Foster, Walsh vying for District 4 BOE seat

Published 4:04 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

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As Election Day approaches, there is only one Jessamine County office on the ballot: the seat on the Jessamine County Schools (JCS) Board of Education from District 4.

This position has been held by Wilmore resident Denise Adams since 2019, and she has had a seasoned career at JCS. Adams has spent 30 years as an educator in the county and went on to open the Providence School as its principal for the last 12 years of her career.

“Since retiring, I have worked for the Center for School Safety, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and at Martin Luther King Academy in Fayette County,” Adams said.

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Two Wilmore men have been itching to run for this position as soon as Adams stepped down, and the time has come.

Michael Foster is a maintenance supervisor at the Wastewater Facility for Lexington. He’s been with the city of Lexington for nearly 21 years and has lived in Wilmore for 19 years.

Foster served the Wilmore Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter for ten years, he was a constable for Wilmore for eight years and he currently helps out the Jessamine County Fire Department as a contractor by working on its vehicles.

“It’s been on my mind for a couple of years, but Denise has always done a fine job, and she’s always run, so I wasn’t going to step in and bump her out of the way. When I found out she wouldn’t run again, I figured it was no better time than the present for me to try to get involved in the school system a bit. I’ve got a 19-year-old daughter who went through the Jessamine County School System, and I’ve got a 13-year-old son who’s in the 8th grade, so I thought maybe it would be a good time to get into the school system and try to see if I can help change some things,” Foster said.

For the last four years, Foster has been the president of the Jessamine County Youth Football League, and he’s coached for his daughter’s softball team and his son’s baseball and basketball teams. Getting students involved in sports is one of his primary goals if elected as the District 4 representative.

“I enjoy kids. I do all I can with the kids in sporting programs. I’m a big advocate of sports. That’s kind of another thing I’d like to keep big in schools cause some of the kids in this county to have a rough home life. Sports is one thing that gives them something to look forward to, and I’d like to get as many kids as possible involved in sports,” Foster said.

Foster also wants to focus on school safety and wants to see a resource officer in each school.

“To my knowledge, I don’t think the elementary schools have a resource officer there all day. And I don’t think that it’s specifically for worrying about an active shooter coming in or anything like that, but if a family is having a domestic violence problem and the parent who isn’t supposed to show up does show up at the school, I just think it would be a good thing to have an officer there who can step in and it’s not something that the principal or the vice principal or the teachers have to try to step into to deescalate if something like that is going on,” Foster said.

Although at the time of the interview, Foster said he only partially researched the districts’ tardy and absence policies, there are a few things he would like to discuss if he were elected.

“If a kid comes in, even a few minutes late- to the best of my knowledge- it’s considered an unexcused absence, and I know a lot of people are a lot like me; if your child gets up and is not feeling the best you don’t always rush em straight to the doctor to see if there’s something wrong with them right at the beginning, but if they miss one day you know that policy is changed on you’re supposed to have a doctor’s note for anything that’s missed like that,” he said.

Foster said that if elected, he would do his best for the community.

“I have the kids’ best interest at heart for me. I know you’ll step on people’s toes; you can never make everybody happy and in this position, but it’s for the kids. The school board members are in this for the best interest of the children, and I am 100% in this for the best interest of the kids,” Foster said.

F.M. Eric Walsh is a Wilmore resident and has been with the campus safety team at Asbury University for the last ten years. He is currently the assistant director, and before that, he worked many other positions in Jessamine and Fayette County.

He has received a Master’s in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management with an emphasis in school safety at Eastern Kentucky University, “to do what I do know and to be able to contribute to the overall safety culture of the not only the Asbury Campus but ultimately I hope to be able to do that as a school board representative.”

At Asbury, Walsh works on different improvements, like creating a partnership with the Jessamine County Sheriff’s Office so that Asbury can have resource officers on campus. He also supervises the students who lead the campus shuttle program so students can get around campus safely at night.

Walsh worked at the Bluegrass Area Development District in transportation safety for five years, working with county and city officials to improve the safety of roadways. He is currently the president of the Wilmore Aquatic Club, a summer swim team in Wilmore.

Walsh also has two children- His daughter is a junior and 16, and his son is 12.

For a long time, Walsh has wanted to run for school board, but he had a family member working in the district and couldn’t. Walsh never ran against Adams because he respected her opinions. “

I know Denise, and I appreciate her candor and viewpoint on many things over the years, and I go to church with her,” Walsh said.

As a military kid, Walsh attended school in every contiguous American time zone- from California to Ohio, with the majority of his time in Nebraska. He stayed in Kentucky after moving here in 1996 because it’s where he felt “most at home.” In addition to his school safety work, Walsh believes he can take these childhood experiences with him into the school system and bring a slightly different vantage point.

Walsh was a substitute teacher in the Jessamine County school system for a year two years ago.

“I said if I want my kid in school and there’s a shortage of subs, I’ve got the time, I meet the requirements, so I became a sub to help with the sub shortage we had during that COVID year,” Walsh said. “I enjoyed being in the schools and seeing from a first-hand viewpoint what my son and daughter are coming home with every day.”

There are a few things that Walsh had in mind for new ideas and some things he would like to see change.

First, Walsh mentioned having a walking school bus for Wilmore Elementary School.

Instead of using “diesel-guzzling” school buses in the neighborhoods, perhaps parents, volunteers, or school employees can walk students as far as a half-mile radius from the school to the school and back to the neighborhood at the end of the school day.

“It promotes a good, healthier lifestyle. If I could get my kid out on a walking school bus to get to school and save a half-hour bus ride at a minimum, that would be favorable, in my opinion,” Walsh said.

Walsh also mentioned students at Wilmore Elementary need a sidewalk to get to downtown Wilmore from the school. They must walk through the campgrounds which the school is on. The old Wilmore campgrounds isn’t owned by the school district or the city of Wilmore; Adventure Serve Outreach Ministry owns it.

“But being able to help facilitate a simple project like that, it’s not an expensive project. It’s something I think we can partner with together and get that done between the three organizations and provide that safe avenue, specifically in Wilmore,” Walsh said about the sidewalk project.

One thing Walsh said he was pleased to see was the change in who is leading the theater program at West Jessamine High School.

“I know there were many complaints over the past couple of years and how risque (the plays) were, one of which my daughter was in, and we didn’t even bring our son to the show,” he said.

Walsh said other families didn’t bring their younger kids to the show either.”We need to make sure the whole family can watch the high school performances and not just those in high school.”

Walsh also believes the board of education is doing residents who participate in public comment at board meetings a “disservice” when they only thank the individual for their comment and don’t respond in any other way.

“If they’re taking the effort to show up, I think you should at least take the effort to formulate a response,” Walsh said.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.