Jeremy Camron, principal of Owensboro Day Treatment, is one of two recipients of an annual award given by the Kentucky Board of Education. Camron and Sarah Vivian, principal of The Academy (Franklin County) were recognized for their role in passing legislation to expand the high school equivalency program to include youth in all district-operated alternative programs.
The duo were presented the David Karem Award for Excellence in Education Policy during KBE’s regular meeting on Wednesday. The award, which honors former KBE member and state legislator David Karem, is given annually to state policymakers, education leaders, or citizens who have contributed to the improvement of education.
Alternative education programs (AEPs) are special programs designed to provide remediation, acceleration or unique learning opportunities that would not otherwise be available to students in the traditional school setting.
“While AEPs historically have been associated with at-risk students, these programs serve a wide variety of students, including those identified for special education, those who are gifted and talented, adjudicated, abused, neglected or differently abled, and other students who can benefit from a nontraditional learning environment,” the KDE release said.
Nominator Ronnie Nolan, Ed.D., KECSAC executive director, said Vivian and Camron have the kind of education policy expertise that comes from being in such classrooms every day.
“Jeremy and Sarah know firsthand how difficult educating our state’s most vulnerable student populations can be,” Nolan said. “They both work in state agency programs that serve children and youth who are committed to or in the supervision of the Commonwealth.”
In 2017, they worked successfully with KECSAC on expanding high school equivalency options for youth in state care. That opened their eyes to a need.
“They began to see firsthand issues in their own blended programs, where state agency children sat next to district-referred and placed students in alternative learning environments,” said Nolan in his nomination. “Those state agency children were permitted to participate in a high school equivalency program, while their classmates – students who were facing many of the same educational hurdles – could not. They decided to take action.”
Vivian and Camron contacted KECSAC, KDE, and members of the legislature to begin discussions on expanding the high school equivalency program to include youth in all district-operated alternative programs. After countless meetings with stakeholders and legislators, they had a draft bill and a legislative sponsor, Rep. DJ Johnson.
Their bill, House Bill 194, was adopted unanimously by both chambers of the legislature during the 2022 legislative session. HB 194 permits students who are age 17 and older who are being served in a district-operated alternative program and not on track to graduate (as defined by their local school board) with the opportunity to enroll in a district-operated high school equivalency program.
It was Vivian and Camron’s shared passion that led to legislative change.
“During COVID, Jeremy and I were in a meeting together and the discussion began about students in alternative school not having the same access to the GED as those students in state agency alternative schools,” Vivian said. “My building is composed of both programs, and I was really struggling with a potential drop who was not a state agency student. From there, the GED bill was born and now all students in alternative schools have access to the GED and one less barrier to overcome.”
Camron said receiving the award for their work “is a reflection of the collaboration of many to provide opportunities for students across the Commonwealth.”
The team at the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children (KECSAC), the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, Sarah Vivian and state Rep. DJ Johnson “provided the knowledge of the process and support needed to bring down a barrier to attaining the GED for students in alternative education programs,” he said.
Jason E. Glass, Kentucky’s education commissioner and chief learner, said Vivian and Camron encompass the spirit and intent of the award.
“They are dedicated to the students across the Commonwealth,” he said. “They advocate to remove barriers to ensure that all students have the opportunities to move forward and be successful.”
The 2022 Kentucky Association of School Administrators selected Camron as the 2022 Administrator of the Year, and more recently, he was chosen for induction into the Class of 2023 Kentucky Veterans Hall Fame.