Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) regional coordinators have been named for each of Kentucky’s educational cooperatives to provide DEI guidance and support to their membership districts.

The Kentucky Department of Education secured the funding for the DEI positions through the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. The positions are being funded through ESSER II for the first two years and through American Rescue Plan Act ESSER the third year.

The DEI coordinators offer assistance through a multi-tiered system of supports and utilize tools like the equity dashboard, the early warning system, the school report card, and Panorama Impact Kentucky Data to offer schools data-driven approaches by going through the problem-solving analysis protocol and looking for root-causes. They also are equipped to provide presentations to school staff on KDE’s Equity Toolkit, A4 modules, trauma-informed practices and more.

The DEI coordinators selected for each co-op include:

  • Jamie Nebbitt, Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative (CKEC);
  • Steven Moats and Skip Cleavinger, Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC);
  • Andy Dotson, Kentucky Educational Development Corporation (KEDC);
  • Bernadette Carpenter, Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC);
  • Jessica Pass, Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services (NKCES);
  • Alexandra Hughes, for Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC);
  • Meau Jones for Southeast/South-Central Education Cooperative (SESC); and
  • Sarah Akin and Roger Cleveland, West Kentucky Educational Cooperative (WKEC).

“We need these folks who have a deeper knowledge of the obstacles in their own regions to provide guidance and resources for schools,” said Kentucky Department of Education DEI Director Damien Sweeney.

The DEI coordinators have been on the job since late 2021.

Jaime Nebbitt, CKEC

As a trained facilitator and DEI leader, Jaime Nebbitt has an extensive background to drive her work as the DEI coordinator for the Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative.

She has provided strategic leadership to higher education institutions and assisted leaders in developing culturally responsive programs and services designed to eliminate structural, institutional and systemic barriers. She has led cultural competency trainings, development of annual DEI plans and organization and implementation of campus-wide recognition programs and events while creating organizational-wide cultural change.

“True systematic change is transformational and not reactionary. When mindsets are changed, then true transformation can occur. I look forward to working with our districts, schools and administrators to create learning environments where every student is seen and feels a sense of belonging. I am excited about the possibilities to infuse diversity and inclusion across every conversation, policy and procedure,” Nebbitt said.

She is an academic advisor/success coach for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). She has served as a program consultant for KDE and as the diversity assistant for KCTCS. At the Bluegrass Community and Technical College, she created a Diversity 101 course; led and presented cultural competency and diversity sessions at new employee orientations, and audited leads for college diversity plans. She was the chair of the President’s Commission on Diversity at the University of Kentucky (UK) from 2002 to 2007.

She has a master’s in adult education from Western Kentucky University (WKU) and will complete her doctorate in education at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in 2023.

Steven Moats, GRREC

Before becoming the DEI coordinator at the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative, Steven Moats, Ed.D, was assistant superintendent and chief academic officer at Russellville Independent Schools; principal at the Virtual Learning Academy at Russellville and at the Russellville Preschool Academy; Race-to-the-Top district program director at the GRREC; and held several roles at Edvantia, Inc. He taught in Warren County Public Schools and at Trevecca Nazarene University

He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in elementary education from WKU and a master’s of education in leadership and school administration and a doctorate in leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University. He earned professional certificates for instructional leadership for supervisor of instruction, principal (all grades) and school superintendent.

Moats has been involved in numerous organizations, including the Kentucky Association of School Administrators and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. He has served as a member of the site-based decision making council for Richardsville Elementary School (Warren County) and vice president of the Warren County Education Association.

Moats was a KDE Kentucky Distinguished Educator in 1997-1999. He also served as principal consultant from Edvantia, Inc. to the Office of Accountability, Teaching and Learning at the Tennessee Department of Education, where he led the development of the state’s assistance initiatives to more than 300 state-identified, low-performing schools and districts, including directing the  Tennessee Exemplary Educators Program. In 2007, the Tennessee Exemplary Educators Program was awarded a Top 50 Innovations in American Government Award from Harvard University – one of only two K-12 programs to do so.

Moats has given education presentations around the county and been published numerous times.

Skip Cleavinger, GRREC

Along with serving as DEI co-coordinator, Skip Cleavinger also is the English learner (EL) program consultant at the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative.

He served as chair of the Warren County Schools Equity Council for several years, and he was principal author of their “Equity Scorecard.” He is the founder and co-chair of the Community Partnership for Refugee and Immigrant Families, a coalition of organizations and agencies that serve the international community of Bowling Green/Warren County.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in the DEI work being led by KDE and carried out through the regional educational cooperatives,” Cleavinger said. “I believe that deep learning occurs when students feel included, valued, respected and supported. Additionally, students must know that those who educate them hold high expectations for them. To my mind, each of these things lies at the core of DEI, which underscores the importance of this work and its potential impact on student learning.”

He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in school psychology from WKU. In 1990, he began working as a school psychologist in Warren County Public Schools in Bowling Green. In this role, he worked with many culturally and linguistically diverse students who were not proficient in English. He developed an expertise in evaluating ELs to determine if their academic and/or behavioral difficulties were due to a disability or to language/cultural differences.  

With a passion for working with ELs, Cleavinger focused on curriculum and instruction for ELs and became the director of EL programs in Warren County until his retirement in 2019.

As director, he was instrumental in creating GEO International High School, the first four-year international high school in Kentucky. He collaborated with directors of two other school districts to form the Kentucky Coalition for English Learners, an organization devoted to professional learning opportunities for teachers and administrators and advocacy, and currently serves as its president.

Andy Dotson, KEDC

As the DEI coordinator for the Kentucky Educational Development Corporation, Dotson’s expectation is to be a resource for schools and districts, providing support for students and staff in securing a diverse, equitable and inclusionary environment for all.

“Since becoming part of the DEI team, my perspective on intended outcomes as opposed to actual outcomes has been eye-opening,” he said.

Dotson has been a consultant with KEDC since 2019. He has 34 years of experience in public education. He was the superintendent of Harrison County Schools from 2008 to 2019, KDE secondary program consultant from 2006 to 2008. Between 1995 and 2006, he was a teacher, assistant principal and principal at Phelps High School (Pike County).

He has a bachelor’s degree from Alice Lloyd College and a master’s and Rank I from Morehead State University (MSU).

Dotson has participated in the Kentucky Leadership Academy, is a member of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Steering Committee for Public Education and has been a presenter for the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Bernadette Carpenter, KVEC

Bernadette Carpenter began her career in education in 1984 as a bus driver and instructional assistant in the Head Start Program. But she aspired to go farther.

While working as a bus driver and instructional assistant, Carpenter also continued her educational pursuits and earned degrees in elementary teaching K-8, principal certification K-8 and instructional leadership and school superintendent certifications.

She currently serves as the regional DEI coordinator for the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative. Carpenter also heads the Learning Innovation Initiative providing grant opportunities for teachers in the KVEC region. Teachers have showcased more than 1,000 Learning Innovation grants during the 14 Forging Innovation in Rural Education summits.

Before joining the KVEC team in 2014, she served as teacher, Family Resource and Youth Services Centers coordinator, principal, and instructional supervisor for curriculum and instruction in the Magoffin County School District.

She said her goals are to continue to be focused on “accelerating student learning.”

“This job has given me the opportunity to use all my previous experiences to work with a like-minded group to ensure students have the needed supports to be the best they can be both academically and socially,” said Carpenter.

Jessica Pass, NKCES

Before becoming the DEI coordinator for the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services, Jessica Pass already was serving as its Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act coordinator.

She also has served as principal at Erpenbeck Elementary (Boone County).

“I was excited to be on the DEI Committee as a principal in my previous district of Boone County, and I am now honored and humbled to continue the work as a representative of our school districts in Northern Kentucky,” said Pass.

“I am hopeful that, by working together, our school communities will continue to grow into places where every student and staff member’s strengths, abilities, culture, race and identity are valued and celebrated,” she added. “It is then that we will see each child and each educator in our schools begin to realize the promise that lies within them and use those gifts to make this world a better place.”

Pass also has been the vice principal at Ryle High School (Boone County); instructional coach and writing coordinator at Boone County High School (BCHS); assistant librarian, English teacher, intervention specialist and Advanced Placement coordinator at BCHS; and English teacher at Lloyd Memorial High School (LMHS) (Kenton County). She was a head varsity volleyball coach at BCHS and Leadership and Pep Club sponsor at LMHS.

Pass has a bachelor’s in journalism from UK, master’s in teaching from NKU, master’s in library science from UK, and an education specialist degree in instructional leadership, principal (K-12), from the University of the Cumberlands. She has certifications in school principal (K-12), school librarian (K-12) and Kentucky teaching (English 8-12).

She serves on the KDE Quality Curriculum Task Force, was named to the NKU Master of Arts Teaching Program Advisory Committee in 2017, received trainer credentials for KDE trainings on the Kentucky Academic of Standards, Kentucky’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (KyMTSS), Curriculum Development and High-Quality Instructional Resources in 2021, and serves on the statewide KyMTSS Community of Practice Group.

In 2014, Pass was named the High School Teacher of the Year by the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English and in 2012 was a finalist for the Next Generation Leader Award from Legacy, an extension of the chamber of commerce.

Alexandra E. Hughes, OVEC

Prior to joining Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative as the regional DEI coordinator, Alexandra E. Hughes, Ed.D., built a career in higher education serving multiple university communities, including the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and University of South Alabama. In her capacity as a university administrator, she built teams in the areas of student discipline, housing and residence life, student accessibility services, and diversity and inclusion. As a professor, she taught graduate and doctoral students about cultural competencies and exemplary research practices.

Her career also includes working as an education specialist for the Association for Student Conduct Administrators, where she created specialized curriculum centered on student discipline. She said she is passionate about connecting professionals with resources to ensure their success.

Hughes is looking forward to becoming an integral part of not only the OVEC team, but also working collaboratively with her counterparts in the other Kentucky educational cooperatives as they effectively communicate and champion multiple DEI elements such as race, gender, LBQTQ+, disability, social economics and performance/ability.

She is focused on providing individualized support to each OVEC district/school based on their needs and requests.

“I may not be able to change the world, but if I can positively impact and change one person’s world, then I have done enough,” said Hughes.

Meau Jones, SESC

Meau Jones already was familiar with working in the DEI field before becoming the DEI coordinator for the Southeast/South-Central Education Cooperative. Most recently, he was the director of Cultural Diversity and Special Programs at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. In that position, he was responsible for the college’s diversity plan, planning and implementing programs to promote diversity in the workplace and the college; assisting in the recruitment of a diverse student population and a diverse workforce; and providing cultural diversity training for employees.

As the University of Rio Grande’s multicultural affairs coordinator from 2011 to 2015, Jones developed collaborative partnerships to advance the campus culture of inclusion and planned and implemented initiatives such as Martin Luther King Day, Black History Month, Women’s History Month and International Week.

Looking toward the challenge ahead, Jones said his goal is “to get to know the area I’m in.”

“My children will be going to schools in this area; I want to live this (Martin Luther King Jr.) quote: ‘An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.’ This role is a great way to accomplish that in this new chapter of my life,” he said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to share some of my perspectives regarding student development. I’m equally excited to learn from the lived experiences of the individuals in the school systems.” 

Jones also was a member of the Eagle Diversity and Inclusion Team and Eagle Black Male Mentorship at MSU from 2018 to 2021.

His other work experience includes being hall director at MSU and summer resident director at Miami University (MU). He had a student-athlete academic support internship at MU; was the AmeriCorps college completion coach and an admissions counselor at the University of Rio Grande; conduct hearing officer and resident director at MU; and resident director at Kentucky State University.

He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education in coaching and leadership from the University of Rio Grande.

Sarah Akin, WKEC

Sarah Akin has a background in school counseling and community mental health to draw from in her role as a the DEI coordinator for the West Kentucky Educational Cooperative.

“The work of diversity, equity and inclusion is so important,” Akin said. “We must create that space where all people are welcomed, supported and differing perspectives and contributions are sought out and valued. We must ensure that every Kentucky student feels empowered and equipped to achieve success.”

Along with serving as a DEI coordinator, Akin is also the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations social and emotional learning specialist. Prior to working at WKEC, she was an elementary and high school counselor for 11 years in Christian County. She also worked in a school setting for five years in community mental health, assisting adults and children experiencing mental health crises.

Currently, she is president of the Kentucky School Counselor Association.

Akin earned her undergraduate degree from EKU and her graduate and education specialist degrees from Murray State University.

Roger Cleveland, WKEC

A leader and groundbreaking researcher in DEI and academic innovation, Roger Cleveland, Ed.D., works with Akin as a DEI external consultant for the West Kentucky Educational Cooperative.

Cleveland’s career has been dedicated to empowering businesses, public institutions and schools to embrace diversity and inclusion. As a results-driven educator and revolutionary thought leader, he is a lecturer, teacher and academic consultant.

He has more than 20 years in K-12 and higher education and has taught at MSU, UK (part-time), Middle Tennessee State University and Eastern Kentucky University (EKU).

Cleveland has published several education-related peer reviewed research articles and has hosted hundreds of diversity and inclusion workshops and lectures nationwide. He also is a founding member and assistant director of the nationally recognized Black Males Working Academy, a program focused on college and career readiness through academics, social-emotional learning and student achievement.

In 2014, he was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Cleveland has been named Professor of the Year by the Kentucky Association of Blacks in Higher Education and received the P.G. Peeples Equity and Excellence Achievement Award. As a professor at EKU, he was named one of the “Teachers Making a Difference.”

Cleveland earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from MSU, a master’s in the sociology of education from Union College, and a doctorate in educational foundations from the University of Cincinnati.

He currently serves as a full-time professor in the College of Education at EKU.