By Susan Riddell
As a high school student, Randy Poe developed an interest in marketing soon after he started working at a nearby McAlpins department store. Once he entered college, however, he had to make a choice: marketing or teaching.
“In the end, I really aspired to work with children and to make a difference in their lives,” said Poe, who taught high school for nine years before becoming a school administrator
Kentucky Association of School Administrators recently named Poe, who has spent his entire professional career in the Boone County school district, the 2013 Kentucky Superintendent of the Year.
District staff members agree that Poe’s success as a superintendent stems from his focus on student learning and success.
“You can tell immediately from his interactions with students that he is a teacher at his inner core,” said T.W. Loring, principal at Ockerman Elementary School. “He always takes the opportunity to listen to them, understand their views and work for a way for them to learn together.”
Dawn Padgett, 4th-grade teacher at New Haven Elementary School, has worked with Poe professionally for 16 years and interacted with him when his children were in her class. She said Poe always enters her classroom with a huge smile on his face.
“He doesn’t hesitate to get involved in the lessons, to read to students or to sit on the floor and play a game with them,” Padgett said. “He values what is best for all children to succeed.”
Poe said he makes it a priority to schedule at least two days a week for school visits. When he makes these visits, students are the priority but he’s also there to listen to staff members.
“I love to see great instruction,” Poe said. “I’m not really there to monitor teachers. I just love to visit and read in the classrooms. I believe every superintendent must do this. We need to be side by side with our teachers and principals.”
Loring said he and Poe have had many discussions on teaching and learning, and Poe always has been approachable.
“As he walks through our buildings the teachers are very receptive to him being in their classrooms,” Loring said. “He works with students when he walks into rooms and talks with them to gain insight about the lesson and their needs.
“As a leader, Mr. Poe challenges all of the principals to continue to increase their knowledge through book studies and information he shares,” Loring added. “He is an avid reader so he leads by example and welcomes feedback from those around him.”
Poe said the most difficult thing about being a superintendent is balancing academic goals with high expectations when a district is limited in resources.
“It comes down to strategies and what everyone does to make sure they play out according to the best interests of everyone,” Poe said. “It starts by hiring the right people. We hire based on disposition of the teacher. I think that’s so important.
“We also must use the resources we have the right way,” Poe added. “That’s critical. I feel like we have a high-performing district that functions extremely well on funding that’s considered in the bottom 10 percent of districts in the state. I’m proud of that.”
Despite low funding, Poe and his district’s educators have targeted college and career readiness, and they are working to take the concept to the next level.
“Our vision is college-, career- and life-ready for all,” Poe said. “We really feel it’s necessary to look beyond college and career. Our Theory of Action states that we will operate as a professional learning community where high-quality teaching and learning for the 21st century is imperative. Our teachers are the front line. My principle role is to build leadership and work with teachers to monitor student progress.”
One way the district builds on its life-ready agenda is using service learning projects. Every school in the district enforces this requirement.
“I am a firm believer in making students life ready,” Poe said. “Educators must do more than assess students. It’s our purpose to prepare students to transition from the school to the community and beyond.”
Poe knows that it takes more than one teacher for all students to become life ready.
“In order to have successful students, you have to have a successful school,” Poe said. “That means every single person in the building must play a major role in making sure the college-, career- and life-ready culture is there –from the teachers to the cafeteria workers to the bus drivers to the clinicians, to the administrators. You never know who is going to reach that one child, so we all have to be ready and have an environment of high expectations in order for us to reach all of them.”
Randy Poe, firstname.lastname@example.org, (859) 282-2375