Kentucky Education Commissioner Jon Draud is making considerable news this year, but some of the reports raise questions about the job he’s doing. Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh looks at what effect, if any, the reports may have on Draud’s first performance review.
Sixty-nine year old Jon Draud of Edgewood was a Republican member of the Kentucky House from 1999 until late last year, when he was named state education commissioner.
The former superintendent of Ludlow Independent Schools was one of the General Assembly’s strongest education advocates, serving as vice-chairman of the House Education Committee.
Seven months into his new job, Draud now faces his first performance review by the State School Board. He believes he’s done a good job.
“I worked with the department to make help make it more efficient, looking at issues like travel, efficiency and productivity. And I cut back a lot on the budget, even before we had to cut back,” Draud said.
But Draud’s early tenure has not been free of criticism. In February, he wanted more paid time off added to his four-year, 220-thousand dollar a year contract. He got it, but also drew a mild rebuke from Governor Steve Beshear, who was cutting education funding because of budget deficits. So, Draud refused the extras.
In May, he got in hot water for ordering an 18-thousand dollar Chrysler 300, with 13-thousand dollars in add-ons, like a global positioning system and a hands-free telephone. Draud said he needed the extras for safety reasons, but was roundly criticized for his handling of the matter.
In June he publicly apologized. “If I had it all to do over again,” Draud said this week, “I would have done it differently.”
Draud says the car will be declared state surplus in December and sold at auction on eBay.
He says he will bid on it, but hopes he’s outbid because he doesn’t want or need the car. “I think I handled it in a very honorable manner,” he said. “And if you look back on all these issues, I’ve handled in a very honorable manner. I don’t know too many people in Frankfort who would give up sick leave, buy a car that they don’t necessarily want. So, I think I’ve done some very honorable things.”
State School Board chairman Joe Brothers believes the car issue has been laid to rest. “Clearly, he understands the issue and is addressing the issue in the way the state has specified it should be addressed,” Brother said.
Brothers says Draud continues to have his strong support. And he’s not alone. Senate Education Committee Chairman Ken Winters says he, too, has great respect for Draud. “I know he has a passion, as I do, for doing what’s right for the young people of Kentucky and I have no reason to think he’s doing other than a very good job,” Winters said.
Sharron Oxendine of the Kentucky Education Association agrees. “I think after he is over his trial period, so to speak, I think he will get better at his job…even better,” she said.
Once the school board completes Commissioner Draud’s performance review, the results will be made public. But Chairman Brothers says that won’t happen until October.
“It’s not official until we as a board have approved it,” Brothers said. “So, it simply won’t be ready until our next meeting and our next meeting’s not until October.”
Whatever the results of the evaluation, Commissioner Draud says he won’t seek a pay raise: “I just didn’t think the economic conditions justified me asking for any increase in salary.”
Draud was named commissioner last year despite appeals from newly-elected Governor Beshear for the school board to delay or expand the search. He replaced Barbara Irwin, an Illinois educator who resigned before starting work, when questions arose about her resume. She replaced long-time commissioner Gene Wilhoit, who took a consulting job in Washington.