Professor joins Board of Education

Monica Kast

A WKU professor has been appointed to the Kentucky State Board of Education.

Gary Houchens, an associate professor in the department of educational administration, leadership and research, was appointed to the Kentucky Board of Education by Gov. Matt Bevin earlier this year. Houchens said he was contacted to see if he was interested in serving on the Board of Education. After that, he went through an application and approval process through the secretary of education’s office.

Houchens was approved in May and sworn in this past June. Houchens is the first WKU faculty member to be appointed to the Board of Education in Kentucky, according to Mary Ann Miller, the policy adviser for the Kentucky Board of Education.

“It’s a great honor,” Houchens said. “It’s certainly something that I had not ever anticipated.”

Houchens graduated from WKU, and has previously worked as a middle school teacher, school principal and district administrator. Houchens said he has been interested in improving education and education policy “for a long time,” and views his appointment to the Board of Education as a way to help make improvements to education in Kentucky.

“I’m heavily invested in the work of trying to improve our schools, primarily by guaranteeing high quality leadership at all of our schools,” Houchens said. “I’ve also been interested in education policy for a long time, so this is really a great opportunity to bring the perspective of having worked in and around schools for the last decade to this important work of helping set education policy for the entire state.”

At the time of Houchen’s appointment, four others were also appointed to the Board of Education. Houchens’ term will expire in April of 2020.

“I am very impressed with the talent, experience and knowledge of the newest members of the Kentucky Board of Education,” Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner said in a news release at the time of Houchen’s appointment. “Our prime responsibility as adults is to prepare the next generation for their most fulfilled life, and that responsibility starts with providing a high-caliber education to every student. It is tremendously important that Kentucky has the best leadership available for the board so that we can move with a new resolve in meeting the needs of all our children.”

Houchens said that he believes there are several main issues that the Board of Education will be discussing in coming months. He said the main priority right now is improving an accountability system for schools.

“The number one priority for us right now is working on revisions to right now is working on revisions to our school accountability system,” Houchens said. “So the way that we record student achievement and the way we hold schools accountable for improving student learning over time is going through a major revision.”

Houchens said the goal in revising the system is to “maintain very high expectations for our schools.”

Additionally, Houchens said the Board of Education will be discussing charter schools in Kentucky. Although 43 states currently have charter schools, Kentucky is not one of them. Houchens said the Board of Education will be having work sessions in the future to learn more about and discuss charter schools. 

 Reporter Monica Kast can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @monicakastwku.