New Executive Director

New Executive Director

Public service is in Schelling's blood
KSBA executive director wants to elevate what it means to be a school board member
 
Kentucky School Advocate
October 2017
 
By Matt McCarty
Staff writer

KSBA’s new executive director, Kerri Schelling, has a passion for helping school board members. It’s a passion that runs in the family.

“The first school board person I knew was my grandfather. I was very fortunate to grow up in a family that embodied what public service is about and, in some ways, maybe that’s where the seed for my interest in public service was planted,” she said.

Schelling’s grandfather served on the school board in Stafford, Kan.

“I understood from the time I was very young what it meant to work on behalf of others because I saw it demonstrated in many ways. I learned the value in doing things for the greater good, not because of any external reward but because it needed to be done. I think part of why I connect with our members so genuinely is because I understand why they do it, and not everybody does,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I know this is the job I’m meant to do.”
KSBA Executive Director Kerri Schelling speaks to members at a KSBA event. Schelling had been serving as KSBA’s interim executive director prior to being elevated to the executive director position in late August.

She is no stranger to the association. She began working for KSBA in February 1999 as the state training coordinator for the Kentucky Center for School Safety.

“It was in those first few years that I had the opportunity to work closely with board members and I came to truly appreciate the role of the school board,” Schelling recalled. “I realized that as outstanding as public schools and the people that work in them are, the people who govern a district are absolutely amazing and I knew that I wanted to focus all of my time on them.”
 
KSBA Executive Director Kerri Schelling speaks to members at a KSBA event. 

Schelling transitioned to the position of KSBA’s director of Student Support Services, where her focus was on the school board. She next became the association’s director of Board Team Development. She was promoted to associate executive director in 2016.

Schelling is only the eighth executive director in the 82-year history of KSBA and the first female in that role.

“I am the first executive director who was inside the association for as long as I was prior to being named,” she said. “And that gives me a unique perspective and an insight that you can’t get any other way. I understand KSBA at a very fundamental level because I know first-hand how all the pieces fit together.”

Future of KSBA
Schelling said one of her goals is to continue elevating what it means to be a school board member.

“I’ve always thought board members didn’t receive their due. I know of very few other people who work on behalf of public education that work as long and as hard for as little thanks and pay,” she said.

One way to do this, she said, is through an education campaign to help the general public understand more clearly what school board members do and their importance – as well as the limitations on their role.

“School board members are charged with some very high-level responsibilities and most members of the general public don’t understand that it really doesn’t extend down to the school level,” Schelling said. “The school board is there to provide governance for the entire district and that distinction can easily get lost.”
Info box Board members also can make a difference in advocacy as they are, collectively, the largest group of locally elected officials in the state, she noted. KSBA needs to help them “better understand how to leverage the power they have as elected officials and, quite frankly, elected officials who are more closely connected to their constituents than any other in the state,” she said. (See box at left.)

Schelling said she wants to make sure that KSBA as an association is always seen on the forefront of the conversation about public education. Increasing member ownership also is important to her.

“We need to make sure that our members clearly understand where we’re going and what we’re doing, how we’re helping them. They need to know that we are always here to listen to them and that it’s going to be a two-way dialogue,” she said.

KSBA is in the process of developing a comprehensive strategic plan to guide the association going forward.

“In order to stay relevant we have to have a more systematic plan that focuses on current needs and provides for flexibility in the future,” Schelling explained. “We have a responsibility to help our membership be more engaged with us in meaningful ways. We must take a long-term approach so that we can build the kind of association our members deserve; one that transcends any initiative, activity, mandate or change in staff. We have the opportunity to create a legacy for tomorrow’s school boards and I can’t wait to be part of that.”
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