“Once we determine a complaint is worth investigation,” Seiler said, “we visit the district, interview people and review documents. Then we come back and write a preliminary report which includes finding of fact and conclusions.”
The draft report is given to the local persons who are subjects of the complaint for response and eventually OEA produces a final report which is available publicly.
OEA can even suggest removal of board members as it did a couple of years ago in Lawrence County, according to Seiler. That investigation involved inappropriate employment procedures and OEA recommended removal to the Kentucky Department of Education. But the commissioner at the time, Gene Wilhoit, decided instead to put together a management assistance team which worked with the board and no board members were removed.
Lisa Gross, KDE spokeswoman, said no board members have been removed in Kentucky since the mid-1990s. She said such tough OEA recommendations are typically referred to the Education Professional Standards Board or the Attorney General’s Office.
“Generally, we point out the error and help them fix it,” she said of OEA recommendations to local boards.
Moberly would like to see the OEA given more enforcement authority in such cases. But he said OEA findings are usually effective even without additional enforcement power.
“No school district likes for OEA to come in,” Moberly said. “So when OEA makes suggestions, the district usually feels they have to follow them.”
David Baird, associate executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association, said most local board members know about OEA and many times it is a board member who contacts OEA with concerns about a district management issue. He said he would like to see OEA provide more informational sessions for local board members to increase their knowledge of governance laws and the operations of OEA.
He said KSBA’s involvement usually takes the form of professional development assistance to correct problems identified by OEA.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. The Richmond Register is a CNHI newspaper.