Senate Bill 12, signed into law in March 2011 significantly changed principal selection in the commonwealth of Kentucky. Prior to this legislation’s passage, when vacancies occurred in the principalship, the new principal was to be selected by the school’s School-Based Decision Making Council, comprised of three teacher representatives and two parent representatives. Senate Bill 12 significantly changes principal selection in a number of ways. First, it provides clarity in the language of the law where meaning was previously somewhat ambiguous. Most notably, it eliminates the confusing statute’s language of councils being able to select a principal “from among those persons recommended by the local superintendent.” Questions around what the legislature meant by the superintendent’s recommendation led all the way up to the Kentucky Supreme Court. Now, the legislation states clearly that councils are to be able to select a principal from all applicants who are certified to hold the position and it eliminates the need for the two-tiered process established by the court through which councils were to receive the names of principal applicants.
Second, Senate Bill 12 seems to have achieved a compromise between KEA which has been adamant that principal selection authority remain with teacher-dominated SBDM councils, and local superintendents who have lobbied for principal selection responsibility to be returned to the local superintendent. While principal selection will remain with the SBDM councils, superintendents will have the opportunity to serve as voting members of these councils. There is no doubt this is not the change the local superintendents wanted; however, it does allow them to play a significantly greater in selecting principals than they had previously.
A third significant change that Senate Bill 12 makes is explicitly stating that principals dismissed for cause from a school district may not be considered for reappointment to a principalship in the district. This provision might appear to be non-significant, but that very issue has been a source of contention in Kentucky school districts. While KERA put principal selection authority with SBDM councils, the supervision of principals remained with local district superintendents. As such, there was at least one instance where a local superintendent terminated a principal for cause but the SBDM council rehired the principal. This could not happen again with the amendments made by Senate Bill 12.
This summer promises to be an interesting one as superintendents or their designees will for the first time sit as chairs of SBDM councils during the principal selection process.