By Deborah Yetter Louisville Courier Journal

Former Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt received a glowing performance evaluation from the state Board of Education just four months before a newly constituted board voted to oust him.

Three of the eight members who voted to accept Pruitt's resignation on Tuesday were among those who signed the December 2017 evaluation, including Milton Seymore of Louisville, who was elected the new board chairman Tuesday.

The four-page evaluation hails Pruitt as a "champion for students" and declares him to be "the commissioner with the skills set that we need at this point in time."

"As the board discussed your strengths and areas for development of performance goals for this evaluation, it was hard to declare any significant weaknesses," the Dec. 6 document said.

In addition to Seymore, board members who signed the evaluation and on Tuesday voted for Pruitt's resignation included Ben Cundiff and Alesa Johnson. Board Vice Chairman Rich Gimmel, who abstained from Tuesday's vote, also signed the evaluation.

Pruitt was forced to resign Tuesday after a special meeting of a board that included seven new appointees of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. They joined four members Bevin had appointed in 2016, for a complete remake of the board previously dominated by appointees of former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat.

Among the strengths cited by Pruitt's December evaluation:

• Building relationships with "shareholders" in education.

• Developing a new accountability system to measure student success.

• Expertise with public charter schools.

• Continued improvements at the Kentucky School for the Blind and Kentucky School for the Deaf, which the commissioner oversees.

• Serving as a "champion for students."

• Positive responses from staff on the annual Department of Education survey.

Goals it recommended for the coming year included implementing the new student accountability system, ensuring the timely implementation of charter schools and continuing the ongoing management audit of the Jefferson County Public Schools system.

The evaluation concludes:

"In summary, the board strongly supports your continued tenure as commissioner and believes you are the right person at this time to move Kentucky education forward. Thank you for all you have done and what you will do in the future for the students of our state."