One finalist says he’s not the preferred candidate for Kentucky Education Commissioner

Jim Flynn told the Herald-Leader Wednesday he is not the preferred candidate to be the new Kentucky Education Commissioner. On Tuesday the state board of education entered into contract negotiations with a preferred candidate.

“I am not the chosen candidate to be the next commissioner,” said Flynn, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and former Simpson County Superintendent.

The other two finalists, Eminence Superintendent Buddy Berry and Lawrence County Superintendent Robbie Fletcher, did not immediately respond to an email about whether they were the preferred candidate.

Fletcher is the superintendent of Lawrence County Schools, a position he has held since July 2014. Prior to that, he was a part-time faculty member at Asbury University, and principal, assistant principal and mathematics teacher in Martin County, KDE officials said.

Fletcher earned a doctorate in education and a superintendency certification from Morehead State University, a master’s in supervision and administration from the University of Kentucky, and a bachelor’s in mathematics from Morehead State University.

Berry has been serving as superintendent of Eminence Independent Schools in Henry County since 2010. He began his teaching career as a high school math teacher in Owen and Jefferson counties, Kentucky Department of Education officials said last week. He is a native of Eminence.

Berry earned his doctorate in education leadership from Northern Kentucky University, a superintendent certification from Eastern Kentucky University, a master’s in instructional leadership from Bellarmine University, a master’s in secondary counseling from the University of Louisville and a bachelor’s in mathematics education from the University of Kentucky.

Kentucky Department of Education officials said Wednesday in a statement they would announce the preferred candidate Thursday. Department spokespersons did not immediately comment about whether Fletcher or Berry was the preferred candidate on Wednesday.

“With the assistance of McPherson and Jacobson, the firm hired by the Kentucky Board of Education to assist with the search for Kentucky’s next commissioner of education, the KBE thoroughly vets all commissioner candidates before offering the position to ensure the Commonwealth’s students have the best possible leadership at the Kentucky Department of Education,” said spokesperson Jennifer Ginn.

“We are not naming the preferred candidate right now. Once we have a signed contract with the new commissioner, the KBE will conduct a special meeting to vote on the contract and name the new commissioner,” Ginn said.

The Kentucky Senate will approve the new commissioner for the first time under a new state law.

Angela L. Billings, spokesperson for the Senate Majority Leadership, said, “the commissioner will be confirmed through a Senate resolution like all other confirmations.”

“We’ve had some contact with KDE through our policy staff,” Billings said.

The position is open following the resignation last year of Jason Glass.

Glass said in August 2023 he was leaving the job and the state because he didn’t want to enforce the “dangerous and unconstitutional” Senate Bill 150 that critics called an anti-LGBTQ measure.

GOP lawmakers and politicians had urged Glass’ ouster over the department’s inclusive LGBTQ stances.

The Commissioner of Education is the chief state school officer and oversees the daily operations of the Kentucky Department of Education and acts as superintendent of the Kentucky School for the Blind, the Kentucky School for the Deaf and the 50 area technology centers.

This is a developing story and will be updated.