Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Commissioner Jason E. Glass announced that Damien Sweeney, Ed.D., and Micki L. Ray are assuming new roles at KDE beginning Sept. 15. Sweeney will now serve as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and Ray is now the chief academic officer, both in the Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL).
“Damien and Micki are proven assets to the Kentucky Department of Education,” said Glass. “I am excited as they move forward on this new path at the KDE while continuing to use their knowledge and dedication to enhance and grow education in Kentucky.”
Sweeney has been serving as program coordinator for comprehensive school counseling and Ray has been the director of the Division of Program Standards.
Damien Sweeney, Ed.D.
As director of DEI, Sweeney’s new position will include developing KDE’s Equity Toolkit; implementing a statewide framework for social and emotional learning; working with regional educational cooperatives; working on alternative school audits to ensure equity in policies and procedures; presenting DEI in schools; implementing multi-tiered systems of equity support; leading districts in the implementation of inclusive curricula; working with OTL to ensure standards are inclusive and relevant to marginalized students; creating an equity task force inclusive of community partners; developing and strengthening partnerships with primary educator preparation programs; working with policy advisers on relevant regulations; and overseeing spending for DEI initiatives.
“I am honored and humbled to represent the Kentucky Department of Education as its director of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Sweeney. “While this feeds a deep passion of mine to serve underrepresented students, it also reiterates the commitment of KDE to focus on every single student, reminding us that all people matter.”
Sweeney said he also was excited to stay connected to the efforts of school counselors by working alongside the soon-to-be named program coordinator for comprehensive school counseling.
“When I first came to the KDE, I quoted my favorite musical, ‘Hamilton,’ and exclaimed that I will not throw away my shot. I certainly plan to give everything I have to support the needs of our students, educators, families and community stakeholders and can’t wait to get started in this new role,” he added.
Currently an adjunct professor at the University of the Cumberlands and Spalding University, Sweeney has served as a special education and English teacher and as a high school counselor in Jefferson County Public Schools.
Sweeney’s accomplishments include overseeing the KDE publication of “Kentucky Framework for Best Practices for School Counselors,” contributing to “Guidance on How Districts Can Facilitate Conversations About Race-based Stress and Trauma” and having his work published in the American School Counselor Association magazine.
He has a master’s degree in teaching special education and secondary English from Bellarmine University, and a master’s in education for school counseling and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Louisville. He and his wife, Abigail Sweeney, M.D., have three sons.
Micki L. Ray
In her new role as chief academic officer, Ray will be taking on added responsibilities, leading policy development (both legislative and regulatory) for improving instruction and learning in K-12 schools.
Her job also will entail managing OTL staff and providing oversight and direction for statewide initiatives in: standards development and implementation, high-quality professional learning, high-quality instructional resources, instructional practices related to scaling highly effective teaching, assessment practices, early learning, grant programs and Title II, Part A.
She will oversee the Comprehensive School Counseling Program consultant, including on initiatives related to comprehensive school counseling, individual learning plans, advanced programs, minimum high school graduation requirements and early graduation.
Ray also will serve as a KDE representative in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers on initiatives related to teaching and learning.
“I loved being a classroom teacher, and I still miss engaging with students every single day,” Ray said. “But now I feel privileged to serve the commissioner, my OTL colleagues, the educational cooperatives and educators across the state.”
Ray said she is passionate about her job and the vision of the KDE in equipping and empowering students for a successful future.
“Supporting local schools and districts in highly effective teaching and learning matters, and I assure you that the OTL does not take our work and responsibilities lightly,” she said.
Ray has been at KDE for four and a half years, previously serving as a literacy consultant for program standards and as a policy advisor for OTL prior to her work as director of the Division of Program Standards.
A second-generation educator whose mother is a retired elementary school teacher, Ray has 15 years of service in public education. She has worked as a high school English teacher in Anderson and Scott counties and in Ohio. She also was an adjunct English instructor at Hocking College in Ohio.
In addition, she has served as a school trainer for Classroom Assessment for Student Learning and Kagan Cooperative Learning, and as a site-based decision making council member.
Ray earned her master’s degree in education from the University of Kentucky and graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown College with a bachelor’s degree in English, with minors in history and sociology.