Author

Jessica Fletcher

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The Prichard Committee has used the Equity Lens Campaign to focus and highlight how equity is embedded into public education in Kentucky, as well as the importance and relevance of equity in schools. As we continue this exploration, Prichard has identified several experts in equity that will share their perspectives on where the Bluegrass stands in educational equity, and where we need to progress to improve equity outcomes. In the interview below, I speak with Mike Hogg, a longtime education leader in Appalachia, about equity in Appalachian school districts.

Mike serves as the associate executive director and chief operating officer for Partners for Education. Mike has more than 20 years of experience working in public school leadership positions in Appalachian school districts including the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and principal. Prior to serving in leadership roles, Mike was a middle school science and social studies teacher. 

“Each student came to me, as a teacher, needing something different. So when I think about equity, it’s about figuring out what that young person needs to access a universal goal, such as proficiency in reading and math,” he said.

Mike holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in middle grades education from Eastern Kentucky University and school leadership certification from Eastern Kentucky University. He is a first-generation college graduate who feels a deep responsibility to pay forward that which has been paid forward to him.

Sept. 29, 2021

LEXINGTON, KY – Following the statewide release of Kentucky’s 2020-21 K-12 assessment data, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is calling on all communities, families, and policymakers to unite with school and district leaders for an “all hands on deck” approach to academic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While we know there is much information about the resiliency of our students and educators that these results do not show, they do help us understand the challenges ahead and provide a focal point of urgency for devising solutions to accelerate learning in the future,” said Prichard Committee President & CEO Brigitte Blom. “Students, educators, and families met unimaginable challenges with extraordinary innovation and effort during the 2020-21 school year.”

Data from the Kentucky Summative Assessment (previously known as the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress or K-PREP) show:

  • 39.5% of elementary students who participated in the reading assessment scored proficient or distinguished;
  • 27.8% of middle school students who participated in the mathematics assessment were rated proficient or distinguished; and
  • Only 29.9% of high school juniors met Kentucky’s college-readiness benchmark in mathematics, along with 39.9% in reading and 42.3% in English.

Additionally, the scores show lower results for historically underserved student groups. However, there were lower assessment participation rates at the high school level and for some of the underserved groups.

The data release from the Kentucky Department of Education included survey results from school climate and culture questions asked of students during the assessment period. Notably, the majority of students (90.3% elementary; 80.5% middle school; and 77.6% high school) who responded reported the ability to work with teachers and classmates online when schools were closed.

“This pandemic has been a test of the sustainability of our public education system as it exists today, and Kentucky’s system is not making the grade. The system now demands sustained investment and innovations that are more responsive to the needs of our students, families, and educators,” said Blom. “Academic recovery from this pandemic to ensure that all Kentuckians are prepared to embark upon a big bold future must be a top priority for all of us during these unprecedented times.”

The Prichard Committee recommends the following policy and practice approaches to academic recovery to move Kentucky students forward.

At the local level, families and community leaders must work with their local schools to:

  • Support adequate local funding for education;
  • Make learning a collaboration between families and schools;
  • Create intensive tutoring and mentoring programs;
  • Provide extended learning time; and
  • Advocate for effective use of American Rescue Plan funding.

At the state level, policymakers must:

  • Invest in evidence-based, effective professional learning programs for teachers, especially those that develop early literacy and mathematics skills;
  • Fully fund school transportation & all-day kindergarten; and
  • Compile information about how districts are using federal dollars to improve student outcomes.

“Over the next several years, communities have especially intense work to do in order to deliver fully for student groups that have historically been underserved in our schools, including English learners, students with identified disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, African American students, and Hispanic or Latino students,” said Blom. “Given the need and the resources available, it is time for all communities to roll up their sleeves and have the creative, solutions-focused, conversations about how to use what we’ve learned to do more than recover – we must build a new foundation for education – one that is stronger, more resilient, and seeks to repair the challenges and inequities laid bare amidst COVID.

Sept. 10, 2021

(LEXINGTON, KY) – Kentucky community and business leaders are among the 19 new members named to the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence during its annual business meeting Thursday. The committee also elected the following new officers to its board of directors:

  • W. Clay H. Ford, of Owensboro, was named chair of the Prichard Committee. He is a partner in EM Ford, a regional insurance and financial planning firm, and represents the fourth generation of Fords involved in the family business.
  • Susan Elkington, of Georgetown, was named vice chair. She is the president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky.
  • Gwendolyn Young, of Lexington, was named secretary/treasurer. She is a CPA partner at Wadlington Young CPAs & Advisors.

Also joining the board of directors for a 3-year term are Elaine Wilson and Lonnie Lawson, both of Somerset, Julie Tennyson, of Paducah, Derrick Ramsey, of Lexington, and Dr. Jay Box, of Georgetown.

“With the leadership of these Kentuckians, the Prichard Committee will help Kentucky take the next giant leap to the top tier of all states for education attainment – and do so in this generation,” said Prichard Committee President & CEO Brigitte Blom.

Three Kentuckians were also designated as life members of the Prichard Committee: Becky Goss, of Nicholasville, Dennis Pearce, of South Carolina, and Pam Shepherd, of Versailles. This is an honor bestowed on those who actively engaged for 10 years or more in the Prichard Committee’s work to promote vastly improved education in the Commonwealth.

In honoring these life members, Blom said, “Thank you for your years of commitment to improving education. My commitment to you is that we will not let the early success in education improvement go to waste and that we will instill this important citizen-led effort deeply in the next generation.

Joining the Prichard Committee as new members are:

  • George E Long II, Marshall County
  • Ryan Salzman, Campbell County
  • Bonnie Higginson, Calloway County
  • Dr. Kate Akers, Spencer County
  • Todd Holland, Graves County
  • Tara Boh Blair, Montgomery County
  • LTC (Ret) Terry G. Owens, Hardin County
  • Edna O. Schack, Rowan County
  • Rachel Watts Webb, Jessamine County
  • Jennifer Carroll, Perry County
  • Cassandra Akers, Floyd County
  • Jeff Hawkins, Perry County
  • Sharon Baker, Jefferson County
  • Derrick Ramsey, Fayette County
  • Kevin Fields, Sr., Jefferson County
  • Dr. Jay K. Box, Scott County
  • Rodney Henderson, Jefferson County
  • Susan Douglas, Fayette County
  • Tara Johnson-Noem, Kenton County

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky – early childhood through postsecondary.

Prichard Committee Member William “Bill” Garmer passed away peacefully surrounded by family on July 30, 2021, in Lexington. Bill became a member of the Prichard Committee’s board of directors in 2011 and was serving as Secretary/Treasurer at the time of his passing. He joined the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence in 2010.

“Bill was a giant among attorneys – and men. He was one to always greet you with a smile that felt like a warm embrace,” said Prichard Committee President & CEO Brigitte Blom. “We enjoyed seeing Bill and his wife often at Courtyard Deli near the Prichard Committee office downtown. I so enjoyed his stories of legal success and arguing before the Supreme Court. Oh, how he will be missed.”

Born in Baltimore, MD, on May 8, 1946, Bill was the son of Grace DeLane Garmer and William McKinley Garmer. The family moved first to Media, Penn. Then, to Carrollton, Ky. Bill graduated from Carrollton High School and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky, where he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. Following his graduation from the University of Kentucky in 1968, Bill served in the United States Air Force from 1969-1973, achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant. Following his service, Bill enrolled in law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas.

Returning to Kentucky, he transferred to the University of Kentucky College of Law, receiving his law degree in 1975. Following admission to the bar, Bill served as a clerk to the Honorable Bernard T. Moynahan, Jr., Chief Judge United States District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky, from 1975-1977. Following the Federal clerkship, Bill began the practice of law in Lexington, establishing himself as a premier lawyer who represented clients and their families throughout the state and country for over 45 years, seeking fairness and justice.

As a lawyer, Bill changed the lives of those he met, of those clients he represented, the lives of fellow lawyers, and through significant cases in the Kentucky Supreme Court, changed the law in Kentucky. The pain and struggles of those individuals he represented marked Bill. He carried their burdens fiercely and never released them. Bill was a lawyer’s lawyer, a true southern gentleman of great intellect, and a kind soul. Bill also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law from 1981-2018.

The teaching of young people was a task that brought immense satisfaction and joy. In his law practice, he mentored hundreds of law students as clerks. Deeply loyal, Bill treasured the professional and personal relationships and friendships he made throughout his law practice and through his service to the many professional organizations to which he belonged. Memberships and service included: President of the Kentucky Bar Association, 2017; President of the Kentucky Academy of Trial Attorneys, 1994, and also as a recipient of the Peter Perlman Trial Lawyer of the Year Award; Fellow, Kentucky Bar Association; Fellow, American Bar Association; Chair of the Council of State Presidents of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America; Member, Trial Lawyers For Public Justice; member, Southern Trial Lawyers Association; and Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers. In addition, Bill received the University of Kentucky College of Law Alumni Hall of Fame award in 2014, was named by Super Lawyers as one of the Top 10 attorneys in Kentucky, 2019-2020, and as one of the Top 50 attorneys in Kentucky, 2008-2018. Also listed as Best Lawyers in America and Who’s Who in American Law, 1987-present. Throughout his career, Bill provided Continuing Legal Education seminar lectures for numerous legal organizations and associations. Following a lifelong commitment to promoting public education, Bill became a board member of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. A lifelong Democrat, Bill was Chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party in 2004. Bill was a dedicated and faithful member of the Presbyterian Church, with First Presbyterian Church and Second Presbyterian Church, both in Lexington.

Visitation will be from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Wednesday, August 4th at Milward – Broadway located at 159 N. Broadway. A memorial service will begin at 11:00 am the following day, Thursday, August 5th at Second Presbyterian Church located at 460 East Main Street, Lexington. The family asks instead of flowers, to please contribute to the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, the Lexington Humane Society, Old Friends Retired Thoroughbred Farm, or charity of choice. We strongly encourage you to adhere to whatever public gathering guidelines that have been put in place by state and local public health officials. To share a remembrance of Bill or to offer condolences to his family, please visit milwardfuneral.com.

This week on Innovations in Education for a Big Bold Future, we continued to explore education recovery and building a new foundation for  Kentucky’s K-12 public school system. Brigitte led a robust discussion with Dr. Stephen Pruitt, President of the Southern Regional Education Board, and Michael Petrilli, President of the Fordham Institute.

“There’s widespread agreement that a lot of kids have suffered over the last 15 months and we all know that from our own lives,” said Petrilli. “This fall, we should expect that there are some kids who are going to be traumatized. They’ve lost loved ones, they’ve been disconnected from friends and family. A lot of their families have been through incredible hardship, so we should expect that some kids are going to come back and really need a lot. Schools are really going to have really strong systems to identify the kids who need extra help and get them that help.”

Pruitt added that educators and school staff will also need supports to deal with COVID-related trauma as well. “We really had to strive to take care of ourselves so we could show up the way we needed to.”

Outside of using America Rescue Plans for social-emotional and trauma-informed curriculum, schools can also use Medicaid for student mental health, according to Petrilli.

The Fordham Institute has been working on educating Americans about the importance of assessments to monitor learning growth.

“When local school districts use those assessments effectively, they can help them make important decisions for kids about how to group them appropriately as they are making their way through different milestones in reading and math,” said Petrilli. “Some kids who’ve hardly been attending school at all, we need to know where they’re at so we can get the support to them.”

Pruitt, who served as Kentucky’s education commissioner from 2015 to 2018, said that testing is part of good instruction. “From an SREB standpoint, we believe that it’s important that state testing is done. But this year, we need to know where these kids are. We do need to know what we need to do to help them.”

Pruitt said that districts will need to be cognizant of how they are spending the funding, and to constantly be evaluating how the dollars are impacting student outcomes.

“When you have this type of windfall of funds, there is a tendency to want to buy everything. But eventually there will be a financial cliff. We need to really take this time to think about how to invest in our teachers and our systems to be able to do a better job,” said Pruitt.

These decisions, he continued, will need to be made based on data, community feedback, and school climate and culture. District plans for use of ARP funding are due to the Kentucky Department of Education by July 31. The Prichard Committee has been urging its members and partners to talk to local boards of education and district leadership about what they’ve observed during the pandemic, and how they think some of the funding should be utilized.

“Given the need and the resources available, it is time for communities to roll up their sleeves and have the creative, solutions-focused, conversations about how to use what we’ve learned in the past year to do more than recover – we must build a new foundation for education – one that is stronger, more resilient, and seeks to repair the challenges and inequities laid bare amidst COVID,” said Prichard Committee President and CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey.

For additional resources about the American Rescue Plan, including how much funding your district will receive, visit our ARP toolkit online. If you would like to schedule a community conversation about ARP with the Prichard Committee’s assistance, please contact Community Engagement Coordinator Andria Jackson.

June 18, 2021

Following the recent prefiling of bills related to the discussion of race, gender, and religion in classrooms and the discussion of Critical Race Theory on Kentucky Tonight, we have issued the following statement:

The Prichard Committee is deeply committed to ensuring equity in Kentucky schools and that our students enjoy an inclusive, respectful experience that ensures their success. Continuing to improve our instructional environment so that it reflects the complexities of current events and their historical context is critical and should include discussions of race and racial justice.

The Committee opposes outright limits on discussions regarding race, sex, gender, or religion in public school and/or university curricula.  Such limitations may in fact reduce the quality of education provided by our educational institutions and received by our students. Moreover, they send the wrong message about Kentucky’s progress in advancing racial equity and attracting and retaining a diverse workforce.

Instead, Kentucky should engage in a solutions-focused process and discussion to improve culturally relevant and inclusive education practices. Such a process is a systemic way to inform the development and revisions of our state standards and model curriculum framework which empowers students with the abilities and capacities in KRS 158.645 and KRS 158.6451 needed to become informed citizens.

As our country celebrates freedom from slavery this weekend on Juneteenth National Independence Day, we must recognize that ignoring our painful past will certainly ensure that we repeat it somehow. To deliver on the promise of full equality for all Americans, we must be willing to have honest conversations which seek to heal the traumas of our shared past and build the more perfect union – in our schools, in our communities, our state, and our nation – to which our democracy aspires.

June 11, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For More Information Contact:
Jessica Fletcher, Senior Director, Communications & External Affairs
(cell) 859-539-0511
jessica.fletcher@prichardcommittee.org

LEXINGTON, KY – LEXINGTON, KY – During its quarterly board meeting Wednesday, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence voted to stand in support of the recent lawsuit filed which challenges provisions of House Bill 563, that establishes tax credits that could be used to pay for tuition and fees at nonpublic schools. The board of directors discussed Kentucky’s constitutional requirement for the General Assembly to “provide for an efficient system of common schools throughout the state,” and felt that state education funding must be used for public school purposes only.

“We fail to see how House Bill 563 helps Kentucky meet these constitutional obligations and we reiterate our concerns about the use of public dollars for private school scholarships,” said Prichard Committee President and CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey.

Board members pointed out the substantial opportunity costs to enacting such policies when the state already underinvests in the adequacy and equity of our system of public education. Inadequate investment in public education threatens to reverse the progress Kentucky has made in student success and national rankings. Moreover, Kentucky remains challenged by persistent income inequality, ranking 44th among the states in the number of residents living in poverty.

“The Prichard Committee has found insufficient evidence that these types of tax credits – for which there is no accountability – are successful in enhancing academic performance in other states,” said Blom Ramsey. “Kentucky must continue to reinvest in public education, not give more tax credits. We must focus on investing in and supporting what is needed for the 649,000 Kentucky public school students, in every community, to achieve at the highest levels.”

In other business, the board of directors also approved a staff proposal to continue the development of a Center for Best Practices and Innovation that will be another tool Kentuckians can use as they leverage education to chart a path to a larger life for our citizens.

Earlier this year, Spark Base Consulting was enlisted to study the feasibility of creating this center, which will exemplify driving positive educational outcomes through local champions and stakeholders.

“The center will allow us to document examples – as part of our Groundswell Initiative – of how local innovators are making a difference for student outcomes. We will then work with stakeholders on creating repeatable habits among local champions, via toolkits, resources, and metric analyses,” said Blom Ramsey. “This will allow local champions to easily get other community members on board with ready-made action plan to begin discussions.”

During the meeting staff also announced that the Prichard Committee offices will relocate in August from downtown Lexington to an office complex located off of Winchester Road near I-75.

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The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky – early childhood through postsecondary.

Last year, all of us experienced a mentally challenging year and are finally feeling some stress relief as vaccines have become more widely available across the state. During a Mental Health America of Kentucky webinar last week, Gov. Andy Beshear noted that $19.5 million in federal funds have been allocated for mental health outside of schools, and more is available for this important cause in the education portion of the American Recovery Plan.

Our Innovations in Education conversation on May 12 focused on K-12 schools and Kentucky’s public universities and the mental health needs of students, educators and families.

Joining us for the conversation were:

  • Secretary Eric Friedlander, Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
  • Marcie Timmerman, Executive Director for Mental Health America of Kentucky
  • Goldie Williams, Director of Counseling and Health Services at Morehead State University; and
  • Amy Beal, Comprehensive School Counselor for Campbell County Schools and the 2020 Kentucky School Counselor of the Year

Key Takeaways:

In our K-12 and higher education Coping with COVID surveys, the need for more mental health supports for students, educators and families was a prevalent theme.

  • 35% of high school students surveyed said that they wanted mental health services, but didn’t have access to them.
  • 36% of teachers said they wanted more access to mental health services.
  • 21% of families said they would benefit from more mental health services.
  • 74% of current college students said they have felt an increase of mental or emotional exhaustion due to COVID-19.

Friedlander says that all of us have been impacted by the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having far-reaching impacts on behavioral health.

“This is something that’s really new to us, and how we respond with changes to our behavioral health system is important,” said Friedlander. “We’ve responded very well in Kentucky, allowing a lot more telehealth, taking away prior authorizations for Medicaid, and redoubled our efforts with the Department of Education to provide services within schools.”

Prior to the pandemic, he said, there was already a shortage of mental health providers, and this issue will be especially exacerbated as we move to the next phase of the pandemic, when behavioral health problems really start to surface. People who have been isolated and have had a lack of socialization opportunities for more than a year will soon present with behavioral health challenges.

The Mental Health America of Kentucky group has created Tools to Thrive, which were created for all citizens and can prevent mental health hospitalizations. There are also screening tools available on the organization’s website for parents who are concerned about their children’s mental health.

Before the pandemic, Amy Beal, the school counselor for Donald E. Cline Elementary in Cold Spring already had a robust plan to improve the mental health of the schools’ students, educators and families. From sending self-care tips to staff, to hosting individual student therapy, and school-wide bullying prevention, students were well cared for. That care paid off when the pandemic began and students already had background knowledge of social-emotional skills, and both students and parents were aware of the school’s counseling supports.

“We’ve fielded more phone calls from parents than we’ve ever fielded in the past,” said Beal. “Parents need to remember that these feelings of uncertainty they are having and their children are having are normal. We all need to embrace self-care and take time for ourselves.”

College students are experiencing depression, anxiety and a lack of hope, according to Goldie Williams, which will lead to a high occurrence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Morehead State University and many other public higher education facilities have provided ongoing mental health supports throughout the pandemic to deal with these issues, but many are feeling hopeful now that vaccines have become readily available.

“There is this hope of getting back to a spirit of community,” said Friedlander. “We don’t have answers on what everything will look like moving forward, and that feeling leads to a lot of anxiety. But we now know that we can exist virtually, so now we have to innovate and think outside of walls so that we can maximize the school and community impact on each other.”

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May 3, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For More Information Contact:
Jessica Fletcher, Senior Director, Communications & External Affairs
(cell) 859-539-0511
jessica.fletcher@prichardcommittee.org

LEXINGTON, KY – The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence has partnered with 11 Kentucky educators for its 2021 cohort of Teacher Fellows. The Prichard Committee Fellowship is an opportunity for teachers to formally engage as active partners in shared work to improve education in Kentucky. The 2021 Teacher Fellows are working to implement the recommendations in the Prichard Committee’s inaugural Letter from Kentucky Teachers, released last fall.

“We are excited to work alongside these talented teachers and to give them a platform to share their aspirations and priorities for the improvement of teaching and learning. We believe their work will help reignite Kentuckians’ passion for public education and even inspire a new generation of educators,” said Prichard Committee President and CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey.

Members of the 2021 cohort include:

  • Lauren Hill, Fayette County Public Schools, Facilitator
  • Renee Boss, Woodford County Public Schools
  • Natalie Croney, Warren County Public Schools
  • C.J. Fryer, Beechwood Independent Schools
  • Kiara Gray, Jefferson County Public Schools
  • Brison Harvey, Fayette County Public Schools
  • Tori Howard, Jackson Independent Schools
  • Kevin Presnell, Madison County Public Schools
  • Noraa Ransey, Calloway County Public Schools
  • Jami Reynolds, Hardin County Public Schools
  • Casey Salyers, Johnson County Public Schools

“To realize the promise of teacher leadership, opportunities like this fellowship propel teachers into new spheres of influence that enable us to practice the necessary skills and acquire the knowledge only fieldwork can teach,” said Lauren Hill, a Fayette County teacher and facilitator of the fellows’ cohort. “We welcome the Prichard Committee into this essential domain and invite the 2021 Teacher Fellows into this most urgent conversation.”

At the beginning of the 2020 school year, the Prichard Committee convened a teacher leader steering committee, which released the first Letter from Kentucky Teachers, that offered shared priorities for teaching and learning through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Eleven of those 27 teacher leaders stayed on for the remainder of the school year as the inaugural cohort of teacher fellows, committed to turning teacher-identified education priorities into reality in classrooms across Kentucky.

The 2020 letter asked that all Kentucky teachers individually and together commit to providing equitable learning opportunities for every student; developing and expanding the skills that strengthen the quality of teaching and the learning experiences of students; developing stronger, more collaborative relationships with students, parents and families, and our communities; and promoting anti-racism and diverse perspectives in culturally aware and responsive instruction.

The 2021 cohort of teacher fellows are committed to that commitment and has formed four subgroups to focus on these priorities: family engagement, student engagement, anti-racist teaching, teacher well-being and mental health. Projects from the teacher fellows in each of these areas will be posted on the Prichard Committee’s website when they are completed later this year.

Kentucky teachers interested in applying for this fellowship program can apply online starting May 7, 2021.

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The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky – early childhood through postsecondary.

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April 14, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For More Information Contact:
Jessica Fletcher, Senior Director, Communications & External Affairs
(cell) 859-539-0511
jessica.fletcher@prichardcommittee.org

LEXINGTON, KY – The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence has hired Benjamin Gies to lead its long-standing early childhood policy work and coalition, Strong Start KY, and to develop a new focus on helping communities design high-quality early childhood ecosystems. The community-level systems-building work will begin in Owensboro and is supported by a generous grant from the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro.

Gies is a James Madison Memorial Fellow, a graduate of Bellarmine University and the University of Louisville. He is a former member of the Jefferson County Board of Education and has been recognized as a champion in advocacy by the Child Care Advocates of Kentucky and numerous other statewide coalitions. He currently is earning his Doctorate in Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University.

Benjamin Gies, Director, Early Childhood Policy and Practice

“A strong early childhood system at the state and local level is the foundation for later success in school and life. I’m excited to welcome Ben on board,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Prichard Committee President and CEO,  “to begin more tightly connecting our state policy progress to exceptional local practice that leads to better outcomes for kids and our communities. We know true innovation for a Big Bold Future starts at the local level and I’m excited to have Ben leading this innovation in the Prichard Committee’s work.”

Gies will serve as Director of Early Childhood Policy and Practice at the Prichard Committee beginning April 19. He will lead the Committee’s Strong Start KY coalition, work with national organizations providing thought leadership in early childhood, and support the community of Owensboro/Daviess County in designing a high-quality early childhood ecosystem that supports stronger kindergarten readiness and proficiency in 3rd grade reading and mathematics for each and every student.

“Through direct engagement with parents, educators, and community members at the grassroots level, our commonwealth can ensure that it prioritizes early learning in the lives of its youth. By investing a little today, we can impact the lives of thousands of children who are only now taking their first steps onto life’s stage. I am thrilled to continue in my life’s mission to advance education in our commonwealth in such a critical area of focus.”

Gies previously served as the Policy and Advocacy Director for Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA) where he worked closely with Kentucky’s Congressional delegation helping to ensure greater federal resources for childcare.

“This kind of innovative initiative has a chance to positively impact the ecosystem of childcare in Owensboro and across the commonwealth,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, Executive Director of KYA.

The Public Life Foundation’s grant to the Prichard Committee is part of a $4-million early childhood education initiative. Bruce Hager, chair of the foundation, said he hopes the project will enable opportunities that bring together the community through civic engagement.

“The Prichard Committee has a long-standing commitment to improving education outcomes for students in the commonwealth,” Hager said. “We are thrilled to support them in work that will have roots in Owensboro but will expand throughout the state to benefit early learners from Pikeville to Paducah.”

Bruce Hager, Chair, Public Life Foundation of Owensboro

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The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky – early childhood through postsecondary.