Whitesburg KY

Draud, board are failing

In his six months as commissioner of education, Kentuckians have learned more than they ever wanted to know about Jon Draud’s automotive needs.

We don’t begrudge Draud his 300C Hemi, global positioning system or hands-free phone. He plans to do a lot of driving in places he’s probably never been.

Nor do we condemn him for seeking the 50 days in paid leave and sick days that he lost when he accepted his $220,000-a-year job.

What is worrisome is that Draud and the board that hired him were unable to handle these mundane matters without inviting criticism and controversy.

Their performance does not inspire confidence that Draud was prepared for the job.

Consider how he botched his response to The Courier-Journal’s questions about the extras he ordered for his state car.

At a time when schools are bracing for layoffs and state agency heads must justify expenditures above $1,000, Draud said he knew nothing about the cost of the car or its add-ons.

Then the Louisville paper obtained e-mails showing he knew about and approved the $13,000 in extras, even after a state finance officer told him that other officials were ordering cheaper cars and gave him a chance to reconsider.

Draud says he honestly didn’t remember the details when the CJ reporter interviewed him (not reassuring) but says he showed poor judgment by spending so much on a car when the state is cutting vital services.

He announced last week that he would reimburse the state for the $30,697 Chrysler 300. But that was only after the matter was put on the agenda for a closed session of the state school board.

Draud earlier withdrew his request for 30 days of sick leave and 20 days of annual leave after Gov. Steve Beshear raised questions about that.

Draud is in a tough spot.

When he was still governor-elect, Beshear, a Democrat, wisely asked the state school board to hold off on hiring a commissioner and to search nationally for a successor to Gene Wilhoit.

The board, which had famously bungled one search, rejected Beshear’s request and hired Draud, a Republican legislator who had never managed anything bigger than a local school district.

Beshear has now appointed five of the 12 state school board members but won’t appoint the rest until 2010.

Kentucky’s schools and educators need leadership now.

Draud and the board must get their acts together. They have important work to do and can’t waste two years drifting in and out of petty controversies of their own creation.

– The Lexington Herald-Leader

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