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Stepping into a politicized post, interim Kentucky education commissioner says she respects the role of legislature and seeks smooth transition


Kentucky’s new interim education commissioner took questions from lawmakers Tuesday – with one alluding to the tensions over social and cultural issues that contributed to the departure of her predecessor.

No lawmakers specifically brought up Senate Bill 150, a sweeping bill dealing with LGBTQ issues that continues to generate controversy across the state, but the new temporary head of the Kentucky Department of Education was quizzed on “her focus on academics” as opposed to “cultural and distracting issues.”

Interim Commissioner Robin Fields Kinney said she respects the role of the General Assembly and the separation of duties, going on to promise that the education department would do its best under her leadership to implement state laws while staying in good standing with federal statutes.

On the question of cultural matters, Kinney advocated for a balanced approach.

"As far as the academics versus social issues, we are there to support each and every student, and we will focus on academics," she responded. "However we believe in the whole child and supporting the whole child, so if we have issues to support that child as it relates to physical, mental, emotional, or social help, we want to be there to support that as well."

Kinney’s predecessor, Jason Glass, became a target of the right for his opposition to Senate Bill 150, with its increased restrictions on transgender students and the teaching of sex ed. One reason he gave for leaving the post was his desire not to be involved in implementing the legislation.

Kinney said the search is underway for a new permanent education commissioner, a role she will not be in the running for. She said the last search took about eight months, but it was during the pandemic and KDE hopes the next selection process may move quicker.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.