Voice Recognition

KSBA News Article

Beyond the Board

Mitch Ryan

Mitch Ryan, Calloway County Schools

Kentucky School Advocate
February 2024

Q. What made you want to serve on the school board?

I’ve been involved with the district for years. My kids are in school here; I have coached sports and my family has a history in education. My great grandfather was a superintendent in our neighboring school district and there have been educators on both sides of my family, including my grandfather, who was a Murray State professor and an assistant principal at my middle school. I work in our justice system, and I find that it and our education system both reach all corners of society and bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t be together. You’re always making policies and decisions, trying to balance interests that aren’t necessarily aligned.

Q. You lead a program called Season’s Readings, which donates books to Calloway County Schools and Murray Independent Schools. Tell us about the program.

I was volunteering at an elementary school, doing sight words with kids when the teacher handed out Scholastic book order forms. I saw how the kids lost their minds with joy. The teacher agreed it was amazing but said it was also sad because not all kids got books.

So, I gave $10 per child and ordered books that went with a math lesson. While the kids were at recess, we put the books on their desks. I did a video of their reaction when they found them. My wife and I decided to continue donating books, so we formed a nonprofit and became a Literacy Initiative Partner with Scholastic. For six years we have given books to students in every kindergarten class in Callaway County. We give each child $10 to spend on books in the Scholastic catalog each fall. We have local groups like firefighters, police officers and sports teams hand out the books. Depending on how well the kids shop, they can get eight or nine books with the $10. We also get bonus books from Scholastic and use those to make sure every student gets at least five books.

Q. You also teach 5th graders about the legal system?

I do a mock jury trial with them. It’s about a bank robbery. The kids start out just scared to death. By the end, you see their minds turning when they are together as a jury, discussing the evidence and the fate of their classmate. It can be comical but it is also intellectually fascinating.

Q. Your community service goes beyond the schools and beyond education. In what way?

We’re on hiatus right now, but I have had a book club called Chapters for Change at the jail. I choose the books and we donate them to the jail. Our discussions get raw and real, and there are sometimes tears. We’ve done several Malcolm Gladwell books that focus on thinking outside the box. One of my favorites for this group of men is “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who are retired Navy Seals. That book has probably had the most impact in my life.

Q. Is there something going on right now in the district that you’re particularly excited about?

We learned a lot through Covid and, as we look back, we see that in times of adversity, weaknesses show. Day-to-day issues in a district can be overwhelming as you run from one dumpster fire to the other and never make any progress. It’s hard to step back and look at the long term. So we are developing a long-term strategic plan, working with Studer Education. It’s unlike just about anything I’ve ever seen. We’ve got a ton of data and feedback from community stakeholders, from students and staff to parents and business leaders. It will help us prepare because there will be other problems in the future. Maybe not a pandemic, but there’ll be something.

Getting to know

Profession: Lawyer in private practice for 16 years in Murray

Hometown: Murray

Family: Wife, Ashley; children, Kinzleigh and Emery

Favorite subject in school: Math

Hobbies: Hunting, my kids, riding our quarterhorses. We rodeo. I just broke a horse for the first time.

Book recommendation: My favorite book is the last book I read. I think every book has something of value. The first book I vividly remember moving me is “Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd.” In it, Byrd, an NFL player who broke his neck, writes about becoming successful, having every single thing taken away and then building back success in life.

Interesting fact: I have several goals: I want to go to the moon – it’s mainly about getting a better perspective on life by minimizing myself and my problems. And I want to own a horse that runs in the Kentucky Derby. In my day-to-day though, I find that what people find most interesting about me is that I’m on the school board. They stop in their tracks and say, ‘Wow, tell me about that.’ They want to know more about why I do it and what it involves.

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