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Kevin Brown: Each day brings new challenges, and Kentucky’s students and teachers rise to meet them


Every day brings something different.

Every day since the COVID-19 emergency began to take shape has brought new challenges for all of us who serve Kentucky’s students, and probably for all of you who are more intensively involved in your children’s education than ever before. On the other hand, every day also has brought new and encouraging examples of how families have adapted to non-traditional instruction.

You don’t have to look very far on Facebook or Twitter to see examples of student learning taking place in ways that many of us wouldn’t have envisioned a few weeks ago. I have seen one photo after another of students engaged in their work while they’re sitting at kitchen tables, reclining on couches or sprawled out in the living room floor.

That doesn’t happen without you.

Kevin C. Brown is Kentucky’s interim Commissioner of Education.

Teachers can prepare and deliver the lessons and technology coordinators can help bring them into your home, but your efforts to support and guide your children during this time are every bit as essential. To put it simply, your child’s education wouldn’t continue right now without your help.

We have asked a great deal of you, probably more than any of us realized when this crisis began. We know you have so much on your plate right now, whether you’re working from home or trying to find a way to make ends meet because you can’t work. We also know that many of you are working on the front lines as grocery store clerks, nurses, farmers and factory workers, ensuring that the rest of us are fed, equipped and cared for. Because of that you may not have as much time to assist your child with their assignments, and I know that gives you great concern.

I want you to know that I understand the stress you are under and that we appreciate the sacrifices you are making. I want you to know that your efforts do not go unappreciated – by those of us at the Kentucky Department of Education, by your children’s teachers and certainly by your children.

Nothing can replace the impact of face-to-face interaction between students, teachers and other school staff members. However, this is the next best alternative, and it’s working in large part because of you.

Keep up the good work.

Now here’s an update on some things that have happened at the Kentucky Department of Education this week:

On Monday, the Education Professional Standards Board approved a series of waivers that will remove barriers to educator preparation, certification and evaluation created by the COVID-19 emergency.

These waivers will help districts as they move into the time of year in which most educators are hired and promoted, and they will help educators and prospective educators who are looking to begin a teaching career or haven’t been able to meet some requirements during this crisis.

At a time when we need more qualified teachers in our schools, we can’t let events created by this crisis block the path of those who want to join the profession or advance their career.

On Tuesday, members of our leadership team and I met with the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council, a group of high school students from across Kentucky whose input has always been valuable and whose input has been even more important to us during this time.

The students, about half of whom are seniors, discussed the importance of a graduation ceremony and how that should be handled for the class of 2020 if schools remain closed. They also talked about their experiences with the Non-Traditional Instruction Program (NTI) and heard about the importance of students’ mental health during this unusually stressful time.

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And although there has not been an update on the extension of school closures, which are still scheduled through May 1 at the request of Gov. Andy Beshear, we are expecting an update on Monday after the governor talks with the state’s superintendents by phone.

Wednesday brought the end of the 2020 session of the Kentucky General Assembly and the confirmation of 10 of the 11 voting members of the Kentucky Board of Education appointed by the governor in December.

I am pleased that the Senate confirmed 10 of the 11 members to the Kentucky Board of Education, which provides continuity and consistency in education that is so important during these uncertain times. And while we will greatly miss the leadership of Chairman David Karem, whose appointment was not confirmed, we look forward to continuing our work with this board as we focus on educating, feeding and supporting Kentucky’s students during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the important work of searching for the next commissioner of education.

Finally, I wanted to give you an update on the terrific job our districts are doing feeding students while school buildings are closed. For the month of March, almost 4.7 million meals – which includes breakfasts, lunches and dinners – were given to more than 230,000 children. The hard work of our districts’ staffs is helping ensure Kentucky’s students have full stomachs so they can continue to learn. I can’t thank them enough for their dedication.

We are working hard every day for your children, just as we know you are. We are #TeamKentucky.

Kevin Brown’s weekly letter to Kentucky families originally appeared at Kentucky Teacher, a publication of the Kentucky Department of Education.


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