Kentucky School Advocate
From the minute students start classes in Boone County Schools, they have a stair-step model listing the steps they need to follow to stay on track for graduation. To help keep them on track, faculty and staff receive their own support to make sure students don't fall through the cracks.
This model is just one innovation Superintendent Randy Poe has put in place since assuming the district's top post in 2008, and one of the reasons he was selected as this year's recipient of the F.L. Dupree Outstanding Superintendent Award. The award is sponsored by the family of F.L. Dupree Sr., administered by the Kentucky School Boards Association and judged by previous recipients. It will be presented Saturday, Feb. 28 during the Kentucky School Boards Association’s annual conference in Louisville.
PHOTO: From left, Randy Poe, Boone County Schools superintendent and Dupree Award Winner, Allen Kennedy, KSBA president, and Tom Dupree.
This year, the Dupree family, in recognition of the needs of school districts, added a $5,000 cash component for the top superintendent’s district.
Poe has been an educator for 32 years, beginning in the classroom at Boone County High School in 1983 following his graduation from Northern Kentucky University. He also earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from NKU. Poe began his leadership role in 1992 when he became assistant principal of Boone County's Conner Middle School and moved up the district ranks serving as principal, technology director, assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent.
“This award means our district is performing in a distinguished fashion,” Poe said, in receiving the award, acknowledging and thanking the school board, staff and administrators, along with his family.
“I truly do have the best board because every day they challenge me to do the best for children,” he said.
Poe also thanked Boone County city and county officials, noting, “It is all about collaboration; it is about how can we pull resources together for the children.”
He encouraged the audience to keep advocating for more resources for education: “We've got to keep pushing for the children and don't take no for an answer, for our children.”
Poe’s passion for education may have started early in life when a teacher made a profound difference in his future. Karen Cheser, now Boone County's deputy superintendent, related a story she heard Poe tell during an instructional strategies meeting she attended while working in a neighboring school district.
“…Randy talked about his own life as a struggling reader, how a teacher had found what would work for him in the seventh grade so he could finally read, how an intervention system that Boone County had used had finally helped his own child to read, and how it was our duty and calling to get every child reading on grade level,” she wrote in her nomination of Poe. “I was sold! From that point on, I wanted to be a part of this team; a team that had someone so passionately rooting for every child at its helm.”
During his tenure, Poe's focus has been on getting students college and career ready while keeping the district fiscally healthy despite the tough economic times. To address those fiscal issues, Poe helped create the Northern Kentucky Education Team, which strives to educate the community about financial issues. In their nomination, district officials said he helped mobilize the community, business leaders, educators and political representatives to send a strong message across the state about the ramifications reduced funds will have on students, the community and its economic well being.
To keep district expenses as low as possible and focused in the most effective areas, Poe has worked with the American Productivity and Quality Center to review district processes to identify those that can be more effective and efficient. Through this work, the district has addressed five areas – fixed assets, position control, maintenance, special transportation and preschool intake procedures – and saved thousands of dollars this school year. The district is looking at different areas this year to see where else efficiencies may be found.
Poe was also lauded by his district for his focus on the customer – its students. He developed the Student Advisory Council, which draws members from Boone County's 24 schools. It meets monthly to provide feedback, helps those students learn leadership skills, and involves them in projects such as book drives and anti-bullying campaigns.
Staff relations have received his attention in creating of the Teaching and Learning Committee structure. Calling it a vehicle for adaptive change, district officials in their nomination of Poe said, “Any discussion of district initiatives, new programs, systemic reform, all goes through this committee first … this committee ensures that every group is represented and that everyone has the same information from the beginning of implementation.”
Students at risk for falling through the cracks have been helped with the creation of 30-60-90 day plans at highly transient, high-poverty schools where students weren't achieving at grade level. “From these plans came mentoring programs, a focus on research-based instructional strategies and a strong emphasis on positive behavioral intervention strategies,” the nomination said.
Poe challenged faculty and staff to come up with plans to get these students back on track. That led to the creation of an extended day that increased the school day by three hours. In order to make that happen, Poe had to convince the board of education to fund to program. The district's nomination said the program has been successful, with students making large gains in math and reading, and with continuation of the program, the elimination of most gaps.
School board member Karen Byrd, who has worked with Poe for many of her 20 years on Boone's board, said he is the kind of leader willing to roll up his sleeves and work side by side with his staff to make sure students' educational needs are being met. Byrd said because of that type of leadership she was initially sad to see him leave his job as a principal to join the central office staff, but knew the district as a whole would benefit from his skill set.
“And he did prove me right that we did need his type of tireless devotion to students and learning at the district level,” she wrote. “Any situation he encountered was met with the question of, ‘How does/can this impact students in the best way?’ His relentless pursuit of higher, more rigorous standards and means of operations was part of the reason he was unanimously selected to be superintendent of Boone County Schools.”
Byrd said with all of the negative attention focused on public education, it needs a champion like Poe to tell success stories that otherwise are not heard.
“He has a true heart for children and their educational futures,” she said. “He expects excellence in all aspects because he is willing to give that same level of effort himself.”