I recently made an appearance at the October meeting of the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board, the state-level body delegated with the mission of safeguarding our institutions from individuals who are morally unfit to be educators.
My friend and I drove the distance to register our concerns that Perry Schools Superintendent Jonathan Jett was approved for employment in that position by that board, in spite of the fact that he is the first administrator in the history of Kentucky public school education to plead to falsifying state-mandated student test responses. The punishment, as we are aware, included an 18-month suspension of his certification and a career-long ban on his participation in, or proximity to, any state-mandated testing, with decertification hinging solely on a letter to be submitted annually by the board chairman attesting that he kept his distance while tests were administered.
During my brief opportunity to speak, I referenced his lame-duck status as the chief executive and academic leader of the district. I also submitted information detailing the saga of Mr. Neace’s forced departure from Perry Central High School, Mr. Amis’ forced departure from the superintendent’s position, followed by applications for the interim job from only two candidates - the disgraced and decertified Jonathan Jett, and the disgraced and evicted principal Estill Neace.
I also related details of the nationwide $8,500 KSBA search for applicants, and how it was narrowed to five, with the disgraced but now recertified Jonathan Jett ultimately being selected. I also related the immediate appointment of the deposed Estill Neace to the principalship of our premier elementary school.
The EPSB chairperson opened that meeting by reading the mission statement, which included reference to upholding the highest standards of ethics and behavior for Kentucky public school education. In my communication, I also noted that Atlanta authorities prosecuted school officials, while in Kentucky we sanctioned the same behavior by immediately promoting the culprit to the top leadership position. We essentially rewarded an act that was flagrantly destructive to the integrity of testing, not to mention the cost and inconvenience to students, parents, and universities who depend on those evaluations.
One might wonder if the standards board at some point might have thrown up their hands in surrender for a district where it seems anything goes, and concluded that those who literally refuse to establish order in their own district cannot be helped, so why waste their efforts? I was embarrassed for all of us to be there telling this sordid story, but it had to be done.
In closing, Thursday night’s local board meeting deserves attendance with questions. Perry school board needs five James Ritchies, rather than the abrupt departure of the only one. I would anticipate we should be hearing from the Office of Educational Accountability at some point in the near future. In the meantime, we are perfectly capable of objecting to these abuses at board meetings and at every encounter in the public meeting places. For those interested in pursuit of the James Ritchie allegations, the Education Professional Standards Board can be reached at 502-564-4606.
Lost Creek, Ky.