Voice Recognition

KSBA News Article

25 years of firsts: Schelling celebrates quarter-century serving school boards

Kerri Schelling

Kentucky School Advocate
February 2024

By Josh Shoulta
Staff writer

Industrial Organizational Psychology can be tough to explain to people outside the field.

“An oversimplified definition would be the psychology of work,” said KSBA Executive Director Kerri Schelling.

Someone with I/O psych expertise knows how to effectively assess, train and evaluate individuals for specific roles within an organization. That’s leveraging everything from skillset to personality type and leadership style. Generally, professionals with a master’s degree in this area – like Schelling – go in one of two directions: Human Resources or professional training/development. Fortunately for KSBA, and for thousands of past and present school board members, she chose the latter.

Schelling came to KSBA 25 years ago, in 1999, as a school safety specialist, training districts through a partnership with the Kentucky Center for School Safety. Those responsibilities soon grew to also include directing KSBA’s former student support service helping local school boards identify, prioritize and mobilize community resources to reduce barriers to learning. As a result, she encountered countless district personnel throughout the state by way of seminars and community conversations.

Schelling recalled one instance when she led a community input session while the school board listened and observed.

“Because the training I was providing was in the schools, I often saw the impact of a local board’s work,” she said. “I was, and still am, fascinated with school boards.”

In 2006, Schelling earned the opportunity to explore that fascination full time when she was appointed to oversee the association’s training and conference professional development services. Now, she would be able to flex her expertise in maximizing the leadership potential of school board members through state-mandated training. She dove in, headfirst.

“I was a bit of a disrupter because I’ve never been afraid to push the boundaries to make things better,” Schelling said. “I had a vision for what KSBA board training could be. When I first applied for the position, I submitted that vision and was fortunate to have a boss who believed I could make it happen.”

That ambitious plan included a reinvention of the association’s Academy of Studies program, standardization of training session curriculum, establishing a training cadre and a renewed emphasis on the importance of regional meetings. All were novel ideas at the time that are commonplace today, affirmed by increased member participation and overwhelming positive feedback.

During Schelling’s 11 years running point for Board Team Development, KSBA expanded its training offerings to include a growing number of emerging topics, streamlined the tabulation of board training hours and introduced online training modules. Under her leadership, the association successfully navigated 2014 legislation that, overnight, mandated minimum hours on the topics of Ethics, Finance and Superintendent Evaluation.

Photo from May 1999 Advocate

She was named KSBA’s associate executive director in 2016 and then executive director in 2017 – the same year she was awarded Association Executive of the Year by the Kentucky Society of Association Executives.In her tenure as the organization’s chief executive, she has worked closely with the board of directors to introduce best practices, including an annual self-evaluation process and board of directors handbook.

In 2021, Schelling joined her counterparts from 21 other states in establishing the Consortium of State School Boards Associations (COSSBA). She currently serves as a founding member on COSSBA’s board of directors.

When recognized for her achievements, a regular occurrence, Schelling is quick to share praise with others, citing a team effort and the many hands laid on a particular initiative. But it’s her strong positioning of that team, and the fostering of the talents of its members, where Schelling’s light has shined most brightly over the last 25 years.

“One of the most important responsibilities a leader has is to look for the potential in the people around them and nurture it – whether they recognize their greatness or not,” she said. “Providing others with opportunities for personal or professional growth is unquestionably the best thing I can do, both for their careers and to ensure the long-term relevance of KSBA. The fact that it also happens to be my favorite part of my job is just a bonus.”

Through the years at KSBA

Feb. 22, 1999 - Schelling joins KSBA as a school safety specialist.

2004 - Schelling named director of the association’s student support service.

2006 - Schelling named director of Board Team Development, overseeing KSBA’s member training and conference professional development.

2016 - Schelling named KSBA’s associate executive director.

Aug. 26, 2017 - Schelling named KSBA’s ninth executive director.

2021  - Schelling and her counterparts from 21 other state associations jointly launch the Consortium of State School Boards Associations (COSSBA). She is later named an inaugural member of the consortium’s board of directors.

2024 - Schelling celebrates 25th anniversary at KSBA

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