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(Feb. 28, 2023) KSBA hosted its 2023 Annual Conference Feb. 24-26 at The Galt House Hotel in Louisville. An awards luncheon on Saturday, Feb. 25 served as a celebration of award-worthy education leaders and student scholarships.
Dr. Chandra Varia, a 21-year member of the Floyd County Board of Education, was named KSBA’s 2023 Kentucky School Board Member of the Year.
“Her service to children – and her passion for providing opportunities for those children, especially those in poverty, as well as her undying commitment to education – are why she should receive the award,” read Varia’s nomination.
While on the board, Varia has championed early childhood education and literacy initiatives. She has donated millions to support area students and their families, special programs, student scholarships, facility improvements, field trips, technology initiatives, healthcare, career pathways, etc. That includes scholarships for each of the more than 3,400 babies she delivered as a practicing OBGYN.
“But, of all the assets she gives,” said Varia’s nominator, “Her time is the most valuable, and she gives it to her students, staff, and families whenever she can. She has rarely ever missed a Board of Education meeting. She always takes part in discussions, and she genuinely cares about making a difference.”
Several members of Varia’s family and district staff were on hand to help accept the honor on her behalf. While Varia was overseas for a previously scheduled trip, she expressed gratitude and a call to action in a recorded video acceptance.
“Truly speaking, I never felt it is work,” Varia said. “I really, really enjoy to be a school board member. Taking care of children, fulfilling needs of every child, and taking care for the bright future from birth to adulthood. They give me happiness.”
KSBA’s Kentucky School Board Member of the Year award, established in 2022, recognizes significant contributions to public education through service on local school boards. The award is presented to an individual who, among other things exemplifies leadership best practices, passionately advocates for needs of the district, demonstrates the highest ethical standards and celebrates the values of public service. This year’s award was sponsored by American Fidelity Educational Services.
Franklin County alternative high school wins top district honors
KSBA’s top district honor, the Public Education Achieves in Kentucky Award, or PEAK Award, as it’s known, was established “to focus statewide attention on outstanding public school efforts in the Commonwealth and promote the positive impact public education has on students,” said KSBA Community Engagement and Creative Services Manager Matt McCarty.
The 2023 PEAK Award was presented to Franklin County Schools for its William Cofield High School, an alternative program created to prevent dropouts while increasing opportunities for students in need of non-traditional paths to graduation.
According to Franklin County school board member Natalie Lile, those opportunities have paid off in the form of student success.
“Since the time of its inception in 2018, 257 students have graduated from William Cofield High School that otherwise may not have graduated,” she said. “The district graduation rate has increased from the mid-80 percent range all the way to the 95 percent rang in the span of just four years.”
William Cofield High School is named after a longtime Franklin County school board member who served the district for more than 25 years. Cofield passed away in August of 2021.
The Franklin County Board of Education allocates roughly $285,000 for the program each year.
A local PEAK Award ceremony will be held Monday, April 10 at the Franklin County Board of Education. There will be a reception at 5 p.m. (ET) and the award presentation will take place during the scheduled 6 p.m. board meeting.
Thousands in college scholarships and CTE grants awarded to Kentucky students
The event also recognized Kentucky students who will receive financial support, made possible by KSBA and the KSBA Educational Foundation
Five high school seniors were each awarded $2,500 college scholarships. KSBA’s First Degree College Scholarship program provides aid to eligible high school seniors who will be in the first in their immediate families to complete a postsecondary degree program. To be eligible, students must meet minimum academic requirements.
All five recipients were honored on the conference stage. This year’s scholarship recipients included:
- Caleigh Craddock, Eminence Independent High School
- Dalton Stone, Boyle County High School
- Erica Sells, Butler County High School
- Austin Robbins of Bell County High School
- Thiago Pires, Frankfort High School
KSBA also acknowledged its 2023 Career and Technical Education (CTE) Student Grant recipients. 33 high school students from across Kentucky were each awarded $250 grants to help offset costs associated with the completion of industry certification.
“Whether that’s an assessment fee, supplies, uniforms, books, travel expenses, registration fees – you name it,” said Schelling. “Cost should not be a barrier for our students to pursue their dreams.”
KSBA’s 2023 First Degree College Scholarships were sponsored in part by American Fidelity Educational Services, Houchens Insurance Group Education and the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC). This year’s CTE Student Grants were sponsored in part by ABM and ESG.
Top superintendent administrative assistant honored
KSBA also announced the inaugural winner of a new award designed to honor the contributions of superintendents’ administrative assistants. The Kentucky Organization of Superintendents’ Administrative Assistants (KOSAA), facilitated by KSBA, named the winner of the first ever “KOSAA KUP”
“That’s KUP with a ‘K’ which stands for knowledge, understanding and passion,” said KSBA Director of Policy and eMeeting Services Katrina Kinman. “The KUP honors the exemplary service of KOSAA members and celebrates their significant contributions to public education through service in their district.”
This year’s honoree was Stephanie Spence of Barren County who has served as administrative assistant to the superintendent for 22 years.