February 25, 1997
Subject: The employment of relatives of a superintendent of schools
Written by: Diane Schuler Fleming
Requested by: David L. Keller, Executive Director of the Kentucky School Boards Association
Syllabus: Pursuant to the rules of statutory construction, the exemption set forth in KRS 160.380(2)(e) is only available to certified employees in a school district.
Statutes construed: KRS 160.380(2)(e); KRS 161.011; and KRS 161.020(1)
OAG cited: OAG 91-28
Opinion of the Attorney General
The Kentucky School Boards Association has requested that we review Senate Bill 395, which was passed by the 1996 General Assembly. Specifically, we have been asked to determine whether this provision applies only to certified employees who have been employed at least thirty-six months prior to the superintendent assuming office, or whether it includes classified employees as well. Pursuant to the rules of statutory construction, we find that the exemption set forth in KRS 160.380(2)(e) is only available to certified employees in a school district.
Senate Bill 395 amended KRS 160.380(2)(e) to read as follows:
No relative of a superintendent of schools shall be an employee of the school district. However, this shall not apply to a relative who is an employee of the school district for at least thirty-six (36) months prior to the superintendent assuming office and who is certified for the position he holds, and it shall not apply to a superintendent's spouse who has at least twenty (20) years of service in school systems. A superintendent's spouse who is employed under this provision shall not hold a position in which the spouse supervises certified or classified employees. A superintendent's spouse may supervise teacher aides and student teachers. However, the superintendent shall not promote his relative who continues employment under an exception of this subsection.
(Emphasis added.) Our analysis focuses on the phrase and who is certified for the position he holds. To determine whether this phrase includes certified employees, classified employees or both, we must ascertain whether they have a common or ordinary meaning. We begin our search with an examination of the statutory definitions.
A classified employee is defined by KRS 161.011 as an employee who is not required to have certification for his position, as provided in KRS 161.020. Pursuant to KRS 161.020(1), no person shall be eligible to hold the position of superintendent, principal, teacher, supervisor, director of pupil personnel, or any other position for which a certificate may be issued, unless and until the person obtains a certificate of legal qualifications for such position. These employees are referred to as certified employees.
Common usuage of the two terms gives further credence to their distinct meanings. For evidence of this one need look no further than the third sentence of the statute which forbids a superintendent's spouse from supervising certified or classified employees. Had the legislature not perceived a distinction between the two types of employees, they could have used the more general term employee. Indeed, such terminology is used throughout chapters 160 and 161, indicating the legislature's understanding of the specific meaning of each term.
Now that we have ascertained the meaning of the terms classified employee and certified employee, we turn to the rules of statutory construction for guidance in interpreting KRS 160.380(2)(e). One of the basic canons of statutory construction is that words employed in a statute are to be given their ordinary meaning. Lynch v. Commonwealth, Ky., 902 S.W.2d 813, 814 (1995). Stated another way, when the language of a statute is plain and unambiguous, it should be given effect as written. Thus, there is no reason to resort to construction or interpretation. See also, Hoy v. Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Authority, Ky., 907 S.W.2d 766, 768 (1995); Terhune v. Commonwealth, Ky.App., 907 S.W.2d 779, 732 (1995); and Griffin v. City of Bowling Green, Ky., 458 S.W.2d 456 (1970).
Applying the rules of statutory construction to the statute in question, we find that the language employed by the General Assembly is clear and unambiguous, and thus should be given effect as written. The statute provides that only those relatives of a superintendent who have been employed for at least 36 months prior to the superintendent assuming office and who are certified for the position they hold, have been granted an exemption. Thus we find that only certified employees have been granted an exemption. Accord, OAG 91-28, p. 3 which found that a similar exemption for the spouses of principals, granted in KRS 160.380(2)(g), applied only to certified employees.
In conclusion, no relative of a superintendent may be employed by a school district. An exception to this rule has been made however, for those relatives who are certified employees, and who have been employed by the school district for at least thirty-six months prior to the superintendent assuming office. Relatives of a superintendent who are classified employees are not exempt. Therefore, they must resign their positions prior to the superintendent assuming office, or else the superintendent cannot assume office.
A. B. CHANDLER III
Diane Schuler Fleming
Assistant Attorney General