The Kentucky Board of Education spent much of its Monday business session debating characteristics needed for Kentuckys next education commissioner.
Board members completed surveys detailing traits for candidates applying for the post left vacant by Gene Wilhoit who left in November for a job in Washington, D.C.
With the help of Gary L. Ray, president of Ray and Associates Inc., the search firm assisting the board in filling the education commissioner position, members listed knowledge of Kentuckys institutions, culture, political and education leadership as well as inspiring trust, high levels of self-confidence and optimism among desired qualities for the next commissioner.
Doug Hubbard, board member, said knowledge of education in Kentucky is critical.
"I think they have got to have that understanding and background," he said.
Board member Joe Brothers said finding a commissioner who will help Kentucky reach its goals is also important.
"What Im looking for is someone capable of closing the deal on the mission weve started," he said.
That mission includes meeting guidelines of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which aims to get all children proficient in reading and math within the next seven years.
"I dont feel were on track to achieve the goal in 4," Brothers said. "Our job is to get the task done."
Salary was another topic on the agenda; board members approved advertising $,000 as a base salary, negotiable, depending on a candidates qualifications.
The projected base salary for Wilhoit for 6-7 was $,766.
Ray recommended the board choose a salary amount comparable to the one projected for Wilhoit to compete on the national scene.
Board member C.B. Akins said the salary of Kentuckys education commissioner is always among the highest in the nation.
"We are one of, if not the highest-paying state in the nation," Akins said. "We understand we have to stay competitive with our salary."
Local teachers agreed they expect the new education commissioner to continue the good and fix the bad in Kentucky education.
"I think our education system is so strong and our expectations are high for students as far as core content goes," Rhonda Smith, a fifth-grade teacher at Collins Lane Elementary, said.
Smith said she would like more interaction with the new commissioner, possibly having the commissioner send regular e-mail updates. She said the new education commissioner should also work closely with superintendents.
"They need to be more in touch with superintendents," Smith said.
She said there are several qualities she hopes the commissioner possesses.
"The ability to listen to others, classroom experience and compassion for educators and students (are important)," she said.
Second Street School third-grade teacher Paul Thompson said teachers pay should be one of the issues the new commissioner addresses.
"Continue to make sure teachers are adequately paid comparable to other states," Thompson said. "Thats my big issue."
Thompson said its important for the new commissioner to be from Kentucky and have an understanding of how Kentuckys education system functions on the ground level.
"They need to have strong leadership qualities. It would help for them to have been a teacher in the classroom, on the front line," he said.
He said Kentuckys education system is moving in the right direction and he hopes the new commissioner maintains the systems successes.
"I think things we do are ahead of a lot of other places," Thompson said. "I hope we continue to grow at the rate weve grown since the inception of KERA (Kentucky Education Reform Act adopted in 0), that we keep moving forward."
Beckee Locker, youth service center coordinator at Elkhorn Middle School, said the new education commissioner should address discipline in schools as a way to curb school violence and place more emphasis on improving reading levels for students.
The board scheduled a tentative date for a public forum where all interested individuals can respond to the boards list of commissioner qualities.
KBE is also continuing to collect input via its Web site.
Board member Janna Vice said the board shouldnt rush the selection process.
"Were accountable for the state of Kentucky," she said. "This will be the most important decision we make."