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Covington Education Hall of Honors celebration recognizes diverse group of alumni, supporters

A police officer, an inventor, a publisher, an advocate and educators will be honored Wednesday during the Covington Education Foundation’s Hall of Honors celebration.

The Hall of Honors combines the Holmes High School Hall of Distinction and the Covington Education Foundation’s Person of the Year.

The event is designed to honor alumni and celebrate supporters of the school – all while raising funds to support the foundation’s efforts to help students succeed by providing scholarships, paying college fees and assisting with the district’s mentoring program.

This year’s honorees include – Polly Lusk Page, 2019 Covington Education Foundation Person of the Year.

Polly Lusk Page has worked in education for 46 years, ending her long and stellar career when she retired in June as the executive director of the Northern Kentucky Education Council.


“Ms. Page’s leadership developing the One to One: Practicing Reading and Math with Students program imprints her legacy in Covington Independent Public Schools,’’ said Todd Duesing, president of the Covington Education Foundation. “Her support for critical resources for the students of Covington from cradle to career is the type of inclusive leadership we find commendable in selecting our person of the year.’’

Page has been responsible for advancing the vision and strategic direction of the Northern Kentucky Education Council and has extensive experience in education, community engagement and building community partnerships.

During her tenure with the council more than 3,000 children have been coached through the One to One Reading and Math Program and more than 7,000 books were donated to schools through One to One to create home libraries for children.

The Hall of Distinction was established in 2000 to honor distinguished graduates and/or friends of Covington Schools for their achievements and contributions to society.

Hall of Distinction Inductees

Joyce Dettor Baker


Baker is a 1971 graduate of Holmes who went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Kentucky University and later a Master’s in Education at Northern Kentucky University.

After graduating from Eastern she was hired by Covington Schools in 1975 as a physical education teacher. She received numerous awards for teaching before retiring in 2011.

Baker served a four-year term on the Covington Board of Education. She has been a member of the Covington Education Foundation board since 2009.

One of her most prestigious roles began in September, when she was installed as the Worthy Grand Matron for the Kentucky Jurisdiction of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Jacob (Jake) Counts


Counts is a 1997 graduate of Holmes High School. After Holmes, Counts went to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played wheelchair basketball while earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation and Human Performance.

He then played professionally in Germany and Italy and also was selected to become a member of U.S. national teams that played all over the world.

Counts started playing wheelchair basketball with the Cincinnati Slammers in 1999, six years after he lost his legs when he and some friends tried to hop aboard a moving train on their way home after classes at Holmes.

Counts is the founder of the Cincinnati Dragons, a wheelchair team for kids 5-18. Five years ago he founded the Greater Cincinnati Adapted Sports Club, which promotes adapted sports for children and adults who have a disability

Dr. Jeff Smith

Dr. Smith

Dr. Smith graduated from Holmes High School in 1991. He is one of the true pioneers in the genome editing industry and made some of the key observations that led to the first successful engineered editing nucleases. He is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Precision Biosciences.

Dr. Smith received his graduate degree from Johns Hopkins while developing and characterizing custom nucleases for genome engineering. Continuing his work in protein engineering at Duke University, Dr. Smith helped create the foundation for the ARCUS platform. He is an inventor on more than twenty-five foundational, issued patents involving the production and use of genome editing tools.

Dr. Fred Waddell

Dr. Waddell

Dr. Waddell graduated from Holmes High School in 1954. After Holmes, Dr. Waddell earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Kentucky, his Masters Degree from Kansas State and his PhD from Virginia Tech. He worked for the CIA.

After holding one of the top jobs with a credit-counseling agency in Michigan, he started his own consulting firm. He is a celebrated publisher who also trained thousands of financial counselors. Dr. Waddell also worked for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), where he was the National Coordinator for Consumer Programs.

This proud Bulldog also is a retired professor from Auburn University

Holmes Outstanding Young Alumnus Award

Dr. DeAris Vontae Hoard

Dr. Hoard

After graduating from Holmes in 2009, Dr. Hoard studied at the University of Louisville, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and then earned a Master’s in the same field at Cincinnati’s Xavier University. He has a Doctorate in Criminal Justice from Walden University in Minneapolis.

Dr. Hoard works as a police training officer with the Louisville Metro Police Department and also holds a position with the Integrative Behavioral Health Research Institute.

He is an executive board member for Free 2 Hope, Inc., a human trafficking and sex crime victim-support organization, and is an active member of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, the American Criminal Justice Association, the Southern Criminal Justice Association and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

Covington Independent Public Schools

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