Informal Advantages

Informal Advantages

INFORMAL ADVANTAGES
Bath County Schools mixes advocacy with eating
 
Kentucky School Advocate
November 2017
 
By Madelynn Coldiron
Staff writer 

State Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris talks with Rowan County Schools officials Glen Teager, finance officer (center), and Assistant Superintendent John Maxey following the Legislative Breakfast.
There is one word that Bath County Schools purposely does not use for the annual legislative get-together it sponsors: forum.

“I think that word is too formal,” Bath County Schools Superintendent Harvey Tackett said of the Legislative Breakfast, held Oct. 18 this year.

The session routinely draws legislators that represent Bath and surrounding counties. It’s not just the school boards and administrators in the Gateway Region who are invited, but city and county government leaders as well.

“It serves as an avenue to show a partnership from the schools, with our city and county and regional governmental officials,” Tackett said. “It gives ample opportunity for positive, collegial interaction and feedback in a civil and democratic environment.”

State Sen. Albert Robinson of London, one of the first to arrive for this year’s breakfast, agreed: “You get so much more out of it when people are relaxed and even in the legislature we get more out of informal gatherings that we have than official meetings, in my opinion.”
 
State Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris talks with Rowan County Schools officials Glen Teager, finance
officer (center), and Assistant Superintendent John Maxey following the Legislative Breakfast.
The event this year was a bit different, thanks to some serendipitous timing: it was on the same day Gov. Matt Bevin and GOP legislative leadership decided to release the framework for their pension reforms. Attendees munched their mini breakfast quiches and muffins while watching the governor’s press conference live on a large screen, and the topic dominated discussion.
State Sen. Albert Robinson of London chats after the breakfast with, from left, Bath County Schools Community Education Director Kelly Wilson; Tatum Dale, field representative for U.S. Rep. Andy Barr; and Bath County PVA Jacky Watson.
Bath County board Chairwoman Barbara Razor has attended several of the legislative breakfasts over the years and likes their informal nature.

“I really think that the breakfast is kind of a way of being able to contact our legislators directly and personally where you can actually have face-to-face meetings with them in a setting, an atmosphere that’s very relaxed and very accommodating,” she said.

“I just like to sit with folks and discuss the issues on an informal basis – the superintendents and the school board members,” said state Rep. David Hale from Menifee County, who’s been attending the breakfast for several years. “Mainly, I’m here to listen to the concerns of the school administrators and teachers, to hear what their needs are.”

The gathering this year drew an equal number of Republican and Democrat lawmakers, which Montgomery County board member (and former superintendent) Dan Freeman appreciated. “It just brought people together, both sides of the political spectrum and we can relax, have some camaraderie and then also get some good information,” he said.
 
State Sen. Albert Robinson of London chats after the breakfast with, from left,
Bath County Schools Community Education Director Kelly Wilson; Tatum Dale,
field representative for U.S. Rep. Andy Barr; and Bath County Property Valuation
Administrator Jacky Watson.

After rubbing elbows with local leaders at breakfast, lawmakers make brief remarks and then open the floor for questions. While this portion of the session is structured, Tackett said the informality is still maintained, because there is no moderator and lawmakers aren’t restricted to “a set amount of time” for answers or topics.
House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook greets a constituent at the Bath County Schools annual Legislative Breakfast.
“Anyone that has attended gets the opportunity to raise their hand and be called upon,” he said. “It’s not like you have to email the question in ahead of time. I think that’s why we’ve had such positive feedback.”

Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris, whose district includes Bath County, said she enjoys the opportunity to talk to a group of people. Though constituents come to Frankfort to meet one-on-one with their legislators, she said, “I think there’s something special about having a group. I think the conversation feeds off each other – what one person doesn’t think of, the other one does. And it just makes for a really good day to focus on education in the community.” 
 
House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook greets a 
constituent at the Bath County Schools annual Legislative Breakfast.

Kelly Wilson, the Bath County district’s community education director, said other legislators have told her they like the breakfast because in a single event, they can communicate with officials representing multiple counties and agencies. The legislative breakfast first began as a way to raise the profile of community education and grew from there, she said.

Razor, who also doesn’t hesitate to call and leave messages for area lawmakers during legislative sessions, said there’s no secret involved in being an advocate as a school board member. “I just think you have to be willing to just open your mouth and voice your opinion and tell them what you need,” she said. “I have found they’re very accommodating, they’re willing to listen. And I think the key is you just have to open your mouth and talk to them.”

A side benefit of the breakfast is that it gives the Bath County district an opportunity to show what its students can do: Pupils in the high school’s culinary arts program cook the meal and man the buffet station.
 
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