Ronald (R.J.) Osborne, a junior from Whitley County High School, will be the next student to join the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) as a non-voting member.
Osborne is the board’s third student member in its history. The board has one student serve for each term, with Osborne’s beginning on July 1, 2023, and ending on June 30, 2024.
With his appointment, Osborne also will serve on the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council along with 37 other students.
“In southeastern Kentucky, elementary schools are nestled within small communities and are centers for more than academic growth,” Osborne wrote in his application. “In the best circumstances, they are viewed as extensions of families themselves. They are the first line of support for varied services from food and home goods to physical and mental health care. The county middle and high schools unify the county.”
Obsborne said by combining his own experiences in the public school system, along with firsthand knowledge of recent student experiences in Kentucky’s colleges, “I offer a unique perspective on how our schools can fulfill their obligation to prepare my generation so that the state of Kentucky is equipped to grow and flourish economically and culturally.”
Education Commissioner and Chief Learner Jason E. Glass said KDE is excited to have Osborne join the state board of education to provide insightful feedback on issues concerning Kentucky’s students.
“Our board members have continually expressed how important it is for them to hear a student’s perspective when they are discussing policies that will impact them in the classroom,” Glass said.
Many residents of Whitley County know Osborne for being a dedicated student with a servant mindset. He is active in many extracurricular activities, such as Future Farmers of America and varsity baseball at the high school. When he is not taking honors classes and maintaining his 4.389 grade point average, he volunteers as a referee for the Upward Sports basketball league.
Murphy Hagen, a World Civilization teacher at Whitley County High School, has taught Osborne for the past two years.
She said he has “a high sense of morals and integrity” and “is the type of individual that would faithfully serve Eastern Kentucky.”
Because he is an active member of many organizations in his community, those who know Osborne said participating in both of his appointed roles at KDE should come easily.
“He is an excellent, well-rounded student who will bring the perspective of a student with the maturity of an adult as to understanding the scope of the issues that come before KBE,” said John L. Siler, superintendent of Whitley County Public Schools.
Osborne said he hopes to bring attention to the rise in college dropouts.
“My dad has been an educator at two different colleges in the state of Kentucky,” he said, “so I am aware of the challenges Kentucky high school graduates face when they enter our Kentucky colleges.”
Osborne believes the best way to ensure student success is to ensure educator success.
“Policies that attract and retain the most highly skilled educators and staff are necessary components for sustaining and growing local economies,” he said.
“Once our school systems are staffed by the best-equipped personnel, they can focus on the next component: ensuring that every school district … is producing graduates who are either adequately equipped to immediately enter the workforce or prepared to be academically successful at the postsecondary institution of their choice.”
Osborne said he applied for the position because of his interest in the board’s decision process.
“I would like to have a better understanding of how educational priorities are decided upon, then become policy, and in turn how these policies are implemented and monitored,” he said.
Osborne said he is grateful for the opportunity to represent the students of Whitley County and the state as a whole.
“I am also excited to be a part of the discussion of how Kentucky public schools can be even more impactful on the future of Kentucky students,” he said