By LISA SIMPSON STRANGE
Glasgow Daily Times
Two candidates have completed the necessary paperwork to be official write-in candidates for the open Barren County Board of Education seat vacated by Austin Tracy District board member Tommy Ross last month.
Michelle Pedigo and Phillip Pitt are the only two certified candidates whose names will be counted if they receive write-in votes on ballots in Tuesday’s election, according to Barren County Clerk Joanne London.
Whoever receives more votes will serve one year on the board to complete Tim England’s original term. England died suddenly in August 2010 and was replaced by Ross in November 2010 for a one-year emergency term. The person who wins the seat on Tuesday will be eligible to run for a full term next November if he or she wishes.
There will be a box on the paper ballot to vote for an Austin Tracy School Board District board member, but no names will be listed. A candidate’s name must be written in, said London. The handicap-accessible voting machine may also be used. The voter has to spell out the name using the machine’s wheel in the appropriate space.
No information will be posted about the write-in election at precincts and it is up to the two candidates to make sure their supporters know the voting process for write-ins, according to London. The candidate’s name should also be spelled as correctly as possible because there must be a clear intent on the part of the voter as to what name they are writing in.
As for the candidates themselves, Pedigo is a former educator in the Barren County School System. After teaching and coaching in the Allen County-Scottsville system from 1991-95, she was employed as Barren County Middle School vice principal from 1995-97 and school principal from 1997-2000.
Under her leadership, Barren County Middle School became one of four nationally recognized Schools to Watch, according to Pedigo’s MetLife bio.
In 2001, she was named MetLife/National Association of Secondary School Principals National Middle School Principal of the Year.
Pedigo moved to Barren County district’s central office as director of instruction for middle and high school in 2000 – a position she kept for two years before being recruited by MetLife in 2002 to become national director of strategic alliances for MetLife Resources. She is currently MetLife Distribution vice president of the Northeast Division.
In addition to earning principal, supervisory and teaching certifications, she has a master’s degree in education from Western Kentucky University and a Bachelor’s of Science in business administration, graduating magna cum laude from Georgetown College. She is a published author who has served with national educational associations and as a panelist for the U.S. Department of Education.
Pedigo travels Tuesday through Thursday to New York and the East Coast each week for her job with MetLife. Asked how she would be able to balance work with school board responsibilities, Pedigo said she has managed this lifestyle successfully for nine years.
“I’ve always been a person able to get a lot of things done,” she said. “Four children, vice president, family business, church – I manage it all.”
Michelle and her family – husband, Ivan, and daughters, Bailey, Mallory, Deanie and Sara-Cate – have lived in the Austin community for 15 years. The family operates CPC Livestock and Commodities.
Pedigo said when England died she expressed interest in the seat, but Tommy Ross had former experience on the board.
“I have so much respect for Tim England. He was a board member when I was working in Barren County,” she said.
With all four daughters in Barren County Schools – two in fifth grade at North Jackson Elementary, one in eighth grade at BCMS and one in 11th grade at BCHS, along with her previous educational background and current business experience, Pedigo said she has a broad scope of skills to bring to the board.
“I’m a team player, with educational experience, a parent, and I have a global view working for a global company,” she said. “I believe in Barren County schools and the leadership there. I’ve seen the progress the district has made.”
Pedigo said she appreciates what the Barren County system has done for her children and wants to be of service.
“It’s time to step up and give back to the district I believe has done great things,” she said.
Being a “hometown girl” is an advantage in the election, according to Pedigo.
“People in the community need to feel comfortable with the person representing them,” she said.
The other candidate, Pitt, is a retired associate professor of communication from Jefferson Community College in Louisville. He and his wife Peggy retired to the Barren River Lake area six years ago.
He has both a master’s degree and a Doctorate of Ministry in the field of communications from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served on the board of Wesley Manor Retirement Community Inc., Louisville, and the United Methodist Retirement Homes of Kentucky, six of 10 years serving as chairman of the board.
Pitt also worked for Capital Holdings and was assistant to the president of Belmont College doing long-range planning and fundraising for 10 years.
His wife was an elementary school teacher for 32 years – the last 27 spent in Oldham County teaching fifth grade.
Asked why he chose to run for the school board opening, Pitt said he believed the decision of who would fill the seat should be made at the local level.
“I did not like the idea of someone in Frankfort appointing the position. I think locals should have the opportunity for a local person,” he said.
Pitt said that educational systems are the backbone of a community.
“Barren County has recognized economic, socio-political growth of the county is directly tied to the school system,” he said.
He supports focusing more on the needs of classroom teachers.
“In 1990, KERA (Kentucky Education Reform Act) neglected the classroom teacher,” he said. “I believe we have a large number of excellent teachers.”
But Pitt said legislation and other road blocks are keeping teachers from completing the job they should be doing.
“I can remember when teachers were very revered in the community. I don’t see that now,” he said.
The emphasis needs to put back on educating children across a broad spectrum of knowledge.
“You cannot teach to the test. You have to teach content,” he said.
As far as Career and College Readiness standards, Pitt said he doesn’t necessarily believe everyone needs to go to college, but whether they go to a university or technical institution, students have to be given the proper educational tools.
“Two-thirds of my students at Jefferson Community College were not prepared for college,” he said. Too much money had to be spent on remedial classes. “There’s a core educational background every student should leave Barren County with.”
After reading the district’s mission statement, Pitt said while the priority of trying to “meet the needs of each individual child” is a worthy goal, it is more realistic to develop educational programs for the group that can be individually worked for different students.
“I believe classroom teachers can be experts in this because they have direct contact with students,” he said.
Pitt also believes the district needs to continue their construction initiatives.
“We have to maintain the building program,” he said. “I think we have great possibilities to build on what Barren County has done (in the past).”
With the trend toward migration of student populations from outlying county schools to ones located within the city limits, what kind of future does Pitt see for Austin Tracy?
He said a very positive one.
“Big is not better. Eventually we’re going to learn it may cost more, but there’s a benefit of maintaining small, satellite schools versus mega schools. You need to have a sense of community not present in mega schools. I’m supportive of smaller community schools, even if it costs a little more,” he said.