By Jennifer Ginn
At its December meeting, Susan Edington was sworn in as the newest member of the Kentucky Board of Education.
Edington, an assistant professor of early childhood and elementary education at Murray State University, fills the seat vacated by Jonathan Parrent, who resigned last year. She will fill out the rest of Parrent’s term, which expires April 14, 2018.
Edington has a wide variety of experience in education. She worked her way through college as a secretary at the Shelby County Vocational School. She has taught high school English in Eminence, Ky., New York and Ohio. Edington also taught education courses, English and reading at Madisonville Community College for 10 years before completing her doctorate and beginning work at Murray State as the 2+2 education coordinator and instructor.
Kentucky Teacher staff had a chance recently to ask Edington about her priorities while serving on the Kentucky Board of Education. Here’s what she had to say.
Why were you interested in serving on the Kentucky Board of Education?
“’For the lack of a better word, I am passionate about children and their well-being. In one way or another, children and their well-being have dictated both my professional and personal life. What could be more gratifying or fun than to interact and work for Kentucky’s children with other people who have the same passion?”
What impact do you hope to have on the board?
“I hope to help facilitate the bridges being built among the total preschool through college graduate education continuum. Kentucky has launched several excellent P-16 initiatives that address closing achievement gaps and raising the level of educational attainment and economic development in Kentucky. Because I’ve had my feet in several worlds that affect those initiatives, perhaps I can help aide communication and foster relationships.”
What personal trait will serve you best as a board member?
“I think my work ethic and sense of responsibility will serve me well in this position. I love to research and I love to learn, so when questions and issues are presented, I will work until there is some type of resolution.”
Why is what you do as a board member important to teachers?
“The teacher is the most important variable in student achievement. As a result, anything we can do on the board to support teachers so they are free to do their jobs should be our mission. Hopefully, we can examine regulations that are too restrictive and ease some of the administrative responsibilities that currently sometimes interfere with 100 percent attention to students’ needs.”
Other than more money, what do Kentucky schools need most?
“Public support and respect, a restoration of teaching as a profession. If we look at other professions and the definition of ‘professional,’ teaching is losing ground, and teachers are assuming more of a technician’s role.”
What are the biggest obstacles facing Kentucky’s schools?
“Certainly the current state of the retirement system is an obstacle. Hopefully, that will be dealt with this legislative session. Unfunded mandates have been another, but I am optimistic with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, some of those from the federal government may diminish. Partisan politics is another obstacle. If there were no Democrats or Republicans making decisions about school children, but rather just people who genuinely desired the best for Kentucky’s children, I am convinced we would have the best school system in the nation.”
What small change would have the greatest impact on Kentucky’s schools?
“A conscientious regard for the new teacher. Unwittingly, we set up some new teachers for failure when we ask them to assume coaching positions or other extracurricular activities that take away valuable instructional planning time from the students. First year teaching is a full-time job and first-year teachers should not be asked to assume any additional responsibilities. I would actually argue that teachers need three years to hone their teaching skills before assuming extracurricular responsibilities.”
What major change would you make to improve Kentucky schools?
“Broaden the curriculum to ensure that visual and performing arts and vocational trades are treated with as much respect and importance as other subjects. We say we want to compete and interact in the global world. What better way than through the universal language of music, art and theater? We say we want to promote tolerance and diversity. What better way than through a shared esteem for our universal languages?”
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
“I have had several favorite teachers through the years. One of my favorites was Mrs. Ellen Adams, my 5th-grade teacher at Gleneyrie Elementary in Shelby County. She and I shared a love for reading and writing. She motivated me. She respected me as a human being, not just as a little 5th-grader; and she helped me reach my personal goals. Another of my favorites was Dr. Dick Flynn at Murray State. He instilled in me the responsibility to have courage when dealing with anything related to the improvement of schools. He always said, ‘If there’s no conflict, create some. Nothing ever changes for the good without healthy conflict.’”
What else would you like Kentucky’s educators to know about you?
“I have a reading therapy dog named Quincy who read with children at Grapevine Elementary for three years. He is now semi-retired.
“I am so very excited and honored to have this opportunity to be a member of the Kentucky Board of Education. I have now met Commissioner Stephen Pruitt and all the other board members and am awed by their knowledge, experience and servants’ hearts. I am so pleased to be a part of such a team.”