LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt says he’s not sure what to expect Tuesday when the state education board meets to discuss personnel behind closed doors.

Pruitt held a town hall meeting at Atherton High School on Monday to discuss new graduation requirements as the Kentucky Department of Educations starts its revision process, and afterward, he told WDRB News that Tuesday’s special meeting could be good news or bad news.

However, he said the latter option is more likely with seven newly appointed members. Pruitt is the Kentucky Board of Education’s sole employee.

“Typically it’s not good,” Pruitt said, referring to the meeting coming on the heels of Monday’s appointments that makes the state board completely made up of appointees by Gov. Matt Bevin.

“But I’ve not been told anything. I’ve not been getting any confirmation of anything, so we’re just going to have to see what happens at the board meeting tomorrow.”

The state board called a special meeting shortly after Bevin appointed seven new members – including former Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner, who resigned from his job to accept the board appointment – on Monday.

Aside from selecting a new chair and vice chair, the only item on the agenda is an executive session on personnel and possible action on that discussion.

Pruitt, who makes a $240,000 salary on a four-year contract signed in October 2015, must be given a 90-day notice if the board decides to terminate his contract without cause, according to his contract.

However, Pruitt didn't contemplate his fate either in response to remarks and questions from the audience on the subject from some in attendance at Atherton.

“I’m the commissioner until somebody tells me not to,” he told the audience of about 50.

Joe Papalia, among the newly appointed education board members, attended Monday’s town hall but told WDRB News that he only knew what was published on the meeting agenda.

Should Pruitt leave KDE, it’s unclear exactly how his departure would impact the ongoing JCPS audit that’s been more than a year in the making. Pruitt reiterated that the examination will be released soon after legal staff have completed their review of the district’s collective bargaining agreements with the Jefferson County Teachers Association and other employee unions.

Chris Brady, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education, asked Pruitt to share his recommendations from the audit, which the commissioner declined.

Brady told WDRB News that Pruitt informed the local school board last week that he would recommend state assistance for JCPS, meaning KDE would have staff in the district’s central office to monitor its performance on issues raised in the examination.

Brady said he felt getting Pruitt to confirm that publicly would be important should that recommendation change if the commissioner is fired, something he expects to happen.

“That’s just my gut feeling, but it’s borne out in the fact that they’ve called a special meeting as of tomorrow,” Brady said. “… Their appointments to the state board of education were only announced today. I don’t see how any brand new board member would have enough context or experience to know whether or not a commissioner has been doing their job.”

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio told WDRB News that he's unsure what it would mean for KDE's audit of the school district should the board vote to oust Pruitt.

Pollio said he has "a lot of respect for Dr. Pruitt and the work that he's done."

"I think he's been very assertive in holding JCPS accountable, working with us and making sure that we work with KDE to improve outcomes for students," he said. 

"I've been concerned about the audit results since I took the job, so clearly this could be another twist in the story," he added. "I'm hoping that whatever the case that we can have the results of the audit in the very near future so we can move forward, address whatever issues are brought to light, and we can move forward successfully."

Superintendents and education advocates from across the state have expressed support for Pruitt on social media since the Kentucky Board of Education announced its Tuesday board meeting.

During last week's state education board meeting, Heiner was critical of student performance at JCPS, saying the district's test results for third graders showed that about a third scored novice in reading. He urged the board to take a greater role in improving student achievement in the district.

Asked if he felt he's had enough time to boost achievement from Kentucky students as the top education official in the state, Pruitt said he still hopes to attain his goal of making the state one of the top academic performers in the country.

"It takes a long time to move an education system," he said. "I've not done nearly what I wanted to do in two years. I didn't come here to be second to anybody. Right now we're not even second, so I have a lot of work to do. I'm looking forward to getting to do that. If it turns out that I don't, well, then I'll wish Kentucky luck and hope that they will do the best for their kids."

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

Copyright 2018 WDRB News. All rights reserved.