29th May 2024

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Report: Fayette Deputy Superintendent violated education law

3 min read

Fayette County Public Schools in fall 2020 moved its Central Office from 701 East Main Street to 450 Park Place in Lexington.

Fayette County Public Schools in fall 2020 moved its Central Office from 701 East Main Street to 450 Park Place in Lexington.

Fayette County Public Schools

Fayette County Deputy Superintendent Houston Barber violated education law last year as a superintendent in another Kentucky school district and must get training in proper hiring practices, a state agency has determined.

While serving as superintendent of Frankfort Independent Schools, Barber hired a physical education teacher in 2022 who did not have proper state certification when other applicants did, according to a March 1, 2023, final investigative report from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability. The Herald-Leader received the document under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

“I respect and appreciate the role that the Office of Education Accountability plays in our state,” Barber told the Herald-Leader in response to the report.

“The finding was related to a procedural human resources issue in my previous district prior to starting my new role in FCPS. Now that the final report has been completed, I have already made contact with the Kentucky Department of Education to schedule the two-hour training,” he said.

Frankfort High School’s principal also must receive two hours of training, the report said.

Barber assumed the Fayette County job on July 1, 2022.

What the report found

In Frankfort, Barber transferred the employee, who was taking classes to be eligible to enroll in a physical education teacher program, from an instructional aide position to a PE instructor position in May 2022.

That transfer was contingent on the employee getting a teaching certificate by August.

The employee did not get a teaching certificate but went on to serve as a health and PE teacher which requires both a physical education certificate and a health certificate, the report said.

The employee was offered the position without giving the public 15 days notice of a vacancy or asking for a waiver as a superintendent is required to do under state law or board policy, according to the report.

The superintendent did not screen applicants and did not provide a list of qualified applicants to the principal, the report said.

Other certification cases

Marcia Seiler, a deputy director of the Legislative Research Commission which includes the Office of Education Accountability, said cases are strictly complaint driven. Since 2018, the office has investigated 17 cases statewide of improper certification issues that resulted in training.

There have been at least two such cases related to improper educator certification so far in 2023, in Frankfort Independent and Christian County school districts, according to documents the Herald-Leader received under the Open Records Act.

Christian County Schools officials, in an OEA report, contradicted findings by OEA that three employees working as school counselors were not properly certified. They said those employees were working as teachers.

The number of educator certification violation reports by year since 2018 are, according to OEA:

  • 2018: 1
  • 2019: 4
  • 2020: 5
  • 2021: 2
  • 2022: 3
  • 2023: 2

There has been a teacher shortage in Kentucky for the last few years.

Seiler said she cannot draw any conclusion from the reports that an educator shortage led to administrators hiring people who did not have proper certification.

“There are varied reasons for each finding of improper certification,” she said.

Staff writer Valarie Honeycutt Spears covers K-12 education, social issues and other topics. She is a Lexington native with southeastern Kentucky roots.


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