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New superintendents for the 2021-22 school year

Leader graphic

Kentucky School Advocate
August 2021

By Brenna R. Kelly
Staff writer

This school year, at least 21 of Kentucky’s 171 school districts will start the school year with new leaders at the helm. Some new superintendents had been in leadership at other Kentucky districts and some come from out of state. At least 13 are newly minted superintendents and three had been superintendents in another district. One superintendent is filling an interim role – his 13th time doing so.

Barbourville Independent Schools
The Barbourville Ind. school board has hired Dennis Messer, 23-year veteran educator, as the district’s superintendent. Messer had been the district’s middle school assistant principal and has worked as a special education teacher.

As he started his first day, Messer was excited to get things going, according to the Mountain Advocate. He praised his predecessor, retired Superintendent, Kay Dixon, stating that she left him in a good position to make an immediate impact, and helped him as much as possible.

“I'm excited to be here,” he said. “This is something I’ve dreamed about for a few years now. I’m very prepared. It has helped me to be even further prepared with all of the help I have received from Mrs. Dixon. She has worked with me and has been extremely helpful in this transition. I’ve been preparing for some months now. It’s been a learning process, but it’s also been extremely positive. The alumni, community, and staff have all been extremely receptive.”

Messer received bachelor’s degrees in history and criminal justice from Union College and a master’s in middle school education.

Bath County Schools  
The Bath County Board of Education has hired Steven Evans as superintendent. Evans is a 25-year educator who most recently was an education recovery leader at the Kentucky Department of Education. He has also served as a principal in Franklin and Madison counties and an assistant principal at Berea Independent. He was also a family resource center coordinator and district assessment coordinator at Madison County.

“I am grateful to the Bath County Board of Education for giving me the opportunity to serve the students, staff and community in this role,” he said. “I am excited to see all the great things we can accomplish for our district and our community.”

As superintendent, Evans said he plans to focus on building a positive culture and one of continuous improvement to provide a top-tier education for students. He also plans to upgrade facilities and provide students more opportunities to participate in clubs and organizations.

“Our district is full of wonderful people working hard to make the lives of others a success and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to work with them every day,” he said.

Evans earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and certifications for director of pupil personnel, instructional supervisor, principal and superintendent all from Eastern Kentucky University.

Fayette County Schools  
The Fayette County school board voted June 4 to hire Demetrus Liggins to be the district’s next superintendent.

“Overwhelmingly, we heard our community wanted someone who not only can connect with students, staff, and community partners, but also understands the value brought by these diverse perspectives,” said board chairman Tyler Murphy. “Our board is enthusiastic to find a candidate whose skills and experiences align so well with the superintendent candidate profile.”

Liggins had been superintendent of Greenville Independent School District, an urban district outside of Dallas, Texas, since 2016. During his time there, the district went from a “D” rating and fiscal challenges to "B" rating and a "Superior" rating for financial management from the Texas Education Agency.

Bilingual in English and Spanish, Liggins initiated a citywide literacy program called Rally Round Reading, which offers all children ages newborn to third grade high-quality online reading materials in both English and Spanish. In 2020, he was recognized as a “Superintendent to Watch” by the National School Public Relations Association.

“I am excited to get to work every day on behalf of staff, students, families, and the community, to make us a better place.”

Liggins received his bachelor’s in education and master’s degree in English from California State University, Fresno, and a Master of Education and superintendent certification from Stephen F. Austin State University. He received his Ph.D. in K-16 educational leadership and policy from the University of Texas-Arlington.

Hancock County Schools
Former Ohio County High School principal Robby Asberry is the new superintendent of Hancock County Schools. Asberry taught math and social studies at the high school level before moving into administration where he has worked for the past 13 years.

“It will be my goal to increase student achievement and opportunities for all Hancock County students,” Asberry said, according to the Hancock Clarion. “I look forward to Hancock County being the No. 1 district in the region.”

He was named Kentucky Secondary Schools Principal of The Year in 2021 by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators.

Board Chairman Allen Kennedy said areas of improvements made under Asberry’s watch at Ohio County High School are areas of concern for Hancock County High School. Ohio County has increased its college and career readiness scores and expanded vocational education offerings.

“He has done a wonderful job over there,” Kennedy said. “That was a real key for me; the experience he has had in those areas.”

Asberry earned his Bachelor’s in Education from Western Kentucky University. He also earned his Masters in Administration from Western. He earned his Superintendent Endorsement from the University of the Cumberlands.

“My emphasis will be on student safety, academic and transition readiness, school culture and school spirit,” Asberry said. “I believe effort, high expectations and school spirit are the biggest indicator of school success. This emphasis will increase student success and achievement.”

Henry County Schools  
Sonny Fentress will serve in the role of interim superintendent of Henry County Schools while the district works with the Kentucky School Boards Association and its superintendent search committee to hire a new superintendent.

Fentress served as superintendent of Anderson County schools for 20 years and has served as an interim superintendent in 12 schools districts since he retired in 2005.

“My primary objective as an interim superintendent is to keep the educational process for all students moving forward, and do that by working closely with the staff, principals and teachers,” Fentress said. “And also to make sure we’re following all the rules and regulations we’re supposed to.”

The board expects to name a new superintendent in mid-September with Fentress filling the role until a new hire is found.

Hopkins County Schools  
The Hopkins County school board chose district assistant superintendent Amy Smith as superintendent.

Smith has worked for the district for 26 years including as a principal, curriculum consultant and elementary school teacher.

“In keeping with our district’s mission statement to ‘unite as one team to learn and inspire,’ my goal will be to continue fostering an environment of building relationships with our faculty, staff, parents, and community members while pursuing excellence,” she said.

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Western Kentucky University, master’s degree in K-12 teacher leader and education specialist in instructional leadership, K-12 principal from University of the Cumberlands and superintendent endorsement from Murray State University.

She is a member of the Kentucky Women in Education Leadership cohort three and transportation facilitator for Green River Regional Educational Cooperative.

“She will bring a deep knowledge of Hopkins County Schools to her new role,” said Board Chairman John Osborne. “She has been assistant superintendent for the past two years and held various positions throughout the system prior to that. We look forward to working with Mrs. Smith and believe she will be able to help our district continue to progress as we move forward.”

Knott County Schools  
The Knott County school board voted in June to remove the word acting from Brent Hoover’s title. Hoover, who had been the district’s transportation director and building and grounds supervisor, was named acting superintendent in May after the death of longtime Superintendent Kim King.  

King died May 22 after a long battle with breast cancer.

“It is the greatest honor of my life to be presented with the opportunity to fill probably the largest set of shoes that has ever been vacated in the history of Knott County Schools,” Hoover said in a message on the district’s website.

Hoover has worked in Knott Co. central office for 12 years starting as the district’s technology director and instructional supervisor. He graduated from the district and began his teaching career at Emmalena Elementary. Hoover earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degrees in guidance and counseling, school principalship, and instruction supervision and his superintendent certification all from Morehead State University.

Hoover said he plans to provide all students with the opportunity to become college and or career ready when they leave the district.  

“My ultimate goal for students in Knott County Schools is to receive an education that gives them the confidence to go forward and pursue their dreams and be able to achieve any goal they set for themselves,” he said.

Knox County Schools  
The Knox County board of education selected the district’s middle school principal, Jeremy Ledford, as the district’s next superintendent.

In his time at Knox County Middle, Ledford moved the school into the top 10% of middle schools in the state with consecutive years of improving test scores. Ledford said he has the same goal for the district.

“My vision for KCPS is to become a top 10% performing school system in the state. I believe we have the best students, staff, teachers, board and community in the state,” he said. “I know our community is ready to move forward and focus on kids first and give our students the best opportunity for success.”

Prior to becoming principal, Ledford was a social studies teacher at the school. He earned his teaching degree in social studies at Union College and principalship at the University of the Cumberlands.

Board chairman Dr. Thomas Ashburn issued a collective statement from the board expressing confidence in their new superintendent.

“Mr. Ledford has a clear vision for the future where Knox County students rank among the top in the state. He shared ideas for continued academic improvement and opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and skills earned. We are excited to work along with him to make Knox County Public Schools the best,” the board said.

Livingston County Schools  
David Meinschein has come home – the 1989 Livingston Central High School graduate was hired by the Livington County school board as the district’s next superintendent.

Meinschein had been assistant superintendent of Ballard County Schools since 2015 and previously served as principal of Ballard Memorial High School. Meinschein has also served as an assistant principal, instructional coach and athletic director in Georgia.

“I’ve done a lot of different things. I was a military officer, I led in a startup company in San Jose that worked with broadband technology, I worked for a Fortune 500 company as a leader and then, I became an educator,” he said, according to the Paducah Sun.

Meinschein earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Murray State University in 1994, master’s in secondary science education from Piedmont College in 2004 and an educational specialist degree in leadership from Lincoln Memorial University in 2007. He earned his doctorate of education from Murray State in 2017.

“This was one of the most important decisions we face as a school board, and it was encouraging to see us working toward a common goal,” said Christine Thompson, board chairwoman. “We’ve been very honest with our new superintendent of the challenges we face as a district as well as the positive aspects he has to look forward to, such as our friendly and capable staff and our student-centered values.”

Marshall County Schools  
Marshall County school board has hired Steve Miracle as the district’s new superintendent. Miracle had been serving as Bullitt County High School principal and was previously superintendent of Trimble County Schools, where he was finalist for Superintendent of the Year. He has also taught at an alternative school, a middle school, served as a middle assistant principal, a middle school principal and is a Navy veteran.

“I’m extremely excited and ecstatic about being given the opportunity and the honor and the privilege to be in this position for your community and for your school system,” he said as he was introduced.

Miracle earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Kentucky State University and a masters from the University of Louisville. He earned a doctorate from the University of Louisville in March.

Miracle said he was excited to see the support and colors displayed for the school system while driving through the Marshall County community.

“That’s just an awesome thing,” he said.

Miracle said his vision is for Marshall County to be the best district in the state.

“We will realize this vision through creating a comprehensive learning environment that encompasses the academic, social and emotional needs of our students,” he said.

Scott County Schools  
The Scott County school board has hired one of their own to be the district’s next superintendent. Billy Parker had been assistant superintendent and is a graduate of Scott County Schools.

“We … know that he is the leader we need to move our district forward and maintain focus on the recovery efforts being implemented for our students,” said Diana Brooker, board chairwoman.

In addition to assistant superintendent of operations, Parker has also served as director of facilities and human resources and interim director of transportation.

“I am eager to continue to work hard for this district and make our community proud of our schools and the end product of our efforts, developing students who are responsible and productive citizens,” he said.

He also has experience outside the district, as a principal at both Elkhorn Elementary School in Franklin County and Kit Carson Elementary School in Madison County. He was also an assistant principal and an elementary school teacher in Franklin County Schools.

Parker earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s degree in instructional technology from Georgetown College and a master’s degree in instructional leadership from Eastern Kentucky University. He earned his superintendent certification from the University of the Cumberlands.

“As a graduate of Scott County Schools, it is an incredible honor to be given the opportunity to lead the school district that I love and of which I am a product myself,” Parker said.

Woodford County Schools  
The Woodford County board of education appointed Danny Adkins, who had been Floyd County superintendent, as the district’s new superintendent.

“We are confident that Mr. Adkins has the leadership skills and the experience necessary to lead Woodford Schools into the future. We are excited to welcome him to Woodford County,” said Dani Bradley, board chairwoman. “We would like to thank all of the community members and staff who provided feedback throughout the search process.”

Before becoming Floyd County superintendent in 2018, Adkins previously served as personnel director of Pike County Schools.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to work in such a great tradition rich district like Woodford County,” Adkins said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of the Woodford County community.”

Adkins has been an educator for more than 26 years and has served in varied roles including bus driver, coach and teacher. He began his teaching career in Pike County in 1995 and taught middle and high school for nearly 20 years. In 2014, he became principal of Kimper Elementary School in Pike County.

Adkins received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Morehead State University and received a master’s degree in instructional leadership at Union College. He received his superintendent certification from the University of the Cumberlands.

New superintendents previously featured in the Advocate include:
Jeremy Roach, Caldwell County
Brian Robinson, Fort Thomas Ind.
PaTrice Chambers, Fulton County
Jason Booher, Mercer County
Jason Radford, Oldham County
(*more new superintendents will be featured in the September Advocate)

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