Beshear names two new state school board members after Republican criticism

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, May 31, 2023

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Kentucky Lantern

Gov. Andy Beshear has named two new members to the Kentucky Board of Education after Republicans criticized the Democrat for not making the appointments and blamed his inaction on partisan motives.

Beshear appointed Julia “Julie” Pile of Florence and Diana Woods of Lexington to the 15-member board which develops regulations for Kentucky’s 171 school districts, oversees the Department of Education and hires the state’s education commissioner. The new appointees will serve until April 2026.

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The two terms had expired more than a year ago but under the state constitution board members continue to serve until their successors are named, as Beshear noted last week when reporters asked him about the election-year criticism from Republicans.

“Now, I know where this is coming from, and as governor, I don’t answer to either political party. I answer to the people of Kentucky. And appointments to the Kentucky Board of Education are not and will never be political,” Beshear said. “In fact, the law used to say that you couldn’t look at someone’s party. All you had to look at were their qualifications. When that was changed by the legislature, we have followed that law.”

The two new at-large appointments appear to satisfy the demographic and political requirements. Pile is a registered Republican and Woods a registered Democrat, the Associated Press reported.

Pile has been an active volunteer in schools and co-founded a national nonprofit, ParentCamp, that offers virtual training for school communities, focusing on family-school-community engagement. Training topics include addressing family trauma and increasing family involvement, according to the Department of Education. She is a 2012 graduate of the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership and a 2018 member of the inaugural EdTrust Fund Parent Fellowship class.

Woods was a teacher, principal and director of middle schools in Fayette County and then became superintendent of Campbellsville Independent Schools in Taylor County. In retirement, she consulted with the Kentucky Center for School Safety and is a clinical educator at Georgetown College. Woods also serves on the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission, according to the education department.

State Republican Party Chairman Mac Brown penned a letter to Beshear on May 24, calling on the governor to make the appointments. “I respectfully request you comply with the law by May 31. I’d be happy to send you a list of Republicans if you’re having trouble finding one,” Brown wrote.

Beshear faces Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron in the November election.