Picture of a man, two girls and one woman standing close together in the woods.

New Barbourville Independent superintendent Dennis Messer with his daughters Regan, left, and Lauren, and wife, Gina. Messer, a Barbourville native said he got into education to make a difference and get involved in the community.
Photo submitted

Editor’s Note: This is the 11th of a series of stories Kentucky Teacher is running about new superintendents for the 2021-2022 school year.

Dennis Messer has a new role in education. On July 1 he took on the position of superintendent for Barbourville Independent. He replaced Lenora Kay Dixon, who retired at the end of June.

Previously, Messer served as director of facilities and assistant principal in the district since 2015.

He has been with Barbourville Independent since 2004, serving as a special education teacher until 2015. He also served as a district representative for Kentucky Education Association and an administrative specialist for the Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council, which seeks to provide the assistance necessary to break the cycle of poverty in Kentucky.

A Barbourville native, Messer got into education because he wanted to make a difference and give back to his community.

“I started with special needs children and saw a need in our area. My whole goal was to be involved in the school and community, and to make a difference,” he said.

Messer has faced challenges throughout his career, but not seeing students in person during the COVID-19 pandemic was the most difficult.

“The biggest challenge for me the last year was not being able to see students in person. I was worried about my students and missed the day-to-day interaction,” he said.

Messer is grateful for the opportunity to lead Barbourville Independent and have daily contact with students. His primary goal this year is to get students back in the classroom and attain some sense of normalcy. However, students in Barbourville still have the option for virtual learning.

“We’re giving the option of virtual learning because we want to offer our students the best. If they feel more comfortable at home in a virtual setting, we want to give them that option,” he said.

As for his education philosophy, Messer emphasized the value of a strong community in and outside the classroom.

“We are a community and we are tasked with helping individuals become successful. Every student is important, so I think we should focus on the whole child,” he said.

Messer achieved his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Union College in Barbourville, along with certifications in special education programs, his Rank I and his school superintendent certification from Eastern Kentucky University.

When he’s not in the classroom, Messer enjoys afternoon walks around the community with his wife and two daughters. Although he has a full calendar this year, he is hopeful that he can find the time to play a round of golf.