The next nonvoting student and teacher to serve on the state board of education were revealed by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) on June 6, roughly one month before their one-year terms begin.
Ronald “R.J.” Osborne, a junior at Whitley County High School, will be the next public school student to hold a seat on the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), while Alissa Riley, a 9th-12th-grade teacher at Gateway Academy to Innovation and Technology (Christian County) will occupy the teacher seat.
KBE Chair Lu S. Young said the board is, “excited to have Alissa and R.J. join us and we welcome their voices as an active teacher and current student. They will be instrumental as we make decisions that impact the future of education in the Commonwealth.”
Riley, a 15-year teaching veteran, was selected from eight applicants from the 1st Congressional District and recommended by the KBE Application Review Special Committee for the 2023-2024 non-voting teacher position. She will fill the seat that will soon be vacated by Garrard County teacher Joanna Stevens, whose term expires on June 30.
“I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a teacher,” said Riley. “I have never wanted to be in any other field or pursue any other career. When people talk about their dream jobs, I can proudly say that I am living my dream.”
Meanwhile, seven students residing in the 5th Congressional District successfully completed the application procedure and met all the criteria for consideration for the 2023-2024 year, including submitting parent and school support statements.
After reviewing all the applications, the KDE Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council Application Review Special Committee recommended three candidates to the KBE for consideration. A special committee of KBE members reviewed the three candidates and selected Osborne as the recommended student to serve on the KBE.
He will replace Boone County senior Joud Dahleh, whose term expires on June 30.
Osborne says it is an honor to be selected as the third public school student to hold a position on the KBE and hopes to use this opportunity to bring attention to the rise in college dropouts and to show appreciation for the Commonwealth’s educators.
“There are so many challenges that our high school graduates face when they enter college,” he said, adding that he 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,” Osborne said.
Riley received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2007 from Western Kentucky University (WKU), then went on to serve as a primary grade teacher for the first 13 years of her career. In 2016, she earned her master’s degree in teacher leadership, with an endorsement in WKU’s elementary math specialist program.
Making a difference in Kentucky is important to Riley, not only for her own family and district, but for all of the state’s students and teachers.
“I could sit here in my little corner of Christian County and advocate locally, but I want to do it on a much larger scale,” she said.
Teacher recruitment and retention, along with helping improve career readiness within Kentucky’s career and technical education programs are among the areas Riley said she will advocate for during her term. She would also like to see preschool fully funded.
“I taught kindergarten for 8 years and worked with kids that were never in a school setting,” she said. “And when you have students that are coming in that have never had any academic or social emotional anything, they’re already starting out at a disadvantage compared to peers that went to a preschool.”
Osborne, 17, is active in many extracurricular activities, including the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and varsity baseball. When he is not taking honors courses and maintaining his 4.389 grade point average, Osborne volunteers as a referee for the Upward Sports basketball league.
“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.
Riley and Osborne will begin their roles with the KBE on July 1. Their terms will expire on June 30, 2024.
The KBE has 15 members. The governor appoints 11 voting members: seven representing the Supreme Court districts and four representing the state at large. The additional members – the president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, the secretary of the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet, a high school student and an active elementary or secondary school teacher – serve as nonvoting members.