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Archive for Thursday, June 15, 2006

Education department spokesman leaves job

Cites family situation, political atmosphere as reasons for change

June 15, 2006

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— David Awbrey, hired six months ago as spokesman for the Kansas Department of Education, is leaving.

"I'm just not suited to the political climate, the animosity," said Awbrey, a former newspaperman and Lawrence resident. He will return to Missouri to teach middle school social studies.

Awbrey said his main reason for changing jobs was to be with his wife, a college professor, and young daughter, who have remained in Springfield, Mo.

"It has nothing to do with the job; it's the family situation," he said.

On board in November, Awbrey was new Education Commissioner Bob Corkins' first big hire.

Awbrey is a Kansas University graduate, serving as student body president there in 1969-70.

He became a journalist and rose to editorial page editor for the Wichita Eagle. He then moved to Vermont in 2001 to become editorial page editor of The Burlington Free Press.

After that he returned to the Midwest, moving to Missouri to get his teacher's certification. But then Corkins hired him at $76,000 per year.

Awbrey said the tone of politics had changed in the five years he spent away from Kansas.

"It's vicious," he said, blaming both the right and left for the problem. "The State Board of Education has become a captive of the culture wars."

The board has battled over evolution, sex education and the hiring of Corkins, who had previously worked as an advocate opposing increases in school funding.

Last month, Awbrey caught heat for saying he thought evolution proponents were practicing a religion.

Awbrey said his last day on the job would be June 23. He said he is taking a big pay cut, down to about $33,000 per year.

Other developments Wednesday:

¢ The state board adopted a new policy on human sexuality courses.

The new policy says school districts shall have complete programs of "abstinence until marriage," but those programs also will provide information about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases.

It's not clear how influential the new policy will be. It will become part of guidelines on health education, but districts don't face penalties if they don't follow them. The Lawrence district has said it will continue with its current program.

Board member Kathy Martin, a Clay Center Republican who initially pushed for an abstinence-only mandate, said the new policy will send local districts and students a consistent message.

"It is the Christian message, after all, of what we want young people to do," she said.

¢ On a 6-4 vote, the board approved the appointments by Corkins of Thomas Foster as deputy commissioner for Learning Services, and Larry Allen Englebrick as deputy commissioner for a new group called School Innovation.

Several board members resented Corkins announcing the appointments before the board considered them, saying there was no reason to start a new division.

Board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka whose district includes Lawrence, was one of the four opposed to the restructuring.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments

xenophonschild 8 years, 6 months ago

"The Christian message of what we want young people to do."

I'm not allowed on this site to express too graphically just what I think of, and would like to do to, idiots who believe and practice such nonsense.

My sympathies to the young, and fervently hope these born-again idiots are expelled from office in Nevember.

ASBESTOS 8 years, 6 months ago

Speaking as a conservative.....YAHOOOOO!! GOOD RIDDENCE! Hopefully we can purge the party of these fundamentalists and get down to the business of running government properly!

hip_gma 8 years, 6 months ago

It's time for the Commissioner to follow suit and put back credibility to the Department.

Mike Blur 8 years, 6 months ago

Let's leave Mr. Awbrey's post unfilled, and while we're at it, let's disband the State Board of Education, as well. What functions does it serve? Anything the board implements, local school boards are able to ignore, and do so (the opt-in policy, for example.) The KBOE is fast becoming a shill for extreme right wing groups like the Heritage Foundation--the true power behind the "abstinence-only" push. I won't cut and paste, but I do recommend putting "heritage foundation" and "abstinence" into google, and be prepared to be absolutely appalled.

"It's not clear how influential the new policy will be," states the article above. Once research is done on the real motives of "abstinence-only" policy and the Heritage Foundation, the influences should be scarily apparent.

Jayhawk226 8 years, 6 months ago

I am so so so sick of hearing policy makers in this State, cite religion, Christian-values and God as the sole reason of how/why they make decisions.

They represent the public at-large, which must represent the interests of all their constituents.

Though Kansas, as well as the majority of the country, practice western-religious beliefs...IT CANNOT BE THE SOLE, DETERMINING FACTOR FOR MAKING ALL POLITICAL DECISIONS IN KANSAS.

Why can't people use their heads/reasoning/logic and not just the Bible??

And I honestly am extremely sorry if I offend anybody...I haven't had my coffee and the first story I read in the LJ-World cites Christian beliefs being pushed on all the states' kids. C'mon guys...that's not what a State Board of Education was EVER intended for. It was intended for an elected group of lay citizens to oversee the educational affairs and provide a chance to participate in the process.

Not legislate.
Not politicize.
Not preach.

staff04 8 years, 6 months ago

Frankly, I'm kind of surprised that A) he took this job to start with; and B) he lasted as long as he did.

Godot 8 years, 6 months ago

I cannot believe Martin said that. That is way too scary.

staff04 8 years, 6 months ago

After all the KBOE has put the state through, you're surprised that a member would say such a thing? HA!

i_have_only_valid_opinions 8 years, 6 months ago

First he says that he is not suited for the job and that the climate had changed and he doesn't want to deal with it the way it is now - and then he turns around and says that it isn't the job but that it's family? This pretty consistent with the mixed messages he usually gives.

Goodbye. And remember that this is the perfect opportunity to actually put some thought into hiring the right person!

Mike Blur 8 years, 6 months ago

You're wrong, opinions. Once Awbrey grew a pair, he realized the muck he was in and bolted. You really expect Corkins and the "6-4 majority" to "put some thought into hiring the right person?"

I'm a liberal, sure, but I'm with true conservatives on this issue. Lesser gov'ment means the dissolution of the KBOE, the appendix attaching itself on the festering bowel of right wing radical politics in Kansas.

Godot 8 years, 6 months ago

This is a shining example of the privileged position with special rights reserved for university faculty that other government employees don't enjoy.

Compare the one sentence statement made by Awbrey to the numerous emails and public statements by Professor Mirecki, all on the same topic. Mirecki was defended with exuberance by the "free speech" advocates, his colleagues at KU. He still has his job, his salary, his tenure and his benefits, even though his actions as an "advisor" were in violation of professional ethics and his blog postings bordered on "hate speech."

Awbrey made an off-the-cuff statement that expressed his view that he thought the passionate devotion of the evolution proponents was similar to the actions of religious zealots. His statement was attacked as heresy by academics, and he was personally excoriated in the public eye. And now, Awbrey is leaving. He is not only escaping from the politically poisonous atmosphere that surrounds his job on the Kansas Board of Education, he is fleeing the State of Kansas.

Awbrey is the first major casualty of the current war over freedom of thought in Kansas. The Privileged Academics have won this battle.

Godot 8 years, 6 months ago

tanzer wrote, "mirecki started the blog of his own accord and made statements congruent with his beliefs"

Thank you for that bit of information. We have previously been led to believe that the blog was the property of the society of open minded agnostics. We all appreciate your clarification.

i_have_only_valid_opinions 8 years, 6 months ago

Posted by mike_blur (mike blur) on June 15, 2006 at 7:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You're wrong, opinions. Once Awbrey grew a pair, he realized the muck he was in and bolted. You really expect Corkins and the "6-4 majority" to "put some thought into hiring the right person?"

How am I wrong?

i_have_only_valid_opinions 8 years, 6 months ago

And also blur...I actually think you are wrong in your statement. How did Awbrey grow a pair? He's running away with his tail between his legs. No room for a pair there. I previously stated that "...this is the perfect opportunity to actually put some thought into hiring the right person!" I didn't insinuate that I had any faith in them to make the right decision though.

rexmanuel 3 years, 7 months ago

Goodbye. And remember that this is the perfect opportunity to actually put some thought into hiring the right person!

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