Kentucky Board of Education decides to keep control of Breathitt County schools

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FRANKFORT, Kentucky — The Kentucky Board of Education has decided to keep control of the Breathitt County school district for up to three more years.

Media report the unanimous decision came Tuesday after a nine-hour hearing in Frankfort.

Attorneys for state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday argued that continued state management was needed so that students would continue making progress.

Local school board members argued that some of their powers should be restored because they know what's best for students.

State manager Larry Hammond has overseen the district since December 2012. He recommended that it stay under state control.

Board of education member said it appears that local officials have "only a superficial knowledge" of the skills needed to run the district.

"You should know that this board very much believes in local control. We would love to be able to hand the reins back to you, but we're not going to do it until we believe that you're ready," Roger Marcum, chairman of the state board, said to three county school board members who were in Frankfort to testify before the board.

Management of the school district was taken over by the Department of Education after an audit found "significant" problems. A follow-up audit in May found some progress, but also found continuing problems in student achievement and with district finances.

"We're obviously very disappointed," county school board attorney Ned Pillersdorf said after the hearing. "Let's be clear, my clients are not accused of doing anything wrong. But they're not allowed to run their own school system. That should send a chill through every local school board in the state."

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