Education

Two weeks after Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell announced plans to retire next year, the process to find his successor has officially begun. 

In a special meeting Friday afternoon, the WKU Board of Regents appointed a search committee of mostly current and former regents.  Search Committee Chairman Dr. Phillip Bale told WKU Public Radio that the seven-member group could be expanded.

"Western Kentucky University involves more than just the university," stated Bale.  "Obviously, it's a very important part of Bowling Green and this surrounding region, so we'll be looking to see if there's any other stakeholders who need a voice or larger voice than what we have right now."

The presidential search committee will include:

  • Dr. Phillip Bale, Chair and current Regent
  • Dr. Barbara Burch, current Faculty Regent
  • Mrs. Cynthia Harris, current Board of Regent's Secretary
  • Mrs. Julie Hinson, WKU Alumni Association President
  • Mr. James Meyer, former Board of Regents Chairman
  • Mr. Jay Todd Richey, current Student Regent
  • Dr. Tamela Smith, current Staff Regent

The Board of Regents also voted to immediately issue a request for proposals from executive search firms.  The deadline to submit proposals will be March 2, 2016.

The search committee hopes to have the candidate pool narrowed to no more than five finalists by this December with the selection of a new president by March 2017. 

This will only be the seventh presidential search in the 110-year history of the university.  Dr. Ransdell has said that he will not be a part of the search process.

KCTCS

The head of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System has been appointed to a new national board that advocates for the needs of community colleges. 

KCTCS President Jay Box says the board called “Reclaiming America’s Middle Class” promotes the value of community colleges to students, communities, and the economy. He says that’s something often not wellunderstood by policy makers.

"We are the primary provider of workforce education and training in all states, and we realize that the jobs our graduates get are those middle class jobs, the jobs that are so important in our economy," Box told WKU Public Radio.

The board has several priorities, including an expansion of Pell Grants for summer classes. Box says that would help students complete their education quicker and with less cost. 

The board is made up of leaders from the nation’s largest community college systems.  KCTCS has 16 schools and 70 campus locations.

Owensboro Public Schools

Students in two Owensboro elementary schools now have new ways to cut down on fidgeting and concentrate on their work. That's thanks to new desks. 

Estes Elementary got 10 pedal desks for kindergarten classes. The desks look a little like a tricycle with a desk on top. They allow students to get a little exercise while learning.

Sutton Elementary got 39 standing desks that give students the choice of standing up or sitting on a stool. The desks are similar to what you might see in an art or design studio.

Fourth grade teacher Gina Davis has most of the standing desks in her classroom. 

"The students are definitely more focused and they love using them," says Davis. "Many students choose to stand the whole time. I've never said they have to stand or they have to sit, but they're choosing to do a lot of standing."

She’s been teaching for 20 years and says she’s already seen a difference since the new desks came in a few weeks ago.    

WKU

Governor Matt Bevin wants to influence any performance-based funding model used by Kentucky universities.

The leaders of the state’s public schools and the Council on Postsecondary Education have been working for 18 months on a proposed formula for any new funding they receive.

But not only are universities not in line to receive new funding in the next state budget, they’re facing significant cuts.

Western Kentucky University Vice President of Public Affairs Robbin Taylor says Bevin has indicated he wants any such model to be based largely on how well schools help address workforce development needs.

Taylor says she thinks schools now have to re-evaluate what they’ve been working on.

"I don't want to say this negates all that, but it sort of puts all that on hold. As the Governor has indicated, he didn't think it went far enough, and he'd like to be a part of making those decisions, and has indicated his desire to work with the university presidents and the Council on Postsecondary Education to come up with those measures."

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell announced at Friday's Board of Regents meeting in Elizabethtown that he is retiring effective June 30, 2017.

He said he wanted to give the school ample time to find a successor. He will have served as WKU President for 20 years by the time he leaves the post.

Ransdell said picking the right time to step aside has been something he and his wife, Julie, have been discussing for a while.

"We want to do this on our terms, and this has been an incredible 19 years so far, and will be an incredible 20 years," Ransdell told WKU Public radio.  "We just felt like our health is good and I've seen so many people in this job retire and not have the best of circumstances with their health."

In an email to faculty and staff,   Ransdell said he believes he has fulfilled the commitment he made in 1997 to transform the university. 

"WKU is a dramatically different institution today than it was 20 years ago – financially, physically, intellectually and attitudinally.  Serving my alma mater has been a dream come true," said Ransdell.

WKU

In an e-mail to faculty and staff late Wednesday afternoon, WKU President Gary Ransdell said Governor Matt Bevin's proposed budget cuts to higher education present a substantial challenge to the university.

Bevin's proposal calls for a 4.5 percent budget cut this fiscal year. That translates to $3.3 million out of WKU's budget by the end of June. Nine percent reductions would go into effect after that.

"There are many details of this plan that are yet to be understood, and with regard to performance funding, those details have yet to be defined," Ransdell said in his message. "So we are a long way from fully knowing how WKU will be impacted by these proposals.  I am confident, however, that WKU will fare well in any measure that is outcome or performance based.

Ransdell says the budget contains at least one bright spot for WKU. Gov. Bevin's budget proposal contains an equity funding appropriation for both WKU and Northern Kentucky University. Ransdell says the appropriation would held "level the playing field for our students who are paying a disproportionate share of their education in comparison to students at other Kentucky universities."

Flickr/Creative Commons

A new collaborative effort in Warren County is looking to train workers to fill high-tech manufacturing jobs in the region.

The South Central Kentucky Manufacturing Career Center includes businesses, schools, employment agencies and non-profits.

The center will train up to 16 people at a time at South Central Kentucky Community and Technical College. Courses are to begin at the center Feb. 2.

Students will take a 12-week course focusing on the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dean Shareski

Many schools across Kentucky canceled classes yet again Monday, but in some districts, snow days are no longer what they used to be. 

Barren County is one of 44 school systems using a program that allows students to continue their education at home. 

Director of Instruction Scott Harper says many assignments can be completed online.

"If teaches and students are available for that kind of learning using some platform like Google Classroom, then they design their lessons around that," explained Harper.  "At the same time, they also design lessons for students who may not have access at home."

The program can be used not just during inclement weather, but also in the event of sickness, such as a flu outbreak. 

Completing snow day assignments means students don’t have to make up the days at the end of the school year.

Kentucky Department of Education

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt issued a report Thursday on the state’s educational successes and challenges. In The State of K-12 Public Education in the Commonwealth of Kentucky report, he praised the 88% graduation rate and the 66% of students who are graduating college and career ready.

"Six years ago, we were in the 30s, so we've almost doubled.  In doing that, we're finding those kids are doing better in postsecondary," Pruitt told WKU Public Radio.  "Their GPAs are higher, their tendency to come back for a second year is higher."

Commissioner Pruitt said some changes will be made to state education standards based on public comments. Calculus and cursive writing will be added to math and English standards.

Pruitt added that closing the achievement gap remains one of Kentucky’s biggest challenges and he also noted that per-student spending trails the national average.

Appeal Filed Against Henderson County Schools' Nickel Tax

Jan 19, 2016

A complaint has been filed against the Henderson County Board of Education alleging the school system's "nickel tax" is fraudulent and was applied retroactively.

The Gleaner of Henderson reports plaintiffs Robert Pruitt and Dean Spooner filed the complaint in Henderson Circuit Court last month.

The school board approved passing a recallable nickel tax, which generates revenue exclusively for construction or renovation projects, in April. A court-verified public petition placed the issue before the public vote. Voters narrowly approved the tax.

Among the plaintiff's allegations is that the 2015 property tax bills reflect a tax of .059 cents on each $100 valuation, not like the nickel stated in the public question that was voted on.

Superintendent Marganna Stanley denies the allegations in the complaint, saying the school system follows state guidelines.

WKU

Western Kentucky University is filming a video aimed at helping students and employees handle active shooter situations.

The video will include scenes of university police entering a building as if a shooting had taken place inside. Filming will begin Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Mass Media and Technology Hall.

The video is based on a training program created by the city of Houston called, Run, Fight, Hide.

"The basic premise is, in a situation like that, is if you can run and put distance between you and the shooter--safely do so, “said WKU Media Relations Director Bob Skipper. “If you can't, you hide and barricade yourself in. And if all else fails, then you take a stand and try to fight."

Skipper says WKU students and workers have asked for more information on how to handle violent encounters following several high-profile mass shootings in the U.S.

University of Louisville

Gov. Matt Bevin on Thursday withdrew a motion from former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear that would have dismissed a lawsuit accusing Beshear of breaking state law when he did not appoint a single African-American to the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees last year.

Bevin filed pleadings Thursday with the Franklin Circuit Court “expressing his agreement” with the group that filed the lawsuit, according to his office.

Last summer, the West Louisville-based Justice Resource Center asked then-Attorney General Jack Conway to weigh in on whether U of L was out of compliance with the racial minority requirement state law, which requires the board to have a proportional representation of minorities.

Activists said Conway ducked the issue when he released an opinion requiring that Beshear appoint at least one racial minority to the board. The governor appoints 17 of the 20 U of L trustees; by appointing one African-American, Beshear would have brought the total to two.

J. Tyler Franklin/WFPL News)

Two members of the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees publicly withdrew their support for U of L President James Ramsey during the board’s regular meeting today.

In September, all 20 trustees signed a letter affirming their support for Ramsey as the state auditor’s office began an investigation into the relationship between the school and its $1.1 billion nonprofit foundation. Ramsey is the head of both entities, and he is a voting member of the foundation’s board of directors.

Alluding to the numerous scandals that have emerged at the university over the past few months, trustee Steve Campbell interjected early in the meeting to announce he was withdrawing his support for Ramsey.

“Ever since [September], there have been material issues with the university. I’m not going to list them, you all are aware of them,” said Campbell, an adviser at financial firm Lazard Freres & Co. “And as a result, I feel that the circumstances have changed. I am happy to stand alone, and I do so with all due respect.”

WKU

Kentucky state universities have endured regular budget cuts for years, and they’ve offset the losses in part with tuition increases.

A Republican state senator wants to stop the latter.

State Sen. Dan Seum, a Louisville Republican, is proposing a freeze on state universities’ tuition rates. He said state universities have increased their tuition at a rate that outstrips cuts to higher education.

“We cut their budget by $165 million, they increased it on the backs of these kids to the tune of $582 million,” Seum said. “I think the universities have seen these kids as nothing more than a cash cow.”

According to a 2015 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Kentucky has cut higher education spending per-student at the highest rate in the U.S.

At the same time, tuition has increased at Kentucky’s public universities at a clip higher than 45 other states’ higher education systems.

Tuition increases must be approved by the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education. Last year, the board approved a 3 percent hike for the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville. Both schools were granted a 5 percent tuition increase the previous year.

Tuition is only allowed to increase by 8 percent every two years.

Kentucky ranks in the top 10 nationally for its high school graduation rate.

The state's 2013-14 graduation rate of 87.5 percent ranks Kentucky ninth overall and beats the national graduation rate of 82.3 percent.

The figures come from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt says a culture has taken hold that a high school diploma is "absolutely necessary" to achieve success.

The statistics show there are gaps in graduation rates among various student groups.

But for the most part, the gaps in Kentucky are smaller than in many states and in the nation as a whole. State education officials say the gaps narrowed and improvement occurred in graduation rates among black and Hispanic students and those who qualify for free/reduced-priced meals.

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