Karen Byrd, Boone County Schools
Kentucky School Advocate
Q. You have been on the Boone County board for 28 years. Why have you chosen to continue to serve?
A. My desire to serve and contribute to keeping our district world class hasn’t wavered just because my children are no longer in school. The need to give voice to those who might not have one is still there, and I enjoy serving as much as I did when I started. There is much work to be done, and as long as I have the drive and passion, I want to continue.
There was a time toward the end of my third term when I thought I might step away. One of my youngest son’s high school friends had heard and asked me, ‘But who is going to care about us?’ That did it.
Q. What has been the biggest change in board service during the 28 years you have served?
A. I think the impact of national issues trickling down to the local level. Usually, our work has centered on our school district and what was going on from the state level down. Now the national discourse and misinformation on issues trickles down and colors the perspective. It’s as if people think things they see and hear about happening 3,000 miles away must be going on here too, and it is not.
Q. Your career is in finance. Does that experience help you with financial decisions in your district?
A. It has been a big support. I was a dental hygienist but when we moved to northern Kentucky and I wasn’t licensed, I started working in a dental practice business office and then as the church financial secretary. I found a new love for numbers and order. I went to work for Fidelity Investments and got my license as an equity trader. So on finance issues, for example, like municipal bonds, I understand how bonds work, the requirements and, most important, what you don’t do. I know the right questions to ask.
Q. In your 20th year of board service, the city of Florence and Boone County declared Oct. 9 as “Karen Byrd Day.” How did it feel to be recognized?
A. I was totally embarrassed. I am just a mom who believes in public education. I haven’t done anything fantastic. Every January during School Board Recognition Month I say, ‘That [recognition] is not what I am here for.” But as school board members, we do get criticized so I did appreciate the community and city leaders for acknowledging and honoring my service.
Q. This month you become KSBA president. You’ve also served on the board of directors. Why did you want to get involved in KSBA leadership?
A. As a local board member, I attend conferences and work sessions and I have learned a lot from board members from across the state. I looked up to them. I thought maybe, when the time is right, I can get involved at the state level. Now, here I am. The doors opened at the right time, but I don’t do anything without praying about it. Serving on the KSBA board is one thing, but becoming president requires a six-year commitment with two years as president-elect and two as past president.
Q. What do you hope to accomplish during your two-year term as president?
A. I’m all about collaboration; it is not the ‘me’ show. I will be interested in what the board as a whole thinks our direction should be. I want to do whatever it takes to keep the association moving forward and keep boards as the local authority for community schools. School boards should be nonpartisan. We don’t need to be political; we need to focus on kids and education. Politics has no place in education. Doing right for students is what drives education.
Getting to know
Profession: Johnson Investment Counsel, client support assistant in Wealth Management Services
Hometown: Born in Knoxville, grew up in Johnson City, Tenn., resident of northern Kentucky since 1986
Family: Son Eric, son Adam and his wife Amy and their children Malinda and Francis.
Favorite subject: History and American government
Hobbies: Reading and traveling
Book recommendation: “Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions” by John P. Kotter and Holger Rathberger and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. Both are quick, easy reads and their messages have stayed with me. I read “The Five Dysfunctions” on a cross-country flight.
Interesting fact: I love rock music and concerts. The Eagles have been my No. 1 group since I heard their first single in 1972. I have almost everything they have recorded, most in vinyl, including their first album, and I wouldn’t take anything for it.