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Bill outlines principles of picking principals

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Legislation that would give superintendents the final say over the hiring of school principals advanced out of a state Senate committee today.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 7, would remove the responsibility from school-based decision making councils, known as SBDMs in education parlance. Under SB 7, superintendents would have to only consult with the councils.

Another provision of SB 7 would change the membership of councils by adding a parent. Eric Kennedy of the Kentucky School Boards Association said this would equalize the number of parents and teachers on councils.

“It gives the accountability of our school systems back to really where it should be and that is with parents and the community,” sponsor Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said while testifying before the State & Local Government Committee. “It does this by allowing superintendents who are hired by school boards who are elected by the people a chance to select their principals. We all know the principal is the biggest indicator of how a school is going to do.”

He said the uniquely Kentucky way of hiring principals comes as a shock to people not familiar with our public school systems.

Schickel added that he has been advocating for the change for five years. Kennedy said legislation passed last year already allows the superintendent of the Jefferson County School District, the largest in the state, to hire principals.

Lucy Waterbury, a parent of a public school student, spoke in opposition to the bill. She said the councils were one of the major provisions of the Kentucky Education Reform Act from the early ‘90s.

“If we want to pretend like SBDMs came out of a vacuum, we would be lying and living revisionist history,” she said. “Parent power, teacher power, local stakeholder power was needed in Kentucky then. It is needed now.”

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said changes made to SB 7 through the form of a committee substitute placated his prior concerns. He added that the current practice of having SBDMs select principals muddles accountability in the chain of command of school districts.

“I appreciate the sponsors working on this and narrowing the scope and the focus,” McDaniel said. “Accountability is a good thing.”

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