Board members bring critical skills to community ‘table’

January is a month for new beginnings and for celebrations.

One celebration that receives scant attention honors the often-unsung heroes of many a community.  January is School Board Recognition Month.

Divided into county districts, the current Nelson County Board of Education includes David Norman (First District), Diane Berry (Second District), Rebeka McGuire-Dye (Third District), Diane Breeding (Fourth District) and Damon Jackey (Fifth District). The job of board chair rotates annually among the members. The current chair is Diane Breeding.

The impact of a school board member is as huge as the qualifications for effective service are many.

Board members

Attorney Terry Geoghegan, right, administers the oath of office for Nelson County Board of Education members Damon Jackey, Rebeka McGuire-Dye and Diane Berry during the board’s work session, Jan. 5. This will be Jackey’s third term on the board, first for McGuire-Dye and second for Berry.

In Kentucky, serving on a local board of education essentially amounts to working as a volunteer in a position that has many demands and calls upon numerous attributes to fit the profile for effective service.

According to the Kentucky School Boards Association, the job profile for a school board member should include the following items: 

  • Be knowledgeable or willing to learn more about public education, the local district, student achievement, and board member roles and responsibilities.
  • Have the skills to analyze, collaborate, communicate and think critically.
  • Understand how to deal with the media and be willing to work with them.
  • Know how to work as a team: how to listen, agreeably disagree, manage change and solve problems.
  • Be creative, dependable, honest, humble, respectful, supportive, understanding and visionary.

When the board meets, each member brings his or her own unique background and set of skills to the table.

David Norman is a New Haven area native. A 1989 graduate of NCHS, he and his wife, Stephanie, have two children attending school in the Nelson County system. His school-related activities include service as a parent member of the district’s Local Planning Committee in 2014 and three years service on the Site-Based Decision-Making Council for New Haven School.  An equipment operator for Nelson County Fiscal Court, Norman likes to spend his spare time hunting and fishing and enjoying his family. He is in his first term and represents the board’s First District.

Diane Berry grew up in Nelson County and is a graduate of the county school system. She and husband, Ted, have two daughters, both of whom also grew up in the county school system. Among her school related activities, Berry has served as a Director at Large for the Kentucky School Boards Association and on the Advisory Board for TNHS. A grandmother, Berry has spent much of her working career in various accounting disciplines and worked in the Nelson County School System for 15 years. She currently serves on the Kentucky Department of Education’s Local School Board Members Advisory Council. Berry is in her second term and represents the board’s Second District.

Rebekah McGuire-Dye is a lifelong Nelson County resident. She has a daughter in first grade at Boston School. McGuire-Dye is an attorney and Vice President of Legal Operations for Equian, a multimillion-dollar insurance cost containment organization with over 1,400 employees. Her interest in the school board versus other forms of stewardship with the schools is the business aspect of the board. McGuire-Dye is in her first term and represents the board’s Third District.

Diane Breeding grew up in Prospect and attended Catholic schools. She and husband Michael (NCHS, ’83), have children, four of whom are Nelson County graduates. Breeding served on the PTO at Bloomfield Middle School, two years on the Site-Based Decision-Making Council at NCHS and as a parent member of the Local Planning Committee in 2014. Breeding is Human Resources Manager for Deco Paper Products in east Jefferson County. In her spare time, she enjoys running, working out, and in 2017 hopes to complete the eighth half-marathon. She is in her first term and represents the board’s Fourth District.

Damon Jackey grew up in Bardstown. He and his wife, Lori, have two children, one who is a graduate of the county school system and one who is currently attending. A former teacher, Jackey is an education technology consultant for the Kentucky Department of Education. He has served in several roles for the school system, including stints as a teacher and parent representative on Site-Based Decision-Making Councils in Fayette County and Bloomfield. He has also served as the board representative on the Local Planning Committee, a board member for the Nelson County Education Endowment Fund and Leadership Nelson County. Jackey is in his third term and represents the board’s Fifth District.

Board members spend many hours in meetings, attending school functions and going through “reams” of reports, agendas and proposals before they make hard decisions on policies, rules and operations necessary to the school system.

The board regularly meets twice a month: once for a “working session” for in-depth study and discussion of agenda items and then a second time a couple of weeks later to make final decisions.

Agendas span several specific categories, including efficient resource management, college and career readiness and student and shareholder engagement — all necessary for a school system that includes 11 schools nearly 5,000 students and hundreds of employees.

In January, the board approved a draft budget for next school year and change orders for two construction projects underway in the district. The board also considered next year’s staffing formula and school calendar and make-up days for the two snow days incurred this year.

All in all, a great school board member maintains a clear focus on what is best for all students while working as a team member to help our Nelson County Schools strive toward a clear vision for the future.