By Tom Blankenship
In my opinion, strong, committed and responsible leadership is essential to the growth and success of any organization. During my tenure on KSBA’s Board of Directors, I have witnessed examples of this type of leadership.
Recently, I initiated a personal project in which I hope to secure photographs of all those individuals who had offered their leadership as president of the Kentucky School Boards Association, as I felt that a display of these photographs would be an appropriate way in which to recognize them and acknowledge their contribution to our organization as well as to the betterment of public education in Kentucky.
Since our association dates to 1936, I realized this would be a rather daunting task, but felt that with the assistance of interested individuals and a positive response from the public, this task could be brought to fruition. It would be a personal pleasure to see all the individuals who came before me and the leadership they displayed to be honored in a fitting way.
Looking back, I soon realized that as part of our association’s heritage, 41 individuals have led this association. This makeup consists of 37 men and four women. The association was first led by the capable Dr. W.D. Nicholls from Lexington. The first female president was Mary Cohron from Bowling Green Independent, with whom I had the pleasure of working some time ago. Cohron recently commented, “It was a tremendous honor to be the first woman president of KSBA; however, with all of the honors, there comes responsibility. I knew if other women were going to follow me in that position I had to do an exceptional job. I am proud that there have been many outstanding women to head KSBA over the past 20-plus years since I was president and I am thankful for all the wonderful men and women who supported us.”
The other female presidents have been Margie Bradford (1993-95) from Bardstown Independent, Anna Dean Hammond (1995-97) from Caldwell County, and Brenda Jackson (2005-07) representing Shelby County. Bradford and Jackson are continuing their noteworthy board service at the present time.
We have had two minority presidents, the first being John Smith (1997-99) from Henry County, who recently retired after a long and exceptional service as a board member, as well as the aforementioned Jackson. KSBA Associate Executive Director David Baird recalls, “I met John Smith in 1980 when he was a school board member in Henry County and I was a principal (and later superintendent) in Eminence Independent. John quickly became my friend and trusted confidant because he has a passion for helping children no matter who they are or where they attended school. We often met for candid conversations regarding how best we could help impact our community as well as the schools we represented. I cherish his wisdom, humility and infectious laugh and smile. He made us all just a little bit better.”
It can safely be said that most professions have been represented by the individuals who have led this association. We have had educators, lawyers, doctors, business people, farmers and more to represent us. Eight of the 41 individuals have held a doctoral degree – whether medical or academic. One of these was the late Warren Proudfoot (1987-89) from Rowan County, the namesake of our outstanding board member award.
The leaders of this association have represented 34 different school systems – 19 county systems and 15 independents.
KSBA leadership also encompasses the six individuals who have served as executive director of KSBA, beginning with Dr. Leonard Meece in 1937. He was succeeded in 1958 by Barton Fiser, who served for four years.
Maurice Bement then took the helm until 1977, followed by James Melton, who served the association until 1981.
The longest-serving executive director, Dr. David Keller, came on board in 1981 and served 24 years until he retired in 2005, succeeded by current Executive Director Bill Scott.
Finally, school board members in Kentucky should consider that the association has been fortunate to have had many dedicated individuals serve on the board of directors. They, too, have represented practically all professions, geographic areas, gender and ethnicity, as well as both county and independent districts. These individuals have given up considerable time and effort to represent their fellow board members and have become part of the heritage of our association. We can appreciate the time and commitment they provide to KSBA.
Always remember that indeed anyone who serves in a leadership position represents you. Consider them available for any suggestion, complaint, or inquiry you may have.
— Blankenship is vice-chairman of the Lincoln County school board