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Beyond the Board

Beyond the Board

Rebekah Branscum, Pulaski County Schools

Kentucky School Advocate
August 2022

Q. You ran for school board for the first time in 2016. Why did you want to become a board member?    

A. 
I had worked with the PTO and had served as president. It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed being involved, learning more about what was going on in the school, getting to know people who worked there and seeing behind the scenes. Our superintendent had a board member reach out to me about serving; I initially said no, but he was persistent. I have a hard time saying no. He said, “I promise you it won’t be near as much work as PTO.’ [She laughs].    

Q. What has surprised you about being a board member that you didn’t know before you began serving?

A.
It was different than what I expected. I think a lot of people have a misconception about what the school board does. I thought the board dealt with more day-to-day things, and I wasn’t aware of where our decisions end and the superintendents’ and principals’ begin. A lot of people who contact me think the board has more jurisdiction than it does. Sometimes I get frustrated because of the red tape involved because it’s a government entity.

Q. Can you tell us about something that your district has accomplished during your service that makes you proud to be a board member?

A.
We have gotten ESSER funding to build two health and wellness centers on the campuses of two middle schools. Each will have a full court auxiliary gym for games, practices and tournaments as well as mobile seating and a stage for performances. There is a need in our county for more indoor practice space and a performance stage. Each center will have an elevated walking track and a full fitness center open to all of the district’s students and staff. There will be health offices our nurses can use for vaccination clinics and school physicals.

Q. In your job as a dentist, you interact with the public more than many people. Do patients ever bring up school district issues and, if so, how do you separate constituent work and your job?

A.
They do. I don’t advertise that I’m on the board, but more people are more aware now of who their board members are. Of the five board members, three of us have kids in K-12 so it makes you more accessible since you’re at sporting and school events. I even have patients who are district employees and will ask me questions. Sometimes it puts you in a difficult situation. In dentistry, we always say you don’t ever have to ask somebody about anything, for some reason when they get in that chair they tell everything. They don’t hold back, so I am used to hearing everything in the world.  

Q. This year, about half of the school board seats in the state are up for election. Now that you are in your second term, do you have any words of wisdom for new board members elected in November?

A
. First of all, realize there is going to be so much you don’t know, so use your central office administrative staff and ask questions. All the acronyms can make your head spin, so speak up. When people come with a complaint or problem, listen. Don’t be quick to jump to one side or the other, and if you don’t know how to handle a question say, ‘Let me look into this and see what we can do.’ You don’t want to fuel those fires, but instead do your best to calm the situation. Right now, with the climate we are in, people are looking to complain, to be mad about something, so calm that down by being more of a listener than a talker. You will get further.

Getting to know

Hometown: Nancy  

Profession: Dentist with my own practice in Nancy since 2006.    

Family: Husband, Neal; son Ryder, 15; daughter Kat, 13.

Favorite subject in school: History    

Hobbies: We raise beef cattle, mainly Chiangus, and our daughter shows them so we attend livestock shows and competitions; flower gardening; attending music festivals and concerts with the family, most recently the Rolling Stones in Nashville.

Book recommendation: “Creeker” by Linda Scott DeRosier. It’s a great story of growing up in Appalachia by an Eastern Kentucky native.

Interesting fact: I help out with the cattle, giving vaccines and helping pull calves if there’s a problem during delivery. At one dental school reunion, I told someone, ‘I pull calves and I pull teeth.’ Also, my dental practice is in a remodeled farmhouse that my great-great aunt and uncle owned. They were the second owners. During the Civil War, the house was used by Union troops during the Battle of Mill Springs.

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