Pulls surprise move on state board
The Kentucky Board of Education is on the hunt for a new commissioner after Terry Holliday surprised the board Wednesday morning with a decision to retire Aug. 31, after about six years at the helm of the state’s education department.
“I am humbled and very proud to end my forty-three years in public education by serving the Commonwealth of Kentucky as Commissioner of Education,” Holliday wrote in a letter to Roger Marcum, chairman of the Kentucky Board of Education.
Holliday, 64, said in an interview with The Courier-Journal that trouble with his voice has made it more difficult for him to do public speaking, and said the travel and other stresses of the job have worn on him.
“My wife and I talked, and it’s just the right time to do it,” Holliday said of his retirement.
Marcum read Holliday’s retirement letter during the state board meeting in Frankfort on Wednesday morning. The announcement came as a surprise to board members, with Robert King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, saying he was “waiting for the April 1 punchline to come out.”
Holliday, who was selected as Kentucky’s fifth education commissioner in July 2009 and makes $225,000 a year, said he plans to do everything he can to make the transition smooth and ensure “the next five years are even more successful.”
“I think my staff’s a little nervous because I’m going to try to get a lot done in the next five months,” he said. Holliday said he plans to focus on addressing superintendent and teacher concerns and on his Kentucky Rising initiative, a plan to create an enhanced high school diploma meant to show that students are ready for a global workforce.
“I don’t think even your biggest critic in the state can say … that the progress we’ve made in the last five and a half years hasn’t been remarkable,” Marcum told Holliday.
The board later voted to start sending out requests for proposals from search firms to help the board find candidates. The board is expected to convene May 6 or 7 in a special meeting to review finalists and probably choose a search firm, and to discuss characteristics the board would like to see in its next commissioner.
The board said it likely will do a national search for candidates — a search that may take longer than the five months Holliday has left, so an interim commissioner may need to be chosen, Marcum said. The board said it will ask former Commissioner Gene Wilhoit, who is also the former executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, to assist the search.
State board member Mary Gwen Wheeler, of Louisville, said she will be looking for the next education commissioner to have the same “demonstrated capacity to get results” as Holliday has had.
By Allison Ross