Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt to make $240K, st - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt to make $240K, start Oct. 16

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New Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt on Oct. 6, 2015 (Toni Konz, WDRB News) New Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt on Oct. 6, 2015 (Toni Konz, WDRB News)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky’s new education commissioner will be paid $240,000 annually plus benefits as part of a 4-year contract that was finalized with the state board of education on Tuesday.

Stephen Pruitt will oversee the state’s 675,000 public school students and be responsible for leading Kentucky’s next phase of education reform. His first official day on the job will be Oct. 16.

"I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to be a Kentuckian," Pruitt said shortly after the contract was unanimously approved. "We have a great opportunity here. I want everyone on the planet to talk about what is happening in Kentucky. I am honored, humbled and ready to get to work."

The Kentucky Board of Education has also agreed to pay up to $10,000 of Pruitt's moving expenses as up to as a $1,500/month stipend expense stipend for the first few months while he relocates his family. His wife and daughter are expected to move to the Louisville area during winter break. His daughter is a junior in high school and will attend public school.

[VIEW PRUITT'S CONTRACT]

Pruitt is state’s sixth education commissioner. He replaces Terry Holliday, who lead Kentucky’s schools for six years until his retirement in August.

"From day one, I was impressed with the fact that he wanted to be in Kentucky and be a part of this work," Marcum has said. "He sees this as the capstone of his career. He wants to be here a long time."

Pruitt’s arrival will come two weeks after the public release of test scores from the 2014-15 year, which showed that Across Kentucky, student performance on state tests remained relatively flat.

However, the percentage of students scoring proficient has increased in nearly every subject and at every grade level as compared to 2012 -- the first year of the state's new accountability and testing system, called Unbridled Learning.

Pruitt is a third-generation educator who says he was initially in denial about what he says is his "true calling," but the passion he had for teaching children was just too strong to overcome.

"My grandmother was a teacher, my mother was a teacher and when I first went to college, I was sort of in denial," Pruitt told WDRB News in an interview in September. "I thought I would become an ophthalmologist, but the pull to teaching was just too strong. It’s all I could ever see myself really doing. It’s the greatest joy in the world."

Pruitt is currently senior vice president at Achieve, Inc., an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization, where he has served since 2010. He has previously been a chief of staff, associate state superintendent, director of academic standards, and science and mathematics program manager with the Georgia Department of Education.

"Up until this job, I had never before applied for another commissioner job," Pruitt said. "I never really had a desire to apply anywhere, but when I saw that Kentucky was looking for a new leader, it was a perfect fit for me."

During his time at Achieve, Pruitt led the development of the Next Generation Science Standards -- the new set of academic guidelines that teachers across Kentucky put into practice last year.

Much like the Common Core Standards in math and language arts – which have been adopted by 43 states -- the science standards describe what students need to know before they complete each grade level. To date, 14 other states, as well as Washington, D.C., have implemented the science standards.

Pruitt said the standards are “certainly a foundation for good science instruction," but it's just as important to give children "authentic experiences in science."

"Kids are natural-born scientists, we need to embrace that," he said.

In terms of the Common Core Standards, "Kentucky will follow the process (previous commissioner) Terry Holliday started.

"The standards have been in Kentucky for awhile now and the department has been going through a review process of the standards," he said. "We will listen to feedback that we have received."

Pruitt tells WDRB News he will spend a lot of time listening.

"I plan to set up some advisory boards very soon after arriving,” he said. “I want to talk to students, parents, teachers, principals and superintendents – and I want to meet with key legislators and gubernatorial candidates. I want to hear what has been going on and where they feel they are and what I can do to support them."

"I am a big believer that you just don’t come in and make arbitrary changes, you need to learn the current situation and then use the best available research and advice and then you make a decision," Pruitt said.

This story will be updated.

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Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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