A state lawmaker who taught high school history, government and economics classes for 27 years has introduced legislation that would allow students to serve on superintendent search committees for Kentucky school districts. This is a good measure.
Rep. Derrick Graham retired three years ago from Frankfort High School, so he’s about as qualified as anyone in state government to understand what a high school student could bring to this process. He also chairs the House Education Committee.
“They know how important it is to have good, strong leadership at the top,” Graham told the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper when he explained the bill he sponsors.
The idea for adding a student to the committees that help school boards select new superintendents came from a group of teenagers who serve on the Student Voice Team for the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Last year when Fayette County Public Schools began the search for a new superintendent, students there said they wanted to be part of the process. However, the school board could not legally allow it. State law defines the membership for the committee — two teachers, one parent, one classified employee, one principal and one school board member.
Graham’s bill says a school board would have the option of naming a student-member elected by classmates to the superintendent search committee. It would not mandate a student-member — although there might be a good argument for requiring the appointment of a student to search committees.
Among the reasons that we find this idea encouraging is the fact that adults have recognized the value of student perspectives on what makes a good school administrator. It’s also encouraging to see there are students interested in affecting school policy. There should be no doubt that a student would bring new and insightful ideas to the selection of a superintendent. This is huge because superintendents are among the most influential public figures in Kentucky communities.
One legitimate concern has been raised about the legislation. Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, questioned whether a student younger than 18 could be allowed to view confidential information about superintendent candidates. If that is a stumbling block to passage of the bill, Graham should consider an amendment that students must be 18 to serve on the committees.
The advantage of allowing students to have more input in superintendent selection far outweighs this one concern.
Lawmakers should give this measure their full consideration.
Kentucky New Era editorials are the consensus opinion of the editorial board, which meets every week and includes Publisher Taylor W. Hayes, Opinion Editor Jennifer P. Brown and Editor Eli Pace.