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Boone County Supt. Randy Poe receives outstanding superintendent award from Ky School Boards Assn.

Boone County Superintendent Randy Poe received the 2015 F.L. Dupree Outstanding Superintendent Award from the Kentucky School Boards Association at its annual conference at the Galt House in Louisville over the weekend.

The award is named for the late F.L. Dupree, a London Independent school board member and public education advocate. The winner is chosen from nominees who demonstrate a high level of accomplishment in the areas of: (1) effective
educational programs; (2) school finance; (3) student relations; (4) staff relations; (5) community relations; (6) leadership; and (7) other effective practices of school administration.

Randy Poe accepts Dupree Award.

Randy Poe accepts Dupree Award.

Poe became superintendent of Boone County Schools in July of 2008 after serving six years as Deputy Superintendent. The system serves nearly 20,000 students.

He has been a teacher, a coach, an assistant principal, a principal, executive director and assistant and deputy superintendent.

His latest award is another of many: Kentucky Association of School Administrators 2013 Kentucky Superintendent of the Year, 2012 Outstanding NKU Alumnus of the College of Education and Human Services, Northern Kentucky Education Council One to One Literacy award in 2011, the Boone County Jaycees’ Outstanding Young Leader of Boone County in 1999, and more.

His passion for education may have started early in life when a teacher made a profound difference in his future, according to the nomination submitted for the award.

Karen Cheser, now Boone County’s deputy superintendent, related a story she heard Poe tell during an instructional strategies meeting she attended while working in a neighboring school district.

“…Randy talked about his own life as a struggling reader, how a teacher had found what would work for him in the seventh grade so he could finally read, how an intervention system that Boone County had used had finally helped his own child to read, and how it was our duty and calling to get every child reading on grade level,” she wrote in her nomination of Poe. “I was sold! From that point on, I wanted to be a part of this team; a team that had someone so passionately rooting for every child at its helm.”

During his tenure, Poe’s focus has been on getting students college and career ready while keeping the district fiscally healthy despite the tough economic times. To address those fiscal issues, Poe helped create the Northern Kentucky Education Team, which strives to educate the community about financial issues. In their nomination, district officials said he helped mobilize the community, business leaders, educators and political representatives to send a strong message across the state about the ramifications reduced funds will have on students, the community and its economic well being.

To keep district expenses as low as possible and focused in the most effective areas, Poe has worked with the American Productivity and Quality Center to review district processes to identify those that can be more effective and efficient. Through this work, the district has addressed five areas – fixed assets, position control, maintenance, special transportation and preschool intake procedures – and saved thousands of dollars this school year.

Poe was also lauded by his district for his focus on the customer – its students. He developed the Student Advisory Council, which draws members from Boone County’s 24 schools. It meets monthly to provide feedback, helps those students learn leadership skills, and involves them in projects such as book drives and anti-bullying campaigns.

Staff relations have received his attention in creating of the Teaching and Learning Committee structure. Calling it a vehicle for adaptive change, district officials in their nomination of Poe said “Any discussion of district initiatives, new programs, systemic reform, all goes through this committee first … this committee ensures that every group is represented and that everyone has the same information from the beginning of implementation.”

Students at risk for falling through the cracks have been helped with the creation of 30-60-90 day plans at highly transient, high-poverty schools where students weren’t achieving at grade level. “From these plans came mentoring programs, a focus on research-based instructional strategies and a strong emphasis on positive behavioral intervention strategies,” the nomination said.

Poe challenged faculty and staff to come up with plans to get these students back on track. That led to the creation of an extended day that increased the school day by three hours. In order to make that happen, Poe had to convince the board of education to fund to program. The district’s nomination said the program has been successful, with students making large gains in math and reading, and with continuation of the program, the elimination of most gaps.

School board member Karen Byrd, who has worked with Poe for many of her 20 years on Boone’s board, said he is the kind of leader willing to roll up his sleeves and work side by side with his staff to make sure students’ educational needs are being met. Byrd said because of that type of leadership she was initially sad to see him leave his job as a principal to join the central office staff, but knew the district as a whole would benefit from his skill set.

“And he did prove me right that we did need his type of tireless devotion to students and learning at the district level,” she wrote. “Any situation he encountered was met with the question of, ‘How does/can this impact students in the best way?’ His relentless pursuit of higher, more rigorous standards and means of operations was part of the reason he was unanimously selected to be superintendent of Boone County Schools.”

Byrd said with all of the negative attention focused on public education, it needs a champion like Poe to tell success stories that otherwise are not heard.

“He has a true heart for children and their educational futures,” she said. “He expects excellence in all aspects because he is willing to give that same level of effort himself.”

In January, the Kentucky Teacher, published by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) included this spotlight about Poe:

With Superintendent Randy Poe’s leadership, the Boone County school district is in the top echelon nationally for college-, career- and life-readiness. This is in spite of being the third-largest school district in the state, with large numbers of students with high needs, including 2,300 students with disabilities, 1,200 students who are English Language Learners and 40 percent of students who live in poverty.

In 2006, Poe led a district Harvard ExCEL leadership team, creating a Teaching and Learning Committee structure made up of board and cabinet members, principal representatives and the president of the teachers’ association. This effort has resulted in extensive participation, input, communication and a strong commitment to a shared vision throughout the district.

In 2009, the district’s leadership established the expectation that all students would score in the 24-27 college-readiness range on the ACT. To meet this goal, a cluster school structure for developing instructional strategies from preschool through high school graduation provided the support needed to schools. This helped everyone understand their roles in making sure that every student meets this goal, and that it is imperative that every child is career- and college-ready so students will have every opportunity available to them when – not if – they graduate.

To achieve student success, district and school personnel are pushed and encouraged to take risks, work at the cutting edge and look for innovative ways to help students achieve 21st-century skills.

Poe sets high expectations and then empowers staff to find creative ways to meet these expectations. The staff is continuously pushed to dream, which allows them the autonomy to find the best way to make great things happen for students. The district also keeps a relentless focus on doing whatever it takes for children, and holds everyone accountable for all of its students’ progress.

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