Paducah Ind. chairman honored at KSBA Annual Conference
Kentucky School Advocate
By Brenna R. Kelly
When the Paducah Ind. Schools board secretary asked Dr. Carl LeBuhn to arrive a bit early for a board meeting to say a few words on a KSBA video call about training, the board chairman didn’t think much of it.
“And then when I got there, I was kind of a little bit shocked or surprised when it was actually an indication from the folks that were on that Zoom call about this award,” he said.
LeBuhn had been named the 2022 Kentucky School Board Member of the Year by KSBA, an award created in 2021 to honor the exemplary service of Kentucky’s locally elected school board members and to celebrate the critical roles school boards play in the advancement of public education in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
The 2022 Kentucky School Board Member of the Year Award was sponsored by American Fidelity Educational Services.
“I was really humbled by it,” said LeBuhn, who has served on Paducah’s board for 16 years. “When you assess your board service, you feel that you’re happy with some of the things you’ve done, or how you tried to handle things, and that there are always things where you hope you can do better.”
As they celebrated after the call, Board Secretary Lisa Chappell apologized for her ruse – but it was likely not needed. After all, Chappell nominated LeBuhn for the award.‘He has gone over and above’
Dr. Carl LeBuhn (center) was named the first winner of KSBA’s Kentucky School Board Member of the Year Award during the 2022 Annual Conference. Jessica Riddle executive account manager for American Fidelity Educational Services, and Kate Mathis, state manager for American Fidelity Educational Services, presented the award along with KSBA President Davonna Page and KSBA Executive Director Kerri Schelling.
When she learned about the new board member award, Chappell didn’t hesitate.“I thought of all people, it should be our board chair, Dr. LeBuhn,” she said. “It hit me that there are no other boards of education that had an infectious disease physician serving for them during a pandemic.”
LeBuhn is a physician with a private practice, where he and another doctor consult on infectious disease cases for Paducah’s two hospitals, see outpatients for infectious diseases and take care of patients with HIV/AIDS.
So when COVID-19 arrived in Kentucky, LeBuhn was called upon by hospitals to consult on their COVID response and to help treat patients. It would have been understandable if LeBuhn had less time for the school board business.
In addition to providing guidance on the overall COVID-19 response, LeBuhn was also helpful to the district when a central office employee died from COVID-19 this past summer.
“He was so helpful to me personally dealing with that because she was a good friend,” Chappell said. “You don’t expect that to be part of your work life; to say goodbye to somebody at 4 p.m. when you leave and never see them again. It was good to know I had his expert and heartfelt concerns and that we could reach out to him.”Interest in public education
When he was appointed to the Paducah board 16 years ago, LeBuhn could never have known how his career and board service would one day intersect.
LeBuhn and his wife, Polly, who is also a physician, moved to her hometown of Paducah in 2000 and he quickly found himself part of the Paduach Independent family where his wife had attended school. Even though the couple did not yet have children, LeBuhn already knew.
“I just loved our school district,” he said. “What I saw was that the diversity of the district was fantastic, and it remains that way.”
Carl LeBuhn awards a diploma to his son, Ben, during the district’s 2021 graduation ceremony. (Provided by Paducah Ind.)
Unlike the high school LeBuhn had attended, where he felt students were pigeon-holed into one thing – be it drama, athletics or band – he saw that students in Paducah schools were able to engage in multiple opportunities.He also wanted to get involved in his new community.
“I didn’t get into this because my kids were going to be in the school system, that wasn’t the rationale,” he said. “My interest was in public education.”
The first time LeBuhn ran for the board, he lost, coming in fourth in the
at-large race for three open seats.
So, when a member resigned a short time later, LeBuhn said yes to the chance to serve. He has retained his seat in each subsequent election.
His son, who was 3 years old when he first ran for school board, has now graduated from the district. His oldest daughter will graduate this spring and his younger daughter is completing 8th grade.
During his tenure, LeBuhn has been a frequent visitor to the schools, volunteering at everything from spring sports days to reading to students for Dr. Suess week to serving on the Governor’s Scholars selection committee.
In addition to advising the district on the health impacts of COVID-19, LeBuhn has also kept the district focused on the impacts COVID-19 has had on academic achievement, helping students recover any learning loss, Chappell wrote in her nomination.
“As the extreme demands during a pandemic wears us all down, Dr. LeBuhn is a strong leader when adversity hits,” Chappell wrote. “We can count on Dr. LeBuhn no matter the situation to bolster confidence in our team and remain focused on students.”Part of a team
Paducah Ind. Schools board team (from left): Felix Akojie, Superintendent Donald Shively, Janice Howard, Carl LeBuhn, Mary Hunter Hancock and James Hudson.
But LeBuhn deserved the award for reasons beyond his help with COVID-19, said Chappell, who has been board secretary for most of his tenure.
“Dr. LeBuhn brings insight, professionalism, and a constant focus on academic excellence,” she wrote. “He stops to speak to every employee (classified or certified) and sincerely asks how the board can assist them. He collaborates with many, listens to all, and ensures that he and the board have enough accurate information before making any decision or recommendation.”
LeBuhn often stops by the board office which is on his way as he travels between the city’s two hospitals. And if he doesn’t come in, he checks in daily with Chappell.
“He’ll say, ‘Tell me something good and something bad’ and hope there’s nothing bad,” she said. “I can be truthful with him and tell him what he needs to know, not just what he wants to hear.”
In his 16 years of service, LeBuhn has only missed two or three meetings. He was elected vice chairman in 2008 and chairman in 2014, a role he has held ever since.
During his time on the board, LeBuhn has encouraged the hiring of minorities in the diverse district and asked the administration to regularly report recruitment efforts to the board.
“Dr. LeBuhn feels that the board should strive for fairness and excellence in our administrators, teachers and our hiring practices. He thoroughly investigates problems or concerns brought before the board and is in frequent conversation with our superintendent,” Chappell wrote.
He has also made sure the district focuses on equity, including guiding the board to create an equity adviser council and to undergo a district equity audit.
Before a board meeting, LeBuhn was surprised with the award on a video call with (top row) Rebecca Combs, of American Fidelity, KSBA Director of Communications Josh Shoulta, Paducah Ind. board secretary Lisa Chappell, (bottom row) KSBA Executive Director Kerri Schelling and KSBA President Davonna Page.
In 2021, the board approved three new positions focusing on equity and approved a pilot program to provide sourcing and recruitment in seeking diverse instructors.LeBuhn is quick to point out that recognition of his work, is really the work of the full board and the district staff.
“Even though the board is leading, really the district and the administrators and the people in the schools are the experts,” he said. “So an award like this, I sort of feel like is more deserving of not just the other board members but the people in our district, because they are the ones that know the literature, they know the programs, they are coming up with those strategic plans that are making a difference.”
As he accepted the award on stage at KSBA’s Annual Conference in February, LeBuhn turned the attention to his fellow board members, the superintendent and assistant superintendent.
“I may have the opportunity to lead the meetings, but it is the combined years of board service, life experiences, collective wisdom, and dedication of these board members that is the compass directing our district,” he said. “Serving our community with an unbelievably talented board team has been a true privilege.”
He also shared a story that embodies the spirit of Paducah Ind. Schools. At a high school basketball game, one of the players left the team for a moment to stand with the school’s diverse choir to sing the National Anthem. LeBuhn’s son, a football player, played saxophone in the pep band.
“Our students laughed, cheered, smiled, and clearly enjoyed a special camaraderie with each other. I watched as the opposing fans were captivated by the enthusiasm and musical talents of our students as much as they were the competitive and respectful basketball game,” he said. “I honestly cannot remember who won the game, but our students clearly won the evening.”