Governor Andy Beshear fulfilled one campaign pledge on the first day of his administration on Tuesday. He replaced every member of the Kentucky Board of Education through an executive order. On Thursday, he's likely to make good on a second promise to fire Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis.
The newly minted Board of Education will meet in Frankfort to discuss “possible action to terminate" Lewis’ contract. The agenda also says the board may go into executive session to consider appointing an interim leader and conducting a national search for a new education commissioner.
One of the board members removed by Beshear was Western Kentucky University Professor Gary Houchens. He calls Lewis an outstanding leader who built strong relationships with school districts.
“I believe many superintendents would hate to see him go and would like the opportunity to work with him in a collaborative way," Houchens told WKU Public Radio.
Houchens and other terminated board members have filed a lawsuit alleging Beshear broke the law by removing them before their terms ended and without just cause. Some teachers questioned their commitment to public education because they, like former Governor Matt Bevin, supported charter schools.
“Our education system should not be a political football that gets punted every time there’s a change in administration," stated Houchens.
Houchens credits Lewis with developing a new accountability model and new graduation standards in just a year-and-a-half on the job. He was appointed commissioner in 2018 when Stephen Pruitt was forced out by the state board of education whose members were all appointees of former Governor Matt Bevin. Houchens says the difference in that case was that all of the members were legally appointed at the expiration of the previous board members’ terms.