Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt resigned Tuesday after a four-hour, closed-door meeting of the State Board of Education, whose members were all appointed by Republican Governor Matt Bevin.
The board, of seven members, that Bevin named Monday Wayne Lewis, chairman of the Kentucky Charter Schools Advisory Council, as an interim leader with an annual salary of $ 150,000 a year.
Shortly before 6 pm, after the board had met privately for hours, former chairman Roger Marcum said Pruitt had left the building and would not return. A short time later, the board returned, and Pruitt's resignation was announced.
The change was welcomed with strong reactions from educators and legislators.
"Despite the cries of tens of thousands of Kentuckers today, Governor Matt Bevin continued his offensive against public education, this time through proxies and behind closed doors," said Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler, whose group was against the expected Movement had retired earlier in the day. "Dr. Stephen Pruitt has been a strong and effective champion for our students and public schools, forcing a respectable and highly qualified man to resign from his position for no reason is contrary to the interests of students throughout the Commonwealth."
House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins said it was "a sad day for public education and the children of Kentucky, this is just another attempt by Governor Bevin to weaken and dismantle Kentucky's education system and implement his charter school agenda."
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Bevin has previously appointed four other board members to develop guidelines for Kentucky's 173 school districts and the Kentucky Department of Education so that its agents now have full control. The President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, Robert King, serves by law as a non-voting board member.
The state executive elected Milton Seymore chairman on Tuesday. When the request was made that Heiner chairman of the board, he declined and said he supports Seymore.
Seymore said Pruitt is "not pushed out". He said the move was not Pruit's achievement, but the board wanted to move faster "to another level" for children across the state. He said the board would start hiring a commissioner within a few weeks.
Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville, chairman of the House Education Committee, said Pruitt had "done an admirable job," and Carney was disappointed and dissatisfied with the decision that Pruitt did not go ahead. "I wish it had not happened," Carney said. He said if Pruitt was not ousted, "he was certainly encouraged." Lewis, the Interim Commissioner, was the Executive Director of Education Policy and Programs at the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and a lecturer in Educational Leadership Studies at the University of Kentucky.
According to his British biography, he is a former middle school teacher. Tuesday night, he said he would ask for leave from Britain and would resign from the Cabinet.
Lewis said he intended to "run to the floor." He said an exam from Jefferson County Schools would be a priority.
Lewis said it is no secret that he is an advocate of charter schools. He said he would soon have a "rich" conversation about charter school financing. He said he did not know what the board was doing before Tuesday and he had not talked to Bevin. Lewis said some Kentucky students performed well, but performance gaps widened.
"There's a lot to celebrate, but … there's just as much to worry about." He said that Kentucky must "make a huge difference"
When Bevin's Kentucky Education Commissioner had advised behind closed doors, Pruitt said support from teachers and others over the past 24 hours had made him feel like "me made a difference. " The audience in the board meeting The room gave him a standing ovation and he became emotional.
"It's what it is," Pruitt said. "When I came here, I knew it was always an option."
He said he had not learned before the vote that he would lose his job. He said Commissioner is the biggest job he has ever had.
Pruitt said Bevin has the right to appoint the State Education Committee. About Bevin Pruitt said, "To be completely honest with you, I have not had a conversation with him for a long time."
At a morning press conference, Bevin said he liked Pruitt "as a person."  Bevin has not talked about whether Pruitt should be removed later in the day or whether the state would take over Jefferson County's public school system.
"I can not even say that," Bevin said back then. "That's or is not the case, because I have zero involvement in this decision."
He said he could not hypothesize what the board might do "but here's what I want … to accomplish this performance gap
Jim Waters, Bluegrass President The Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a free-market think tank in Lexington that favors "school choice" this week, praised Bevin's appointments as extremely important and said the new members would bring a sense of reform.
The General Assembly approved charter schools in Kentucky in 2017, but did not include a funding mechanism for charters in the budget during this year's legislature.
Reporter Jack Brammer has contributed to this article.