Special education director hired by Woodford schools
Woodford County Public Schools has hired a new director of special education. Tracey Francis comes to the district after spending last school year as a special education consultant in the Madison County schools. Francis views her administrative role in Woodford County schools as an opportunity to provide guidance, support and resources to special education teachers so their students can be successful in the classroom, she said. "Woodford is known for its excellence in the schools and its outstanding performance, but I really want to focus in on providing support for (special education) teachers and students that will help (students) succeed and close those achievement gaps," said Francis on Tuesdaymorning. Growing up in a small town in Leslie County and being around people with hearing impairments, and earning two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree in special education at Eastern Kentucky University helped Francis understand how all students can succeed in school. "They may need a different path to reach that success," she explained, "but it's figuring out what path ... What kind of supports they need? What kind of resources they need? What kind of instruction do they need that may be a little different than the student sitting next to them. But they can succeed." Prior to working in Madison County, Francis was employed in the Fayette County schools for 13 years. She spent eight years teaching students with hearing impairments before becoming a special education facilitator, a support role for teachers and their students very similar to what she did in Madison County for one year. Francis said that during her career in special education she has learned the value of building a community of resources and always keeping the student foremost in her mind. "I really enjoy this job," she said of her career path. "I love working with the parents. I love going in (the schools) and working with those students. I'm not a behind-the-desk kind of gal. I like to get in the (class) room. And that's another thing that drew me to Woodford County is ... administrators are known to be out in those schools. I want to be a part of that." A screening committee of district administrators and school principals recommended three finalists to Woodford County schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins. He said Francis's "really, really strong knowledge of all the ins and outs as it relates to special education," including federal and state law, and her ability to build relationships were factors in her being hired. "You can just tell she has a very good work ethic; extremely hard worker," said Hawkins of a conversation with Francis. She also shared ideas about what Woodford County schools can do differently to help improve the academic performance of students with disabilities and learning delays by meeting their individual needs, he added. "It's a group of students who have some very specific needs - and in some cases (there are) barriers to them being able to be successful," said Hawkins. "And so you've got to have somebody who can work alongside (teachers and principals) to ensure that we're trying to provide the best opportunities; that we're trying to help our students overcome those barriers." Francis, who succeeds Claudia Godbey, begins her duties in Woodford County schools on July 10. She lives in Madison County with her husband, Joe, and their two sons, 13-year-old Elijah and 10-year-old Isaiah. Other hires Woodford County Middle School has hired Scott Hundley as an assistant principal. The former WCMS administrative dean succeeds Jeff Rhode, who was hired as principal at Elkhorn Middle School in Frankfort. Woodford County High School has hired Kevin Farris as an assistant principal. He succeeds John Darnell, who left the district to become principal at Bellevue High School in Northern Kentucky. Simmons Elementary School has hired Nick Schuerman as administrative dean. The former WCMS teacher and WCHS assistant basketball coach succeeds Damon Stefanic, hired as principal at Garth Elementary School in Scott County. Jeremy Reynolds, a former Southside Elementary School teacher, returns to Southside as its new academic dean. He succeeds Stacy Rutledge, who left Southside after being hired as principal at Bridgeport Elementary School in Frankfort.