Kentucky Board of Education names firm for education commissioner search

Any candidate will need Senate confirmation

By: - December 7, 2023 12:11 pm

A high school classroom. (Getty Images)

The Kentucky Board of Education has selected McPherson & Jacobson, LLC, as the firm to conduct the search for the Commonwealth’s next commissioner of education. 

The board met with representatives of the search firm during its Thursday meeting. However, the selection was made during a Nov. 28 meeting, though the vendor’s name was not public because the contract was not finalized at the time. 

Robin Fields Kinney has been serving as interim education commissioner since late September after Jason Glass stepped down from the position. Glass, who is now the associate vice president of teaching and learning at Western Michigan University, left the role over his opposition to an anti-transgender law passed by the Republican-led General Assembly, Senate Bill 150

“There’s a lot at stake in this search,” Board Chair Sharon Robinson said Thursday. “We are on a very aggressive agenda of education reform and innovation, even to the point of developing innovative and accountability tools for our local communities that are doing just amazing work, and for the profession itself.” 

McPherson & Jacobson is the search firm for Mississippi’s state superintendent and was selected in 2022. Mississippi’s search was renewed in 2023 after the state Senate did not confirm the first candidate. 

During the 2023 legislative session, the General Assembly passed a law that subjects the Kentucky education commissioner to Senate confirmation

Steve Joel, a regional director of McPherson & Jacobson, told KBE there is “quite a bit of interest in the position already.” If the position is advertised within the next couple of weeks, that helps candidates use the holidays to pull materials together, he added. The intensity of the search season is usually in February or March. 

Joel said the firm will be with KBE “‘til the end” as it has been with Mississippi’s board. 

“The educational landscape has changed in a lot of states,” Joel said. “And there are more and more legislators and governors and gubernatorial staff that want some involvement in this process. And we intend to work with you on determining the best way to include those folks on the front end of the search so that we don’t have to worry about what happens on the back end of the search.” 

As for the future confirmation of the education commissioner, Joel told the board “that should not be a barrier with regard to the search.”

McPherson & Jacobson will vet candidates for Kentucky’s education commissioner according to criteria laid out by the KBE. The contract with the firm was finalized on Dec. 5 and is effective through June 30, a press release said. The contract is subject to renewal, with total cost not to exceed $65,250.

Robinson suggested the board create a search committee of its members to work directly with the search firm. This proposal is likely to be considered in a future special meeting. 

The Kentucky Department of Education’s website has an anonymous survey where stakeholders may submit feedback for the commissioner search.

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.