Education

The Jefferson County Board of Education is now taking applications to fill a vacant seat representing southwest Louisville.

The Board accepted Benjamin Gies’s resignation and declared a vacancy Tuesday night. That started a ticking clock to fill the seat by mid-September.

Under a new law that went into effect just days before Gies announced his resignation, the school board will have the power to select the candidate to fill the vacant seat, an authority previously held by the Kentucky Commissioner of Education.

Steps Candidates Must Take

The Board will accept applications for the next two weeks, until 4:30 p.m. on July 31. To be eligible to apply, candidates must:

  • be at least 24 years old
  • be registered to vote in the school board’s District 4 in southwest Louisville
  • be a three-year citizen of Kentucky

At the school board’s Tuesday night meeting, Board member Chris Brady pointed out that for this particular position, candidates will have a few more hoops to jump through than they may realize.

As you might expect, eligible candidates who wish to apply must submit an application and letter of intent to the school board and confirm their eligibility.

Under a 2018 law, candidates will also have to supply a copy of their high school transcripts to show they completed the 12th grade or high school equivalency, such as a GED.

The board will review applications and hold interviews during closed sessions, then make a final vote on their appointment in an open meeting. The Board has not yet scheduled that vote, but it must occur by September 14.

Because of the timing of the resignation, whoever the board appoints will also have to run for election this November — to bring the decision to voters at the next possible opportunity. Any candidates wishing to apply for the position should also file for that election at the Jefferson County Elections Center by August 13.

That also means anyone seeking the seat will have an opportunity to compete in the fall election, regardless of whether he or she wins the Board’s appointment. The winner of that election will also have to run for reelection in 2020, due to the seat’s regularly scheduled term. At that point, the candidate who is voted in will serve a four-year term.

“I think that’s a lot to ask of folks — it’s pretty complex,” Brady said.

Board Seat Requires Significant Commitment

Board chair Diane Porter said a strong candidate will be caring and compassionate and “a strong worker for children,” as well as someone who is willing to give the time the position requires.

“I think the responsibility is larger than what people see by attending school board meetings,” Porter said. “It’s not an hour a week. It is signing up for a job.”

Board members represent schools within their district, and are expected to be responsive to their constituents and have a presence at community events in their schools. Other responsibilities include attending and preparing for closed and open school board meetings (here’s a schedule) and interacting with the media.

“This job is really unique in that you can throw as much time at it as you possibly could, and it will just smile at you and ask for more,” Brady said.

Brady said he would like to see applicants who have an active interest in education, who want to serve their community, “someone who keeps an open mind and looks at the complexities of what’s going on in our society.”