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Board to Consider Accepting Additional Applicant for Vacant Seat

On Jan. 17, members of the Fayette County Board of Education will interview candidates interested in representing District 1 on the school board. But before that can happen, they need to decide which applicants to consider.

Initially, board members were aware of nine people who submitted online applications, including:

  • Four who submitted complete applications before the deadline and met statutory eligibility requirements for the board seat,
  • Two who submitted complete applications after the deadline and met the requirements, and
  • Three who did not meet eligibility requirements.

Because former District 1 board member Christy Morris resigned in November, the remaining four school board members are responsible for filling the vacant seat. District 1 is in west Fayette County and pulls from areas roughly between Leestown and Harrodsburg roads.

Applications were accepted through 5 p.m. on Dec. 23, and community input about the key characteristics and priorities for the new board member was collected through Dec. 31. Both opportunities were promoted in direct communications to families, employees, and community members, as well as newspaper ads, media coverage, and online solicitations through social media, news websites, and the district website.

The board voted not to accept late applications, and one of the four remaining candidates withdrew.

Demetrus LigginsSince then, Superintendent Demetrus Liggins discovered that a 10th person filed an application, but the paper submission was lost. “An application was dropped off at the front desk of the district administration building on the last day of school before winter break,” Liggins said. “Unfortunately, we have been unable to locate their paperwork anywhere in the building.”

The applicant sent follow-up emails to confirm receipt of his materials, but incorrectly used “.edu” at the end of the district email address instead of “.us”, so no one received the email.

“We discovered the mistake because of an email phishing filter in our software that searches incoming emails for variations of my name and email address to intercept spam,” Liggins said. “As soon as this matter was brought to my attention, we made contact with the applicant by phone, apologized for the loss of his original submission, and gave him an opportunity to provide a duplicate set of his application materials.”

It will be up to the board to decide whether to include him in the interview pool.

“He would have been eligible if not for the error by our administrative team,” Liggins said. “Appropriate action will be taken to correct the deficiencies that led to this mistake.”

The previously unknown applicant is Jerome Higginbotham, a carpenter for Phase IV Contractors. Others vying for the seat include:

  • Marilyn Clark, a supplier diversity manager at the University of Kentucky who previously held similar roles with Fayette County Public Schools and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government,
  • Edward Dixon, a senior decision support analyst at the University of Kentucky and former state contractor, and
  • William Swope Jr., a retired state fire marshal and former Lexington assistant fire chief.

The successful applicant will serve until the next general election on Nov. 7 and will have the opportunity – along with other interested candidates – to seek election to fulfill the remainder of the term through the end of 2024.

“Being a school board member is an act of public service,” said Chair Tyler Murphy. “Our board team takes that responsibility very seriously and looks forward to welcoming a new board member committed to serving all students, employees, families, and community members.”

Contact: District Spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall, (859) 699-1441

Posted Jan. 14, 2023