Bellarmine Names Loyola Maryland’s Susan Donovan As New President Tuesday, Feb 21 2017 

Bellarmine University’s Board of Trustees has unanimously appointed Susan M. Donovan as the university’s fourth president. Donovan is currently executive vice president at Loyola University Maryland, a position she’s held since 2011.

Donovan has served at Loyola for 32 years, including a term as acting president in 2015, according to a news release. She held various other positions there, including vice president for student development and dean of students.

“Few institutions have made more progress than Bellarmine University in the last 25 years,” Donovan said in the release. “I am delighted to lead Bellarmine, with an emphasis on strategic initiatives aimed at improving academic excellence, the student experience and our level of community engagement in Louisville and the region.”

Bellarmine University

Susan M. Donovan

Donovan, 58, holds a Ph.D. in higher education from St. Louis University, a master’s degree in higher education from Florida State University, and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Buena Vista University.

She also attended Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management.

“Dr. Donovan was a key figure at Loyola during a period of transformational growth, much like our own, and the trustees know she will be an exceptional leader here at Bellarmine,” said Pat Mulloy, chairman of Bellarmine’s Board of Trustees.

Interim president Doris Tegart has led Bellarmine since the death of the school’s longest-serving president, Joseph J. McGowan, in March of last year.

Donovan will begin work on July 1.

Schools audit prompts call for superintendent’s resignation Monday, Feb 20 2017 

A group of local education stakeholders is calling for the resignation of Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens in light of a management review in which the state found “significant deficiencies” in the operation of Louisville’s public schools. A more in-depth review could wrest control over the district’s 172 schools and 100,000 students away […]

High-ranking Quebec officials visit Louisville to foster trade Friday, Feb 17 2017 

High-ranking Quebec officials visited Louisville this week to foster more commerce between the Canadian province and Kentucky at a time that trade has fallen into some disfavor. President Donald J. Trump has repeatedly criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement, which regulates commerce between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, saying at one point that it […]

Sudbury School pulls out of Alta Vista Stonecote Estate Friday, Feb 17 2017 

Updated 5:00p.m. The Stonecote Estate, located at 1005 Alta Vista Road, will no longer be the intended home for the city’s first Sudbury School. The founders announced Thursday that they had reached out to real estate agents to find an alternate location for the “free-range” school. As IL reported in July 2016, the Sudbury School movement […]

With $48 Million Shortfall, U of L Plans Belt-Tightening Thursday, Feb 16 2017 

University of Louisville’s interim president on Thursday forecasted drastic belt-tightening at the school as leaders seek to plug a $48 million shortfall.

Interim president Greg Postel said large-scale layoffs would not take place and the school would honor a planned tuition freeze.

Postel, who will present a budget in the spring, expects to correct the 4 percent shortfall through reduced administrative overhead, while postponing some maintenance and cutting open positions.

“A further draw down of the university reserves is not possible,” Postel said. “They must be replenished, not depleted.”

The belt tightening comes as the new regime tallies the true state of U of L’s finances and endowment in the wake of former president James Ramsey’s departure. This follows a chaotic year that saw numerous leadership changes, a scathing state audit and donors publicly questioning the foundation’s spending. (Read “Amid University Uncertainty, U of L Leaders Cashed Out Big Perks“)

The university is changing the way it approaches budgeting, Postel said, — and “dramatically” adjusting its expectations for support from the University of Louisville Foundation as it seeks to rebuild its donor base. The foundation is also under a forensic audit, which board chair David Grissom said has been expanded in scope based on some preliminary findings of the auditor.

Grissom also announced on Thursday the resignation of trustee Junior Bridgeman. Bridgeman was a longtime member of the U of L Foundation, and was briefly chair of the trustees before a board turnover.

Grissom said Bridgeman told him his business responsibilities have grown and he doesn’t have enough time to serve. Bridgeman, whose company recently purchased a Coca-Cola bottling operation, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

The board approved a new contract for Postel with the same salary he was making previously — $950,000, almost $300,000 more than Neville Pinto made as acting president before him.

Postel, who is also serving as interim executive vice president for health affairs, declined a car allowance. He also agreed to give up the $100,000 in annual deferred compensation, awarded to him by former president Ramsey.

Instead, Postel will be eligible for a bonus each year in the same amount.

Kate Howard can be reached at khoward@kycir.org and (502) 814.6546. 

Disclosures: In 2015, the University of Louisville, which for years has donated to Louisville Public Media, earmarked $3,000 to KyCIR as part of a larger LPM donation. University board member Sandra Frazier and former member Stephen Campbell have donated. 

Amid University Uncertainty, U of L Leaders Cashed Out Big Perks Thursday, Feb 16 2017 

All eyes were on the University of Louisville and its foundation last summer.

Its president was ousted and its finances scrutinized. Both boards were hamstrung by turnover and uncertainty. University trustees were publicly threatening to sue the foundation.

Meanwhile, some of the university’s highest-paid employees were making a run on the bank.

They quietly withdrew millions in compensation promised to them over the previous decade, with more than $5.3 million paid out just in the week former U of L president James Ramsey stepped down as foundation head.

But none of that money was ever actually set aside, a practice the current foundation leaders and an expert in the field say is atypical. So in the last 12 months, in the midst of crisis and a regime change looming, the foundation paid out about $9 million from its cash accounts to settle up.

All the deferred compensation for staffers came on top of their six-figure salaries, with the exception of a small portion of Ramsey’s. Though most of his $4.5 million total was additional pay, he voluntarily deferred about $600,000 from his regular paycheck.

These latest revelations come amid the foundation’s harried efforts to examine how much money was spent or promised by the previous regime.

Keith Sherman, new interim executive director of the foundation, said the roughly $700 million endowment is big enough to sidestep any major impact from tapping its cash reserves — although he acknowledged it meant less money to invest, and it might have posed a problem if another big expense arose.

“Because a lot of the development work has been finished or put on hold, the need to have significant expenditures hasn’t arisen,” Sherman said. “If those things came up we would have to liquidate, potentially.”

It’s not new compensation; big deferred compensation payments have been reported in recent years for a handful of leaders, on the foundation’s tax returns and in the media.

But as new foundation leaders weigh how to go forward with the deferred compensation plan, a review of documents shows the true cost of the program exceeds what’s been reported. Records also show that the foundation has spent at least $8.2 million to pay taxes for university staffers, and one new six-figure payment vested last month in the midst of a staff review of the program.

Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said it appeared the foundation wasn’t keeping track of how much compensation was being awarded — or how the whole plan would look to the public or faculty.

“The University of Louisville’s story, if it tells us nothing else, tells us that good governance matters,” Poliakoff said. “Accountability and transparency are the bedrock on which public trust is built. If they’re not there, things are going to go badly awry.”

Run On The Bank

The payments from cash accounts occurred as spending policies were hotly debated and the endowment was under close watch.

Ramsey took with him $3.55 million, which includes contributions and compounded interest. (He cashed out an additional nearly $1 million earlier.) Former provost Shirley Willihnganz cashed out about $2.1 million last year (and cashed out an additional $300,000 previously). Kathleen Smith, Ramsey’s top deputy at the school and the foundation, withdrew $700,000 last summer, records show (and another $760,000 earlier).

Students on the University of Louisville’s main campus.

Employees withdrew another $2.8 million in the months before and after Ramsey’s departure: Donald Miller, director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, withdrew $2.15 million last summer. Kevin Miller, executive senior associate athletic director, withdrew about $430,000. Becky Simpson, who recently retired as senior associate vice president of communications and marketing, withdrew $181,000. (Simpson is a member of Louisville Public Media’s Board of Directors.)

Sherman said he and the new foundation board put a freeze on new enrollments and payments, aside from those already promised, while they review the plan.

Diane Medley, a U of L trustee who became foundation board chair in January, said she hopes the board will remain flexible to use deferred compensation in the future, albeit with changes.

“We see them as a retention tool for valued employees and that’s how we would use them, if we use them in the future,” Medley said.

Interim President’s Pay Under Scrutiny

The foundation remains on the hook for almost $600,000 in vested compensation that participants haven’t cashed out yet — including a new $100,000 payment to interim president Gregory Postel that vested immediately on Jan 1.

Postel was named interim president in January. Months before Ramsey was ousted last July, he named Postel as the interim executive director for health affairs. In an employment letter, he offered Postel deferred compensation in an unspecified amount that would vest each year that Postel stays in the interim role.

Plan documents don’t lay out any guidelines on how much a person should be awarded or when the money should vest. Sherman said Postel’s promised payment amount is $100,000 — a figure Ramsey or staff arrived at individually, like the rest of the compensation packages.

Postel’s $950,000 salary already included a $100,000 annual stipend for the interim executive vice president role.

Postel’s pay as interim president will be considered at the board of trustees meeting Thursday. But much appears to have already changed under the board appointed last month by Gov. Matt Bevin. U of L spokesman John Karman said the board chairman has been already re-negotiating Postel’s contract.

“The proposal the trustees will consider [Thursday] will have him making less than he’s currently making for working two jobs,” Karman said.

Deferred Comp Payouts Graciously Grossed Up

Records show the foundation spent at least $20 million for its deferred compensation plan to benefit 10 people since 2003.

It allocated more than $12 million in awards and investment returns — then spent another $8.2 million just to pay those staffers’ taxes since 2012. More than $3 million of that was for Ramsey’s taxes alone.

The foundation wasn’t just covering the same amount of tax the staffers would’ve paid. They were actually grossing up several times, Sherman said, because the gross-up payments themselves are taxable benefits — which triggers new taxes the foundation vowed to shield employees from.

The actual taxes vary depending on the employee’s tax bracket, but as an example: If the foundation paid the IRS $35,000 to cover taxes on a $100,000 payment, that $35,000 might be taxed another $10,000. That would be taxed again, perhaps another $3,000, which would be taxed again for a few hundred, and so on. So while the staffer might have paid $35,000 in tax, the foundation is actually paying well over $48,000 to ensure the payment remains tax-free.

Lyn Harper, a Washington, D.C. compensation consultant, said her advice to universities is to make deferred compensation as basic and transparent as possible — and to avoid the bad optics that follow tax gross-ups and secret payments.

“We strongly suggest that boards think about how this information will be received and actually have a strategy around it,” Harper said. “If they can’t stand up and say, ‘We are proud we are paying this amount and it meets our compensation philosophy’… perhaps they shouldn’t make those decisions.”

Medley, who is a certified public accountant, said aspects of the plan like tax gross-ups and immediate vesting are not typical in her experience. She also prefers to see at least some money set aside as it’s vested, even if the plan is considered unfunded.

“We will engage experts in the field to make sure as we move forward, it’s using best practice to make sure it’s the best plan and doesn’t impose on the employee,” Medley said.

Kate Howard can be reached at khoward@kycir.org and (502) 814.6546. 

Disclosures: In 2015, the University of Louisville, which for years has donated to Louisville Public Media, earmarked $3,000 to KyCIR as part of a larger LPM donation. University board member Sandra Frazier and former member Stephen Campbell have donated. 

Interim UofL president welcomes performance-based funding initiative, says new budget will keep tuition freeze pledge Tuesday, Feb 14 2017 

University of Louisville Interim President Greg Postel invited the media to ask questions about the state of affairs at UofL Tuesday morning, saying while he has only been in the position for three weeks, his administration is diligently working on a long list of issues that are critical to the school. Postel is not lacking in […]

Using Improv To Help Kids With Autism Show And Read Emotion Monday, Feb 13 2017 

It can be difficult to socialize and make friends for many children with autism. Often that’s because reading body language and others’ emotions doesn’t always come easily.

Many of us seem to learn these social skills naturally, but maybe there’s also a way to teach them.

The Psychology Lab at Indiana State University is trying to tap into that idea with improvisational theater.

Yes, improv.

Rachel Magin, a doctoral student here, designed a special class for 6- to 9-year-olds with high-functioning autism. The class explores the various ways people communicate. For instance, “through our facial expressions, through the way our body language shows it, or just the tone of our voice,” Magin says.

And the overall idea is pretty straightforward: If children improvise different situations, think about their emotions and how they show them, then they’ll be able to communicate more clearly in life.

Encountering those social cues can feel like a foreign language, says Magin, “and they haven’t necessarily learned that language.”

Getting in touch with emotions

These kids are pumped.

From the moment Shaw, who’s 8 and has autism, walks into class, he’s ready.

He’s excited to shake his limbs and yell the warm-up.

Shaw also has anxiety and attention deficit disorder, and when he gets excited, he gets really excited.

Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting

Shaw, 8, plays an improv game with Erin McTiernan, an Indiana State University doctoral student. Shaw is a participant in an improv class at Indiana State University for children with high functioning autism.

Under bright fluorescent lights the kids pick sentences out of an envelope, then at-random, choose a card with an emotion on it.

They then say that sentence, in that emotion.

Think of it as a child-friendly version of the segment “Scene From A Hat” from the TV show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?

And sometimes the kids guess the emotion right away.

But it can get tricky. Especially when the sentences don’t express an obvious emotion.

Like: “It’s over!,” says Jake, who’s 9, waiting for the other kids to guess his emotion.

“Umm, sad,” someone says.

“No,” says Jake.

“Scared.”

“No.”

“Happy?”

“Yes!”

Rachel Magin knows this is her teachable moment.”What would have helped him to show that he was happy?” she asks the class.

Silas – Shaw’s 6-year-old sister who doesn’t have autism, but comes with her brother – knows. She jumps in place yelling, “Yay! It’s over!”

“OK, so jumping up and down, having the voice get a little higher and a little louder,” Magin explains.

The kids nod.

Next, they role-play, acting out moments that might cause anxiety, like the first day of school. That can be especially important for children with autism who can experience anxiety more intensely and more frequently than other children.

Evidence of improvement

Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting

Jim Ansaldo, a research scholar at Indiana University, in his office. Ansaldo also runs an improv summer camp for teens with autism. He says improv-specific programs for children with autism are spreading.

“What improv really does is create a safe and fun and authentic environment in which to practice, where mistakes really don’t matter,” says Jim Ansaldo, a research scholar at Indiana University.

Ansaldo runs Camp Yes And, an improv summer camp for teens with autism. He says improv-specific programs for children with autism are rare – he knows of about a half dozen – but their number is growing.

He refers to improv as a technology for human connection and communication.

And Janna Graf, Shaw’s mom, says she’s seen how it has helped her son.

She says he can ramble, but recently she saw him introduce himself at a church group: “He said, ‘My name’s Shaw, I’m 8-years-old,’ and then he actually took his hands and waved it to the next person,” Graf says. “He’s learning to wait.”

It’s this kind of feedback that the researchers are using to see how this improv class transfers to real social skills. And so far, they’re encouraged by the early results.

Copyright 2017 Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations. To see more, visit Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations.

Senate Bill Prompts Pushback From Kentucky Arts Educators Monday, Feb 13 2017 

While Terri Foster and I sat in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency on 4th Street on Thursday, hundreds of young vocalists crowded the escalators — clutching binders of music and practicing their scales as they ascended to the second floor.

It’s day one of the Kentucky Music Educators Association conference, a yearly event where state music students and teachers alike come to learn about new performance and instruction techniques. But, according to Foster — who is the artistic director of the Louisville Youth Choir — there is also an advocacy component to the conference as well. And this year, Senate Bill 1 is a big topic.

SB1 is a current proposal for statutory revision that would affect school testing and accountability — and, in part, it deals with how arts instruction plays into a well-rounded education system.

“One of the things that we think is very key as music educators in our state is that arts be recognized for a core subject,” Foster says. “And that it is evaluated and assessed and part of the curriculum, just like the other subject areas that are represented.”

A Call to Action

For arts educators in Kentucky, there have been several main concerns regarding SB1. The first main objection is the proposal that students would be allowed to substitute non-arts courses for the Visual and Performing Arts requirement for high school graduation.

State art instructors voiced their concerns early on via a “call to action” letter formatted by the Kentucky Coalition for Arts Education. It was attached to an analysis of the bill, which read, in part:

KCAE and its member organizations — the Kentucky Music Educators Association; the Kentucky Association of Arts Education; The Kentucky Theatre Association; and the Kentucky Association for Physical Education, Recreation and Dance — respectfully remind members of the General Assembly that arts education must have statutory support if we are to ensure that schools will provide equal access to courses that develop students’ abilities to apply core concepts in the visual and performing arts and express their creative talents and interests in the arts.

As a result, Sen. Mike Wilson — the chair of the senate education committee — confirmed on Friday that the portion of the bill which would have allowed the non-arts substitution, has been stricken.

“That is something we were gladdened by,” says Jane Dewey, the facilitator of the Kentucky Coalition for Arts Education.

But, Dewey says, there is another major concern regarding the bill.

“We are still concerned about the lack of the inclusion of the arts in overall school accountability — and by that, we don’t necessarily mean that we are fighting to have a number attached to it,” Dewey says. “What we want is for a school to be held accountable for how they are teaching the arts to our students.”

Dewey says the language in SB1 is a little ambiguous when it comes to discussing how schools’ art programs and their effectiveness from year-to-year will be reviewed. She argues that if a program is not adequately reviewed for quality, there’s the risk of it losing its importance to school-level decision-makers.

Dewey says the Kentucky Coalition for Arts Education is pushing for clarification on this point — something Foster, the Louisville Youth Choir artistic director, supports.

“We want to make sure that it is a very focused and pointed message that there really is no substitute for true music and arts education,” she says.

The bill remains under consideration by a Senate committee.

LISTEN: Louisville Urban League’s Sadiqa Reynolds Talks Charter Schools, JCPS Criticism Friday, Feb 10 2017 

From Jefferson County Public Schools declaring itself a safe haven for immigrant students and their families to the talk of charter schools coming to Kentucky, the topic of education is becoming more heated.

The president of Louisville Urban League, Sadiqa Reynolds, spoke with me about charter schools and Gov. Matt Bevin’s harsh criticism of the JCPS safe haven resolution.

Louisville Urban League

Sadiqa Reynolds

Listen to our conversation in the player above.

Reynolds on Bevin’s response to JCPS declaring it will be a safe haven:

“I think it is interesting that people who have privilege and have never felt the threat of anything, really, what their response is. I think it is fair for people to want their children to feel safe in school. If you think about sending your child off and thinking that ICE (immigration and customs enforcement) or any other organization has come and picked them up, I think that is a very scary thing.”

On the future of charter schools in Kentucky:

“My concern about charter schools is that those of us who have been disenfranchised and left out will continue to be. I’m very, very concerned about the implementation, how this actually gets executed. There are charter schools that work in some places, but there are many, many charter schools that do not. And when those charter schools close, the public school system is supposed to be ready to receive all of those kids. We’ve got to think about that.”

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