Community learns more about Fayette superintendent finalists in virtual forum

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDKY) – For the first time, parents and the community were able to ask their questions to some of the candidates hoping to be the next leader of Fayette County Public Schools. They had a few topics in mind, including diversity and equity.

“We are a diverse student body so we want the staff and the teachers to reflect the student body,” said Shambra Mulder, the education chair of Lexington’s NAACP.

Mulder was listening as candidates Dr. Tawana Grover and Dr. Demetrus Liggins spoke about their ideas to address diversity in the district.

“It is critical that we dismantle the inequities that exist in the education system,” Dr. Grover said. “Which students have access to advanced placement classes? Which kids are in our gifted and talented? How are students able to participate in extracurricular activities? “

“It’s been proven over and over that when our students have opportunities to see themselves in text, to see themselves in positions, whether that be gender, race, language or whether that be culture, it makes a huge difference and impact on them and how they retain information, how they learn and how they achieve overall,” Dr. Liggins said.

Dr. Grover says she would like to speak to other district officials about tactics that have been used in recruiting diverse teachers and staff and implement retention programs she’s used in the past to bring former students back as teachers.

Dr. Liggins says to recruit, the district needs to be competitive with salaries, and have an environment that staff feels appreciated and needed.

“The teacher shortage and the diversity issues and equities are across the country. We don’t expect someone to close it in four years or do anything outstanding, but you do have to be aware of it, talk about it, and address it,” Mulder said.

The remaining three candidates, Dr. Christopher Bernier, Dr. Melvin Brown and Angela Dominguez, will participate in their own forums on Thursday afternoon starting at 4:30 p.m. The district is live streaming these and ask feedback from parents be submitted by Friday. You can do that through the district’s website.

Here’s a full list of the candidates:

  • Dr. Christopher S. Bernier, Ed.D. – Dr. Bernier serves as the chief of staff for the Clark County School District (CCSD) in Las Vegas, Nevada. As an executive cabinet member in the 5th largest school district in the U.S. since 2019, Dr. Bernier drives and executes the student-centered vision for over 310,000 students and 42,000 employees. Dr. Bernier serves as chair of the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Committee for Goals and Objectives. He has achieved an over 10 percent increase in graduation rates, revitalized magnet programs, and created unique partnerships for college and career pathways for students.
  • Dr. Melvin J. Brown, Ed.D. – Since 2017, Dr. Melvin Brown has served as the superintendent of Reynoldsburg City Schools, a district with 7,300 students in the metropolitan area of Columbus, Ohio. Prior to this role, he was associate superintendent at Prince William County Public Schools in Virginia, a district of 89,000 students and a county population of 400,000. While at Reynoldsburg, Dr. Brown worked diligently to address district inequities in high school programming, including Advanced Placement and College Credit Plus enrollment.
  • Angela Dominguez – Ms. Dominguez serves as the assistant superintendent of academic services in Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, a large, urban district of about 10,000 students. Previously, she served as the district’s chief of secondary schools and executive director of school leadership. Ms. Dominguez is making great strides in providing equitable opportunities for scholars of Edgewood, a high-poverty district. Accomplishments across her 26-year career include collaboration with external partners (e.g., Texas A&M, Texas Council for International Studies, and others) to create unique learning opportunities for Edgewood students, improved academic accountability from a D grade to a C, selection as a Principal of the Year semi-finalist by a Texas-based corporation, and recognition as the Bilingual Administrator of the Year by a local chapter of bilingual educators.
  • Dr. Tawana Grover, Ph.D. – Dr. Tawana Grover is superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools in Grand Island, Nebraska, a district of over 10,000 students. Prior to becoming a superintendent in 2016, she served leadership roles in DeSoto Independent Schools—a suburban district of Dallas, Texas with 10,000 students—as chief human resource officer, executive director of federal programs, director of special programs, and principal.
  • Dr. Demetrus Liggins, Ph.D. – Dr. Demetrus Liggins has served since 2016 as superintendent of schools in Greenville Independent School District, an urban district of 5,000 students outside of Dallas, Texas. Previously, Dr. Liggins has been a bilingual/Spanish classroom teacher; an assistant principal; an elementary, middle, and high school principal; and an area superintendent of schools, in districts with as many as 35,000 students. In his current role, Dr. Liggins has increased student outcomes at all levels, including minority and economically-disadvantaged students’ performance, led the creation of a 5-year strategic plan and graduate profile, and transitioned several traditional schools to schools of choice, which helped improve equity across the district.

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