The Kentucky Department of Education's first ever chief equity officer has experience with adversity, segregation, and public schooling.
The Arkansas native and nationally honored former school superintendent, Dr. Thomas Woods-Tucker, plans on taking those lessons with him to the Bluegrass State.
The Kentucky Board of Education issued a resolution in July declaring its commitment to addressing inequality. It was a move that helped convince Woods-Tucker to take the position.
During a conversation this month WKU Public Radio, just days after starting the job, Deputy Commissioner Woods-Tucker said few other states have taken that step.
Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and timing.
That resolution states that every student in the Commonwealth deserves equitable access to excellent educators, whether they're teachers, administrators, [or] support staff, who have unique experiences and perspectives, quality preparation and are committed to the success of all learners. That's huge.
What steps do you see being taken in that direction?
In addition to the resolution, I think we need to build and ultimately execute...a statewide ethnicity and action plan...I think that's huge...And also, I think this has to be a budget priorityfor us at the Kentucky Department of Education.
When you look forward to your service in the state, how would you measure success?
I would measure success by ensuring that every student in the Commonwealth has an opportunity to be successful in his or her chosen endeavor, whether it's college, career or work, and is able to do that in a remediation-free environment and has experienced educators who look like them physically, similarly, who come from economic backgrounds similar to theirs, but more importantly who have educators...who are committed to their success.
What does the teacher recruiting process in Kentucky look like and how would you like to see that change?
Again I talked earlier about the importance of having funding in place to continue that type of training...In 2009, our lawmakers funded scholarships for superintendent or adminstrators in residency here in Kentucky.
I certainly would like to see additional funds in place to provide funding for future administrators of color and also poor white administrators as well. Because we also know in our poor counties here in Kentucky, those students need role models, those students need administrators who have similar experiences to them as well.
Does the broader national conversation about race right now and our history make this job that much more important to you?
Absolutely...when we look at our students' concerns, which are no different than concerns across this country...it's not just about racism, which is huge. Don't get me wrong. But, when we talk about diversity and inclusion, they're talking about gender inclusion, they're talking about sexual orientation, they're talking about bullying. And so, the diversity umbrella here in the Commonwealth, here in Kentucky is quite wide and our students really get it and I'm sure our teachers and our administrators get it as well. Because in talking wiht me, we talked about how can we continue to create a culturally relevant curriculum. Students want to see themselves regardless of how they fit under the diversity umbrella depicted in the curriculum.