Kentucky Board of Education appoints Robin Kinney as interim commissioner

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, September 14, 2023

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By McKenna Horsley

Kentucky Lantern

Robin Kinney will temporarily lead the Kentucky Department of Education after Commissioner Jason Glass leaves the role at the end of the month.

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In a special meeting Thursday afternoon, the Kentucky Board of Education named Kinney, who is an associate commissioner of the Office of Finance and Operation within KDE, to serve as interim education commissioner. She will serve in the role while a national search for a permanent replacement is conducted.

As interim commissioner, Kinney will receive an annual salary of $260,000. She starts Sept. 30.

Board members discussed their selection in a closed session without the public for about half an hour. Board Chair Sharon Robinson said Kinney is not eligible for the permanent job.

“The board is confident in Robin’s dedication to public education and her experience in KDE,” Robinson said in a statement. “She will serve our state well during her tenure as interim commissioner. We appreciate her willingness to take on this important role, and we look forward to her leadership as we continue our mission to provide the best education for Kentucky’s students.”

Kinney previously served as interim education commissioner after former Commissioner Wayne Lewis left the department in 2019. She first worked for KDE from 2003 to 2008 before rejoining the department in 2015.

In a statement, Kinney said she was “honored” to serve as interim commissioner.

“My goal will be to make sure the initiatives of the board and the agency continue on through this transitional period,” she said. “I look forward to working alongside Team KDE as we continue to support our schools and districts.”

Glass’s departure is a result of growing tension with Republicans in Frankfort regarding the department’s inclusive stances toward LGBTQ+ students, particularly transgender students. After announcing he would step down on Sept. 29, Glass told reporters that he had no interest in “implementing the dangerous and unconstitutional anti-LGBTQI” Senate Bill 150.

The controversial law, passed by the Republican-controlled legislature this year, limits how schools can teach about human sexuality and gender identity and who can use which bathrooms, while freeing adult staff to misgender students. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who is up for reelection this year, vetoed the legislation but lawmakers overturned it.

Beshear said shortly after Glass announced he was leaving that it would be “much more challenging” to replace the education commissioner because of the position’s now politicized nature. The General Assembly also recently enacted a law subjecting future education commissioners to Senate confirmation — another law that Beshear vetoed.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, has often criticized Glass on the campaign trail. In a statement after the news broke about Glass’s departure, Cameron said: “One down, one to go.”

On Thursday, the board approved a resolution honoring Glass for his tenure as education commissioner. His last day will be Sept. 29. He will join Western Michigan University as the associate vice president of teaching and learning.

Robinson read the resolution aloud before it was unanimously accepted by the board. It commended Glass for leading the department through the coronavirus pandemic and two natural disasters, referring to flooding in Eastern Kentucky and tornadoes in Western Kentucky “with a depth of wisdom and compassion.”

“Dr. Jason Glass has served as Kentucky’s commissioner of education since August 2020 with an unwavering commitment to ensuring that equity and high quality professional practice are at the forefront of all considerations,” Robinson said reading. The board issued a request for proposals from outside search firms for the national search in a special meeting last month. The proposal period will end Sept. 25. The goal, Kinney said during that meeting, would be for a selected search firm to begin work by Dec. 1 — after Kentucky’s general election.