Education

Four finalists have been named in the search for a new superintendent for the Bowling Green school system. 

Allen Barber is the only finalist from out of state.   He’s currently Director of Human Resources and Secondary Education for a school system in Eagle Point, Oregon. 

Other finalists include Bowling Green High School Principal Gary Fields, Hart County Assistant Superintendent Wesley Waddle, and Mark Owens, Director of Personnel for Daviess County Public Schools. 

"All four candidates have been successful in leadership positions, come highly recommended, and the screening committee using the criteria established by the board of education determined these four were the best fit for the position," says Phil Eason, a consultant with the Kentucky Association of School Administrators.

The four finalists were narrowed down from an applicant pool of 16. 

The public is invited to meet the finalists at forum on April 28 at Bowling Green Junior High School at 6:00 p.m. 

The Board of Education plans to hire the next superintendent by mid-May.  Current Superintendent Joe Tinius is retiring June 30.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Vex Robotics

The Hardin County School System is preparing to host a group of international robotics teams ahead of a major competition next week in Louisville.

The VEX Robotics World Championships are being held Wednesday through Saturday at the Kentucky Expo Center and Freedom Hall. The competition features teams from elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges from all across the world.

Some Central Hardin High School robotics team members will get some special practice before they head to Louisville for the championships.

Jason Neagle, with the Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center, says fifteen teams from China and Singapore will spend Monday and Tuesday in Elizabethtown, where they will practice their robotics and engineering programs.

“Our students are going to get the opportunity to work alongside with them. The Chinese teams are some of the top-ranked teams in the world, and we have some Top-30 ranked teams as well.”

Some Kentucky students working under the umbrella of the recently adopted common core standards are showing signs of faster progression and heightened college and career readiness levels than students in older curriculum models, according to a recent study by the American Institutes for Research.

Zeyu Xu, principal researcher on the study, said the findings should not serve as an “assessment of common core itself.”

A familiar face is returning to the helm of the University of Pikeville.

Former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton will serve as interim leader of the school following the departure of its current president. A news release issued from UPike Monday says  James Hurley is stepping aside for “personal reasons.”

Patton is chancellor at UPike and served as president from 2010 to 2013.

The school’s board of trustees will initiate a national search for the school’s next leader. In announcing the moves, UPike credited Hurley for the school’s record enrollment growth, as well as its recent additions of new colleges of businesses and education, and global education partnerships.

Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro is the recipient of a $4 million estate gift from a graduate of the school.

Luellen Pyles passed away in late December at her home in Maysville. The 1944 Kentucky Wesleyan alumna taught English and Spanish in Kentucky and Ohio high schools before joining Burke Marketing Research in Cincinnati, where she became an executive vice-president.

Kentucky Wesleyan President Bart Darrell says Pyles led a life filled with great accomplishments.

“She was a pioneer for women in business on the ground floor of Burke, which is closely associated with Proctor & Gamble. She was a global businesswoman, and has done so many incredible things in her lifetime.”

During her time at Burke, Pyles helped open offices in Argentina, Brazil, France, Italy and Mexico.

Wesleyan plans to use the estate gift to support teacher education scholarships and alumni programming efforts.

Darrell says he spoke at Pyles funeral, something he called a “true honor.”

“One of her last requests was that she be buried in her Kentucky Wesleyan gown, and her 50-year alumni medallion. So, she embodied everything that we want in a Kentucky Wesleyan alum,” Darrell said.

Kentucky Department of Education

Kentucky’s education commissioner is leaving the post at the end of summer.

Terry Holliday announced his retirement Wednesday during the state Board of Education meeting in Frankfort.  Looking back on his five-year tenure, Holliday said he’s proud of the results.

"We're seeing a much higher graduation rate and a higher percentage of graduates who are ready for college level work, either four-year degrees or technical degrees," Holliday told WKU Public Radio.

He cited lower dropout rates and higher test scores among his other achievements. 

Despite major strides, Holliday said the state of education in Kentucky is still a work in progress.

"We've moved from the bottom of the states to above the national average in most regards," added Holliday.  "I think Kentucky education is in great shape right now, but it still has a lot of work to do."

Under Holliday’s leadership, Kentucky implemented the controversial Common Core education standards, which are currently under review for possible modification. 

Holliday’s retirement is effective August 31. 

In 2012, the state Board of Education approved a four-year extension to his initial contract.  The contract was to run through August 2017 at a salary of $225, 000 per year.

Legislation that would give parents the option to move a child from a failing public school to a private school is scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor Thursday.

The proposal is sponsored by Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga.

It's similar to a measure Republican Gov. Bill Haslam proposed last year that failed. The governor also failed to pass voucher legislation in the previous session.

Under Gardenhire's proposal, eligibility would be opened to low-income students in districts that have a school in the bottom 5 percent.

Haslam's proposal was approved in the Senate last year, but the House version was unsuccessful because it sought to expand eligibility to the bottom 10 percent of schools.

Opponents of vouchers say the money should stay with public schools and improve them.

WKU

WKU is expanding its international reach to the Arctic. 

In simultaneous ceremonies Monday, WKU and the University of Akurreyri in Iceland signed an academic and research agreement which creates the North Atlantic Climate Change Collaboration. 

WKU President Dr. Gary Ransdell spoke at a live news conference from Iceland.

"We want at WKU our faculty and students to be here, to learn and observe, to touch and feel firsthand, and experience the effects of climate change, and they will be part of the solution," said Ransdell.

The collaboration grew out of a climate change study abroad course last summer in Iceland.  Another group of WKU faculty and students will return to Iceland in June.

A virtual college fair with take place this week for students interested in transferring their credits or associate degrees to WKU. 

Transfer Madness will allow students to chat online with advisers and download information.

Chris Jensen, associate director of the Academic Advising and Retention Center at WKU, says the event is aimed at making the transfer process less intimidating.

"We will have representatives from advising, our distance learning programs, our financial aid office, as well as admissions online answering questions for students make it an easier process to be able to come to WKU to continue their degree."

The virtual fair will be held from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 26.  Registration can be completed online at www.transfermadness.org

WKU is waiving application fees for students who participate.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Shirley Li/Medill

The man who chaired the Federal Reserve during the most tumultuous time in recent memory is speaking Monday in Evansville.

Ben Bernanke, who served eight years as Fed chairman before retiring in January of 2014, will give a speech and answer questions at the University of Southern Indiana, as part of the Romaine College of Business Innovative Speaker Series.

The college’s dean, Muhammad Khayum, says he’s interesting is learning how the former Fed Chair handled the pressure of knowing that anything he said about the economy could have major ramifications.

“I’m just curious as to how they internally respond to that level of attention and the kind of sway they have over individuals in our society,” Khayum said.

Some of the questions that will be put forth to Bernanke will come from USI students.

“There’s a question, for example, that the students put forward about the issue of student debt, and whether that’s the next bubble in the economy due to the magnitude of that student debt.”

Bernanke’s talk will begin Monday at 6 pm at the University of Southern Indiana Physical Activities Center.

It’s free and open to the public, and overflow seating and a live feed of the event will be provided if regular seating at the facility runs out.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Aaron Vowels

A week after announcing the receipt of $6.3 million from the foundations of businessmen “Papa” John Schnatter and Charles Koch, the University of Louisville has released the underlying seven-year agreements.

The two documents affirm that the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise will be created by Dec. 1. It also states that the money will be spent on two tenure-track professorships, two visiting professors, center staff and expenses, up to five research grants, up to four doctoral fellowships, and classes, seminars and annual lectures.

Abbey Oldham / WKU Public Radio

An all-day speaker series in Bowling Green this week is dedicated to encouraging participants to make their innovative ideas a reality.

IdeaFestival Bowling Green is being held this Friday at the Downing Student Union Auditorium on WKU’s campus.  The school’s Innovate Kentucky Executive Administrator, Josh Raymer, says some of the topics discussed at this year’s event will include cancer research, branding and imaging, and making online content more social.

“And what we love is that these speakers all come from Kentucky, or neighboring states. So it truly is an example for everyone that these big ideas that you see in New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago—they’re also happening right here in Kentucky.”

Another topic that will be addressed by several speakers is the future of the automotive industry.

“A lot of Corvette tie-ins, which is appropriate, given that it’s IdeaFestival Bowling Green,” said Raymer. “But once again, that’s about how important it is to stay on the cutting edge of innovation, especially in a hyper-competitive field like the automotive industry.”

The Bowling Green event is an off-shoot of the IdeaFestival held in Louisville each fall since 2000.

More information about this year’s IdeaFestival Bowling Green can be found here.

The University of Kentucky's board of trustees has approved a 3 percent increase for in-state students this fall.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is expected to vote on the proposal next month. The in-state undergraduate increase would bring first-year tuition to $10,780.

Tuition for non-resident students would increase 6 percent.

UK said in a news release that housing rates will increase by 3 percent. Dining rates will increase for most plans from 2.4 percent to 3.6 percent.

The council last year approved allowing Kentucky universities to increase tuition by up to 8 percent over two years. UK approved a 5 percent increase last year.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is freezing tuition at current rates for the 2015-16 academic year. 

The Board of Regents previously approved a $3 per credit hour increase for next year. The board’s decision will keep rates at $147 per credit hour for in-state students, $294 per credit hour for out-of-state students from contiguous counties, and $515 per credit hour for all other out-of-state students.

President Jay Box says the tuition relief comes despite KCTCS receiving less state funding.

"We've had ongoing increases especially since 2008 when the General Assembly decided to start reducing our state appropriations," Box told WKU Public Radio.  "Since 2008, we've lost $38 million or 17% of state appropriations coming our way."

KCTCS has seen enrollment an enrollment decrease since 2011, which Dr. Box attributes to more people going back to work following the recession.

Dr. Box says the 16 KCTCS campuses in Kentucky remain committed to being the most affordable option for higher education in the state.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s $3.3 billion bonding bailout of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System won’t pass this session, but a smaller study-and-finance package may still be in the works.

The retirement system only has 53 percent of the money it needs to make future payouts to more than 140,000 retired and active teachers in the state. The state’s required contributions to the system will double by 2026, according to KTRS officials.

On Tuesday, the Senate rejected $3.3 billion in bonding for the retirement system proposed by the House, replacing it with language that would require a committee of lawmakers and experts to identify problems in the pension system and come up with a report on possible solutions by December.

Now a conference committee comprised of representatives and senators will try to come up with a compromise to the two proposals.

Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg said the legislature was in a similar situation in 2013 when lawmakers addressed the cousin of the teacher retirement system—the Kentucky Retirement Systems.

“The Senate kind of wanted reforms but it didn’t want to address the pending issue of financial stability and money,” Stumbo said. “We want to make sure that the fund is financially sound, and we’re willing to listen to some of their suggestions on reforms if they’re willing to do something on the financial stability side.”

In that 2013 session, the legislature required the state to make recommended contributions to the KRS, created a separate pension fund for new hires and limited their benefits. The reforms have been considered successful by some, however KRS still only has 21 percent of the money it needs to make future payouts.

Stumbo said bonding should be included in a solution this year because interest rates are favorable. KTRS officials said the state can borrow money at a 4 percent interest rate and a 7 percent return from its investments in the system.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, hasn’t said if he would consider bonding in a final bill. But he said he’s willing to compromise.

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