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New KSBA president seeks to build “a mighty voice” for children over next two years
Kentucky School Advocate
By Brad Hughes
David Webster’s route from his first day of elementary school to his first day as president of Kentucky’s largest organization of elected officials had a common theme – anxiety. In fact, he ran away from school to home that first day in the community of Hadley in Warren County. But caring people changed his feelings about school, and now he wants to continue to do the same for children across the state.
“Just as I did, all students have different needs and some special treatment is needed every so often. I think a lot of students leave schools feeling unnoticed and unloved,” said Webster, a 10-year member of the Simpson County Board of Education who assumed the KSBA presidency on Feb. 25. “We have to find a way to find that niche that our students need. That’s what we must do as board members. Every student has a unique way of learning.”
During remarks at the closing brunch of the 81st KSBA conference, Webster told of working with high school dropouts for the Southern Kentucky Community Action Agency, a multicounty agency based in Bowling Green. Webster encouraged revamping training programs from tasks like mowing parklands to teaching youth the skills involved in basic construction and home remodeling.
“You talk about project-based learning. That was project-based learning. They learned how to use a rule and a level, how to lay sheet rock and roofing materials,” he said. “But the most important thing was that we counseled these kids on a weekly basis and we had a 100 percent graduation rate from the GED class. That’s what was so fulfilling. These kids didn’t have a hope and had dropped out of school. But with a lot of caring and loving, they got it.”
Webster, now owner of an entertainment tent rental business in Franklin, said one of his goals during his two-year KSBA presidency will be to increase public understanding of the work of local boards.
“I want to look for a new way to create an instrument that will give a detailed description of the role of the school board, the difference with the SBDM councils. We get the same questions – ‘Well, what do you do?’ We’re going to create an instrument that will explain that,” he said.
But above all else, Webster challenged his listeners to become more effective advocates for children and their education.
“Most of all, we must remember that we are the voice of our communities in an increasingly changing and competitive education field,” he said. “Kentucky is changing. The whole atmosphere of public education is changing. We are the voice for 655,642 students, give or take, in Kentucky. We hire and employ 87,324 people – three times larger than the No. 1 listed employer in Kentucky – Wal-Mart.
“We have a mighty voice in public education. We need to speak out with every opportunity that we have for the children of our state to lift them up. We can move public education forward through collaboration, not through competition. We have to remove the competition by doing together what we cannot do alone,” Webster said.
And he pledged that he and KSBA will maintain that focus.
“I have grandchildren in three different school systems in Kentucky. But since I’ve been on the KSBA board, I’ve come to realize that all of the children in Kentucky schools are my grandchildren,” he said. “I’m conscious that enthusiasm is not enough. It takes expertise and that comes from you all. The many years of experience that you have. That’s what makes the school boards of Kentucky great.
“We are all given certain talents. When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single talent left and I could say to him, ‘I used everything you gave me.’
“Aspire to inspire before you expire.”
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