Education

WKU

Three people who have dedicated their lives to educating others have been selected to be inducted into the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame.

A statement from Western Kentucky University, which houses the hall, says the current or former teachers selected are Opal T. Sibert, Ron Skillern and Joe Westerfield. All three will be inducted during a ceremony on March 8 in Frankfort.

The statement says Sibert was an influential educator for 30 years in Laurel County before retiring in 1986 and was known for her persistence.

Westerfield taught history and government in Daviess County schools for 33 years before retiring in 2002 and was known for his enthusiasm.

Skillern, who is still teaching social studies after a 30-year career in Bowling Green and Warren County schools, has been described by former students as a great motivator.

WKU

The Western Kentucky University presidential search committee is meeting in closed session Thursday and Friday in Nashville.

The group is considering candidates to replace WKU President Gary Ransdell, who is retiring next summer after 20 years at the school.

The school has issued an agenda for the meeting saying that the search committee will meet in closed session at the Nashville Airport Marriott to discuss applicants for the presidential position.

Kentucky law allows the search committee to conduct the hiring process behind closed doors,without members of the public or media present.

Some WKU employees have asked the search committee to conduct open meetings, and allow members of the community to meet with finalists before a decision is made.

WKU

A group of university presidents will meet Monday to finalize a performance funding model for higher education in Kentucky. 

Schools will primarily be awarded money based on the number of degrees they produce.  Some critics argue that incentivizing degree production will diminish the quality of education. 

“Measuring quality is not easy," Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Bob King told WKU Public Radio.  "It’s not as simple as measuring the quantity of things, so we’re hoping down the road to include in the model some recognition of quality that will hopefully address the concerns."

King says the funding model also rewards universities for turning out more graduates in the science, technology, engineering, math, and healthcare fields. 

Funding model recommendations will be submitted to the governor and state lawmakers for approval by December 1.

Creative Commons

The Kentucky Board of Education is holding a special meeting Monday morning to study charter schools.

Such schools are similar to public schools in that they use public dollars and are funded based on student enrollment. They’re also controversial because they can be operated by nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies or groups of parents and teachers.

Kentucky is among a handful of states that don’t have charter schools.

But with Republicans now in full control of the state legislature that could change.

Legislation favoring charter schools has faltered in the state House, which was long-controlled by Democrats.

WKU

Kentucky’s public and private colleges and universities awarded a record number of degrees during the 2015-16 academic year.

A report from the Council on Postsecondary Education says Kentucky’s higher education institutions conferred 65,829 degrees--a 2.7 percent increase over the previous year.

The number represents a 32.5 percent increase over the amount of degrees awarded over ten years in the commonwealth.

Murray State and Morehead State had the highest increase in bachelor degree production, with the schools awarding 12 percent more degrees in the 2015-16 academic year. The University of Kentucky conferred 4 percent more.

Western Kentucky University saw a four percent increase in that same time.

Over the past decade, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System saw a 49 percent increase in the number of associate degrees it awarded.

Western Kentucky University is seeking a declaratory judgment against the Kentucky Retirement System.  The feud relates to the pension benefits of former buildings and grounds workers.

In a budget-cutting move, WKU privatized all facilities and grounds services in August.  The school out-sourced 202 positions in a contract with Sodexo. 

After becoming Sodexo employees they were told by KRS that they would not be allowed to withdraw or roll over employee contributions the individuals made to the pension system while they were employed by WKU. 

The Kentucky Retirement System, which administers the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, views Sodexo employees as “common law employees of WKU” and should not be allowed to access the funds they contributed to the retirement system individually.  KRS also stated that WKU would be expected to pay pension contributions for Sodexo employees and those workers would also have to continue to pay the applicable employee contributions to KERS, despite their employment with Sodexo.

Lisa Autry

As Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell prepares to retire next year, the hunt for his replacement remains on schedule. 

The presidential search committee met today in closed session.  Some faculty and staff have raised concerns about the transparency of the process.  They want to know who the finalists are and be allowed to comment on the final choice.  Search Committee Chairman Phillip Bale says it’s important for the names of candidates to remain confidential.

"That being said, if we have three or four finalists that want to come to campus and it doesn't injure their career or the institutions where they may be at now, we're fine with that too, but at this point we simply don't know," Bale told WKU Public Radio.

Dr. Bale says the search has yielded “an outstanding pool of applicants.”  About 40 people have applied or been nominated for the position. 

Candidate interviews will start next month.  The university’s 10th president will be named by March 1.

Yager Materials

A high school career coach in Daviess County is making sure students are aware of job opportunities created by the Ohio River. 

About 50 students from Apollo and Heritage Park high schools will go to the Owensboro Riverport and to Yager Materials, a company that builds and repairs barges.

Jeremy Camron  is the college and career readiness coach at Apollo High School. He says the Nov. 9 field trip called “Who Works the Rivers?” gives students a close-up look at, “…what it’s like to be a deckhand or a crane operator, or how you can become an electrician or an engineer on barge motors. All of those jobs may start in the $20,000 range, but their top end wage range is somewhere close to $100,000. You know, a riverboat captain is making $150,000 a year.”

The field trip includes a career fair at the Owensboro Museum of Science and History, where about a dozen companies will speak to students about river-based jobs. Camron says opportunities for river jobs are right in the students’ backyard.

“We’re fortunate that we’re located right on the Ohio River and we have a massive river port that’s developed, as well as Yager Materials that does a lot of work with barges. So there are a lot of high quality jobs for kids who just have a high school diploma want to go straight to work.”

The field trip is sponsored by RiverWorks Discovery, a program based at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa.

Ohio County Schools

Three Kentucky school districts are sharing a $450,000 state grant to expand preschool programs.

Owensboro, Daviess County and Ohio County will each get $150,000 to upgrade preschool offerings, especially for at-risk children.

Cheston Hoover is director of district programs for Ohio County Schools. He says the school district is partnering with Audubon Area Head Start to give more children a solid educational foundation.

“We’re a very large county and in some of the communities within our county, the child care, preschool, early education services are pretty limited.  And so we’re looking to expand one of those from a half-day to a full day.”

That expansion will be at the Horse Branch Elementary preschool program. Hoover says part of the funding will be used to add a staff member in the classroom and a recruiter to identify more eligible children.

“There’s lots of research that shows that full day Head Start and preschool benefits the child academically and socially. It’s also a benefit for parents to where their child can receive those services throughout the school day and not have to find another service for either the first or second half of the day.”

Owensboro will add a new full-day preschool class at Estes Elementary.

Daviess County Public Schools will partner with the Owensboro Family YMCA to expand preschool services to children who don’t speak English at home and those in foster care.

Thinkstock

A court has ordered the release of $18 million back to Kentucky’s state colleges and universities after the state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin’s mid-year cuts to higher education were illegal.

The $18 million, which will be released by Thursday, has been held in an escrow account since Attorney General Andy Beshear challenged Bevin’s executive order cutting higher education funding by 2 percent.

Though the state Supreme Court ruled last month that Bevin didn’t have the authority to cut funding that had already been budgeted by the legislature, the $18 million was in limbo while the court waited to see if Bevin would request for a the case to be heard again.

Bevin announced he would not seek another hearing of the case last week, and on Friday, the governor and attorney general agreed to release the funds back to state colleges and universities.

Bevin ordered the 2 percent mid-year cuts after negotiations for the two-year budget this spring to free up money for the state’s ailing pension systems. Higher education was cut by 4.5 percent in the two-year budget and most other state agencies and programs were cut by 9 percent.

Western Kentucky University will share in a $47 million grant to improve training for principals.  WKU is one of seven schools across the country selected by The Wallace Foundation to participate in the initiative. 

Dr. Marguerita Desander, head of the Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research at WKU, said good leadership is the foundation for student achievement.

"Every school is different.  Every community is different," Desander told WKU Public Radio.  "Having leaders who are adequately prepared for the things that are unique about communities is so important to ensure that our students get the best possible education they can."

Dr. Desander says many districts lack the capacity to train principals in how to take on challenges such as poverty, diversity, and curriculum. 

During the four-year initiative, WKU will bring together all 11 principal preparation programs in Kentucky and help revise curriculum by examining the changing needs of schools and their leaders.  WKU will also partner with the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board.

J. Tyler Frankin

Gov. Matt Bevin has not asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling against his mid-year cuts to higher education institutions. That means about $18 million in state funds that Bevin had cut are a step closer to being released to Kentucky’s state colleges and universities.

Last month, the state’s highest court ruled that Bevin didn’t have the authority to reduce the allotment that the state had already budgeted to give to higher education institutions.

Amanda Stamper, Bevin’s press secretary, said that Bevin still believes the court “erred in its decision” in the lawsuit, which was brought on Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.

“This was a bad decision for Kentucky and the ramifications from Attorney General’s political lawsuit could be significant,” Stamper said. “Moody’s called the decision a ‘credit negative’ for Kentucky because it limits Governor Bevin’s ability to manage difficult budget scenarios in light of Kentucky’s $35 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.”

WKU

The Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University is celebrating its 10th year with the largest class yet.  The academy is a residential high school for gifted juniors and seniors pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. The program is preparing to increase its number of students from 160 to 190.

Only 24 percent of Gatton’s most recent graduates continued their education at WKU. Gatton Director Lynette Breedlove says most students, historically, have transferred to other universities to finish their degrees.

“About 33 percent of students historically have stayed at WKU. About 30 percent have gone to UK, about 12 percent to U of L. And the rest of the students have gone hither and yon. Probably the next largest group is about 4 percent going to Vandy,” Breedlove said.

WKU

Western Kentucky University is taking steps to create places where LGBT students will feel comfortable talking about gender and sexual identity.

Two Safe Zone trainings are being held Tuesday, Oct. 11.  

WKU counselor Brian Lee says the goal of the trainings is to educate employees, students, and community members about creating an environment that’s open and accepting toward LGBT individuals.

Kentucky Wesleyan College

Kentucky Wesleyan College received a $3 million gift from an Owensboro dentist who was not a graduate of the school.

Dr. Willard Gillespie died in July at age 92 and designated the money to the college in his will. Kentucky Wesleyan College President Bart Darrell said the dentist often spoke of his support for the school’s mission.

“We really do combine, and this is something that Dr. Gillespie really believed in, we really do combine the practical career end game type education, but at the same time, everything we do is guided by what we call the Wesleyan Way, four principles of honor, support for each other, competition with integrity and then love for each other,” said Darrell.

Darrell said the dentist appreciated the school’s dedication to providing career training and the importance the college places on character building, integrity and community.

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