performance at other
districts she's led.
"It's been a difficult time for all the board; it's been a
trying time," said board member David Rhodes. "But I think we're
all solid individuals and everyone's wanting to do what's best for
public education in Kentucky."
Last Saturday, board members had a special meeting to jump-start
the selection process. They plan to hire an interim commissioner
within two weeks. But they've made no headway yet, said board
member Doug Hubbard.
"All we've really done is accept Dr. Erwin's letter of
resignation," Hubbard said.
The board's next meeting is Aug. 8 and 9.
Hubbard was reluctant to select Erwin, who was hired in May
despite several controversies including resume errors and criticism
of her leadership in prior districts. Most recently, Erwin was
involved in a police investigation into her missing personnel file
from the St. Charles, Ill., school district, from which she
retired.
Until the interim position is filled, Kevin Noland, a deputy
commissioner and legal counsel for the state board, will fill in.
Tensions has some board meetings talking about choosing a new
chairman.
"There may be those among us who believe that we need to make a
fresh start," Hubbard said.
The board could be struggling as a unit because of the failed
commissioner search, said Blake Haselton, executive director of the
Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.
Erwin was hired in May to replace Gene Wilhoit, who left in
November to become executive director of a nonprofit organization
based in Washington. Erwin was scheduled to start on July 16, but
withdrew just days before.
"Obviously, when you don't have a successful search, the first
person you look to is the leader," said Haselton, who has been
widely considered as a candidate for commissioner.
The current board chairman, Keith Travis, said it is a difficult
time to lead the group, but he will remain in the position if
elected.
"Whether I'm in a leadership role on the board doesn't
matter," Travis said. "I'm not planning a departure, but what you
hope to do is that you left the facility better that you found it,
you made a contribution and somebody is ready to take over."
Board member David Webb said the search process was
disappointing to all members, but they are working together to not
only find the next commissioner, but to continue tackling education
issues related to Kentucky students.
"It will accomplish next to nothing to finger-point," he said.
"We've got to move forward, not back."
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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,
http://www.kentucky.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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