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Kentucky governor appoints 2 to state board of education, days after drawing Republican criticism

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear in the WFPL studio on May 3, 2019.
J. Tyler Franklin
Andy Beshear filled two long-empty spots on the Kentucky Board of Education this week.

Kentucky's governor made two new appointments to the state board of education on Tuesday, taking action days after drawing election-year criticism for a lapse in adding members to the board.

Julie Pile and Diana Woods were selected by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to serve as at-large members on the Kentucky Board of Education. Pile is a registered Republican while Woods is registered as a Democrat, the state education department said, citing applications it received from the governor's office.

Republicans had criticized Beshear last week for inaction in dealing with the board’s membership. The controversy surfaced when the Courier Journal reported that the two seats had sat idle for more than a year on the 11 voting-member board.

“It was only after pressure was applied by journalists and Republicans that he met his legal obligation,” state Republican Party spokesman Sean Southard said in responding to the new appointments.

Ceding no ground on the matter, the governor last week pointed to a constitutional provision that board members serve “until their successors are appointed.” Beshear also noted at the time that he had appointed Republicans to the state board of education during his term.

“I know where this is coming from, and as governor I don’t answer to either political party,” the governor said last week in responding to the criticism. “I answer to the people of Kentucky.”

The back and forth comes as Beshear seeks reelection to a second term this year against Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron in a campaign drawing national attention. GOP leaders said at least one of the state board of education positions — by law — should go to a Republican.

Pile, of Florence, has served in various volunteer and leadership positions with schools in northern Kentucky, the education department said in a news release. She currently serves as the co-founder and president of ParentCamp, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to family-school engagement.

“I’ve had experience on the local level and a lot of what we do on the local level is [promulgated] by the state level, so to be able to have a parent voice input at the state level is really important,” Pile said.

Woods, of Lexington, is a retired superintendent. She was a teacher, principal and director of middle schools in Fayette County, and then became superintendent of Campbellsville Independent. In retirement, she has worked as a consultant with the Kentucky Center for School Safety, the education department said.

“As a native Kentuckian who received a great education in our public schools, I am very appreciative of the opportunity to work to ensure that current students in our great commonwealth have the same experience,” Woods said.

Pile and Woods will not be able to attend the board's June 6-7 meeting, the department said. Arrangements will be made to administer the oath of office, it said. The state board of education develops and adopts regulations governing Kentucky’s public school districts.

Their terms will expire on April 14, 2026, the department said.

Meanwhile, the winner of this year's governor's race will be able to pick seven board members next spring.

It's not the first time that appointments to the state board of education had turned into a contentious issue during Beshear's term as governor. On his first day in office in late 2019, Beshear overhauled the board, upholding a campaign promise while drawing criticism from Republicans and some others.

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