A woman is seated in a classroom at a desk. She is smiling.

Newly appointed Kentucky Board of Education member Diana Woods sits in a classroom at Henry Clay High School (Fayette County) on June 14, 2023. Woods was principal at the school from 1994 to 2000. (Toni Konz Tatman, Kentucky Department of Education)

Ever since she received the phone call, lifelong educator Diana Woods has been thinking about why she said yes to serving on the Kentucky Board of Education. Her answer: Now is the time for education to go beyond the four walls of a building.

“It’s an exciting time (to be) in education; we are seeing so many new and expanding programs. This is a time when we are not doing school like we used to,” she said. “There are so many opportunities for students to explore academic interests, instructional offerings, the full gambit.”

Woods is a native of Harrison County and graduated from Harrison County Public Schools. When she and her siblings and friends were children, she was the oldest and often played teacher. It was all she wanted to do when she grew up.

After graduating college, she landed a job in Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) as a middle school science teacher.

“I loved teaching science because science can be project-based and you get to experiment,” she said. “I still have adults in their 30s who come up to me and talk about dissecting frogs and how much fun they had in my class.”

A minority internship program helped Woods take the next career step from teaching to administration. FCPS had an internship program that allowed aspiring administrators to visit different schools and learn from people in leadership positions. Woods was then hired as the associate principal and later principal at Henry Clay High School.

As principal, Woods was a proponent of having “something that snags every student’s interest.”

At Henry Clay, Woods helped to bring Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) to the school, and oversaw a grant for a JROTC program for aspiring military students. JAG provided students with technical experiences, and the school developed a robust liberal arts academy for students focused on academic and creative pursuits.

“In education, we have to think collaboratively,” she said. “What can we do? What are the resources in this community to help a child succeed?”

Next, Woods served as director of middle schools in Fayette County. During her time in the position, former Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit established a minority superintendent internship. Woods looks back on her year in the intern program with fondness for all the connections she made with acting superintendents across the state, from Daviess County to Marion County.

“They were attentive to my skillset and put me through mock interviews that were the hardest I’ve experienced to this day, but they were very beneficial. I’m grateful for that time,” she said.

Woods served as the superintendent of the Campbellsville Independent school district until her retirement. As a superintendent, Woods said she focused on building up her staff.

“It’s all about relationships,” she said. “I can teach anyone anything, but knowing there is someone in the building supporting you, you can’t fake that. I’ve been fortunate to have skilled staff to learn from and work with throughout my career.”

Woods has seen firsthand how everyone can learn from one another – parents, community leaders and educators.

“I grew up in a rural district, taught in a larger city district and led a small independent school. Each one has so much to offer and I know if we come together, we can learn from one another,” she said.

Woods wants to start her tenure on the board with the end in mind.

“I want to be known as an advocate for the development and coordination of curriculum of instructional practices in all 171 school districts,” she said. “I want to make sure every child is educated and elevated in order to meet the requirements of their next phase or career goals. That should be all of our responsibility: to make sure all students are successful.”

Woods plans to visit as many schools as possible. She said although she is one person, with one vote, she wants her vote to “truly reflect what is needed in our schools.”

Currently living in Lexington, Woods serves as a clinical educator at Georgetown College and as a consultant for the Kentucky Center for School Safety. Her son, Branden Woods, is a graduate of Tates Creek High School (Fayette County) and is currently serving as a commander in the Navy.  He and his wife, Natalie, have four children: Naomi, Elijah, Malakai and Acacia.  Naomi will be attending Centre College in the of fall 2023. 

Woods’ nephew, Chad Willis, who also is a Tates Creek graduate, is a teacher at Coventry Oaks Elementary (Fayette County).  He and his wife Alyson have one daughter, Marleigh Camille Willis.

Woods’ term on the Kentucky Board of Education will expire April 14, 2026.