Friday, August 14, 2009

My First Week on the Job

I have completed my first week as Commissioner of Education in Kentucky. It was very much a whirlwind week with the state Board of Education meeting, tours of the Kentucky Department of Education, meetings with the General Assembly Interim Education Committee, meetings with the steering committee for Senate Bill 1 and numerous visits and phone calls.

What I have found is a very dedicated and professional staff at the Department of Education. As with most agencies, there are a number of vacancies that we are not able to fill due to state budget cuts, which reflect the declining revenue picture from state sources. While our numbers have dwindled, we remain committed to providing top-quality service and guidance to our local school districts. I have asked staff to commit to providing responses to calls for service within 24 hours and to strive for accuracy and professionalism in the responses.

It is my intent to be out in the state a great deal. I also will strive to communicate through numerous sources. Interested parties can follow my daily highlights through Twitter (kycommissioner), and through my Facebook account, I will be posting highlights and pictures of school and district visits. We also will maintain the normal channels of communication (i.e., e-mail, letters, meetings, webinars, Web pages).

The early focus of our work is Senate Bill 1 and Race to the Top. These initiatives are very well-aligned and will guide us as we continue to focus on student success. While the next few years will be challenging due to the economic situation, these years also will be very exciting as Kentucky once again assumes a leadership role in education reform for the nation.

Please let me know of your concerns and questions through the various communication channels, and let’s work together for the children of Kentucky.


  1. Dr. Holliday,

    On behalf of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, I want to welcome you to the Kentucky education blogosphere.

    This is an important new transparency effort from the Kentucky Department of Education and we welcome the improved two-way communications medium you have created here.

    I would also like to invite you to regularly check the Bluegrass Policy Blog at We often cover education issues there, offering independent analysis and alternate points of view that will help you better understand some of the issues you will face as Commissioner of Education. We also offer other Web tools such as the Wiki site which has a number of databases and other information which might help you get up to speed more quickly on Kentucky's education issues.

    Once again, welcome to Kentucky.

  2. Dr. Holliday,

    Welcome to your new position as Commissioner of Education in Kentucky. The Jefferson County Public School system has some very concerned and distressed families at issue with the Student Assignement plans and bussing. This plan is taking small children far from home at no choice and little control of the parents. Parents are talking and Mr. Berman, et al, are not listening. I think it would mean a great deal to families in JCPS to converse with you on this topic. A helpful insight as to what I am talking about is a Courier Journal forum Louisville Moms Like Me. On there are the voices, ideas and concerns of many moms (and maybe dads). Threads such as NOT GETTING INTO RESIDES SCHOOL; Wave 3 6pm news- special report tonight on the Student Assignment; New JCPS Lawsuit; Fed Court Hearing 8/4 - JCPS Busing - Please Attend..... ; Wave 3 6pm news- special report tonight on the Student Assignment , and many more, will give you good insight into our concerns.
    Thank you and look forward to seeing you in Jefferson County!

  3. Bravo in keeping your comments stream turned on. Many govt. officials promptly launch something they call "blogs" and then turn off comments, which means they are no longer true blogs.

    As a blogger you can ignore people looking to make trouble (who will appear) and it's totally okay, as long as you respond to thoughtful on-context comments from other constituants.

  4. Commissioner,

    Just a brief note of welcome to this little corner of the blogosphere from Kentucky School News and Commentary. ( But then, you're already an experienced hand at Web 2.0 communications. Good luck in your efforts on behalf of Kentucky's children.


  5. Welcome. I'm optimistic that you will bring progression and forward thinking to Kentucky. We've come a long way but still have much work to do. I'd like to know your position on Charter Schools? I recently had a paper to do on education. I inquired of several education profesionals both in and out of state government about Charter schools and got no response. This can be opportunity, change and progression, yet Kentucky hasn't showed up in this arena. Why is that?

  6. Thanks to all of you for your comments, suggestions and insights. This is an excellent way for me to have some two-way communication, and I appreciate the opportunity.

    I'll respond to specific questions as appropriate for this venue.

    Student assignment at JCPS

    Student assignment policies in large school districts are hot-button items and, especially at the beginning of a new school year, can cause frustration for parents and school officials. I encourage parents and school officials in the Jefferson County district to keep the lines of communication open. The Kentucky Department of Education cannot intervene in school assignment decisions; those are best made at the local level. But, I hope that a dialogue can continue, so that individual issues can be worked out satisfactorily.

    Charter schools

    Until recently, charter schools have not been the focus of great attention in Kentucky. There is currently no legislation enabling those here, and there has not been a groundswell of support to implement them. However, with the connection of charters to the federal Race to the Top funds, we are now beginning to have more discussions about them. We will be researching the governance, financing and outcomes of charter schools, because we need to know the pros and cons. The whole concept of charters is that they are “turnaround schools,” able to implement strategies that lead to success. What I’ve seen in Kentucky is that we already have many of these strategies in place.

  7. Dr. Holliday,

    On behalf of the parents, teachers, students and staff that are part of the 15th District PTA located in Louisville, KY I welcome you to the state of Kentucky. As advocates for children, we hope to engage with you in positive conversation regarding our most essential and valuable partner in education, our parents. I don't have to tell you that positive parental involvement is the key to a child's educational success. Furthermore, this involvement only enhances our current education system as it sometimes challenges educators to try harder to achieve more for our children. As you know, the PTA has been vital in changing and transforming the educational landscape in this nation. At the 15th District we support our schools and students with our Clothing Assistance Program, now in it's 37 year. This is a program unique to Kentucky. This program was created to help combat truancy in our school district. Far too often the lack of proper school attire can prove to hinder a child from either attending school or once at school often lead to disciplinary action. Our program, through community volunteering and clothing donations from our PTAs as well as other groups and individuals, is able to offer a pair of uniform pants and shirt, a belt, 5 pairs of socks and underwear. We also have a main werehouse that has gently used clothing that families can "shop" in. Please look for more information on facebook (15th District PTA) as well as going to our website, We recently partnered with National PTA, Scholastic and President Obama's Call to Serve program and provided 500 free books to our families. As of today's date we have provided clothing to approximately 3658 families who attend JCPS as well as to our families from various homeless shelters. We have been featured on WHAS11, WLKY, and FOX41. This is a year round program.

    As you are also aware, our PTA also participates in the Reflections Program. Last year's winners have recently been featured in a series of articles in the Courier Journal. Students from our schools submit their artistic work (poetry, film, dance, photography, visual art) based on a theme (this year's is "Beauty Is..."). Once judged, we have an awards ceremony. We would love for you to attend and celebrate the artistic achievements of some of our 101,000 students! The event this year is being held the first week in December.

    We are first and foremost advocates for children. We must make changes in our education system if our children are going to succeed. Every child should be able to switch schools mid-semester without having to play catch up. Whether that move in in district, in State or in the Nation. Unfortunately, many of our children are being left behind. Whether it is at a school that has no arts program or PE teacher, or at a school that is struggling with a lack of parental involvement. Parents want to be involved. Far too often, even with a PTA in place, they feel disconnected from their child's education. This is unfortunate. We must ask parents to be part of the conversation regarding education along with school administrators, teachers, and support staff. Along with Boards of Education and Superintendents. We must partner together instead of being treated as adversaries.

    The 15th District PTA motto is "Together We Can...Make The Difference." The KY PTA motto is "TEAM...Together Everyone Achieves More." The National PTA motto is "everychild.onevoice." Thank you for working with us on creating the best educational environment in which our children can learn. I look forward to meeting you soon.

  8. Welcome! I am a fellow blogger, facebooker and KDE employee! I am so glad to have you here. I enjoyed meeting you face-to-face the other day and look forward to future meetings.

    Peace and Hugs,
    Becca Atkins
    (Proud Adoptive Mom and Reading Consultant)

  9. Dr. Holliday is a great addition to the state. He is an innovator, advocate for technology YET he expects 100%. While some of the folks in I-SS didn't agree, I worked with him as he advocated also for teachers and students. Kentucky is very fortunate to have Dr. Holliday on board.