FCPS announces new leaders ahead of upcoming school year

The district announced several new leaders at schools and special programs

FAYETTE COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ/PRESS RELEASE) – Students in Fayette County Public Schools return for the first day of school on Wednesday, August 10, 2022. According to the district, new leaders at schools and special programs have been announced.

“School leadership is a difference maker, and that importance is amplified as we implement the ‘New Way Forward,’ outlined in our strategic plan,” said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Demetrus Liggins. “We have high expectations for the newest members of our leadership team, including educators from school districts throughout the state and nation, as well as rising stars from within our ranks who are moving into new positions as part of their leadership journey.”

New leaders include:

  • Lamar Allen, acting program Director at Carter G. Woodson Preparatory Academy
  • Marlon Ball, principal at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School
  • Tiffany Cook, principal at Picadome Elementary
  • Nekesha Cozart, acting program director at Carter G. Woodson Academy
  • Kevin Faris, program director at The Stables
  • Chris Flores, program director at STEAM Academy
  • Michelle Grant, principal at Coventry Oak Elementary
  • Bryne Jacobs, principal at Lexington Traditional Magnet School
  • Jodi Johnson, principal at The Academy for Leadership at Millcreek Elementary
  • Bryan Kennedy, acting program director at The Learning Center
  • Liz Kirk, principal at Yates Elementary
  • Anthony Orr, principal at Lafayette High School
  • Matthew Spottswood, principal at Maxwell Elementary
  • Tyson Steelman, principal at Athens-Chilesburg Elementary
  • Cassaundra Watkins, principal at The Promise Academy at Harrison Elementary

“We are excited to put the darkest days of the past two years behind us with a renewed energy and commitment to providing every student with exciting, challenging, and well-rounded educational opportunities in a safe, caring, and supportive environment’” Liggins said. “Each of these new leaders will play a critical role in removing barriers and accelerating student success.”

Lamar Allen, acting program Director at Carter G. Woodson Preparatory Academy

Allen has 12 years of experience in education and started his career as a classroom teacher at Jones Paideia Magnet Elementary School in Nashville, TN. Two years later, he was hired to become the Instructional Coach and Academic Dean at Robert Churchwell Museum Elementary, also in Nashville. Allen joined the Fayette County Public Schools in 2015 as an intermediate, primary, STEAM, and STEM educator at Yates Elementary School. In 2021, he was selected as the professional growth and effectiveness coach for Carter G. Woodson Prep, where he later moved into the acting program director role. Allen holds a bachelor’s degree in community communications and leadership development from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in K-4 education and leadership from Lipscomb University, and a specialist degree in educational leadership from the University of Cumberlands, where he is currently pursuing his doctorate.

“Mr. Allen is a passionate educator who strongly believes in the success of Carter G. Woodson Preparatory Academy, said Fayette County Public Schools Elementary School Chief Barry Richburg. “He has a laser-like focus on providing a high-quality educational experience for all students while strengthening strong partnerships with business and community stakeholders.”

Marlon Ball, principal at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Originally from Tampa, FL, Ball has 13 years of experience in the field of education in the United States and abroad. He started his career as a social studies teacher at an alternative school in Gainesville, FL, and his time in the classroom includes working with students in Advanced Placement and alternative settings in Tampa and Orlando. After four years in the classroom, Ball moved into administration as the assistant principal for student affairs at Aspira R.A.M Charter School in Miami, Florida. In 2017, he became the administrator for curriculum with Dubai International School in Dubai. For the past three years, he has served as the assistant principal and designated Title IX coordinator at Samuel Wolfson High School for Advanced Studies and Leadership in Jacksonville, FL. Ball holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

“Mr. Ball is excited to be taking the helm of an amazing school following the retirement of Ms. Betsy Rains,” said Fayette County Public Schools Chief of High Schools James McMillin. “With 13 years of experience in education, Mr. Ball specializes in implementing culturally relevant teaching and curriculum while also focusing on building strong culture and relationships with students, staff, and families. The Dunbar School-Based Decision Making Council and I are excited to welcome him to Lexington from sunny Florida and can’t wait to work alongside him as he leads Paul Laurence Dunbar going forward.”

Tiffany Cook, principal of Picadome Elementary School

Cook has more than 20 years of experience in education, having started her teaching career at Cassidy Elementary in Fayette County Public Schools. After 11 years as a classroom teacher, she became an administrative dean at Picadome Elementary. She remained with the Picadome family for five years before being named principal of Simmons Elementary in Woodford County, where she has served since 2016. Cook holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree as a reading and writing specialist, both from the University of Kentucky. She earned her principal certification from Northern Kentucky University.

“On behalf of the Picadome SBDM Council, I am excited to welcome Mrs. Cook as the new principal for Picadome,” said Fayette County Public Schools Elementary School Chief Lisa Smith. “She is an instructional leader with a strong background in early literacy and under her leadership, Picadome will continue to be a school where children excel.

Nekesha Cozart, acting program director at Carter G. Woodson Academy

Cozart has 19 years of experience in education, having started her career as a special education teacher at Harrison Elementary. In 2013, she joined the staff at Carter G. Woodson Academy as a community liaison, and for the past six years has served as administrative dean. Cozart holds a bachelor’s degree in human environmental sciences, individual, and family development from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in learning and behavior disorders from Georgetown College, and completed her rank I, principal licensure program, and principal licensure program II at Asbury University.

“Mrs. Cozart has the knowledge and skills to continue pushing the mission of Carter G. Woodson Academy forward, and I look forward to working alongside her for the 22-23 school year,” said Fayette County Public Schools Chief of High Schools James McMillin.

Kevin Faris, program director at The Stables

With 19 years of experience in education, Faris started his career in 2003 as an English and humanities teacher at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, while also serving as the artist in residence at the Theatre of PossAbilities, a creative arts camp for students with special behavioral and emotional needs in grades six through 10. In 2011, Faris was hired as the assistant principal at Elkhorn Middle School in Frankfort, and for the past five years, he has served as the assistant principal at Woodford County High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Centre College and master’s degrees in teaching and educational leadership, both from Eastern Kentucky University.

“Mr. Faris comes to Fayette County with a wealth of knowledge after serving as an administrator in both Franklin and Woodford Counties,” said Fayette County Public Schools Chief of High Schools James McMillin. “His vision for the Stables is one I know all staff, students, and community partners will get behind.”

Chris Flores, program director at STEAM Academy

Flores has 16 years of experience in education and helped open STEAM Academy in 2013. Prior to entering administration, he taught Spanish at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary Spanish education from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in education from Georgetown College, a master’s degree in educational administration from Eastern Kentucky University, and a doctoral degree in educational leadership and organizational development from the University of Louisville.

“Dr. Flores is a dynamic leader who has helped shaped the vision of STEAM Academy since its inception,” said Fayette County Public Schools Chief of High Schools James McMillin. “He has cultivated strong relationships with staff, students, and community partners that will assist him with growing and refining the program for the future of education in the global society that FCPS students will learn and work.”

Michelle Grant, principal at Coventry Oak Elementary

Grant has 23 years of experience in the field of education, having started her career as a teacher at Kenton Elementary in the Kenton County Public Schools. She joined Fayette County Public Schools in 1999 as a teacher at Deep Springs Elementary School, where she later served as the reading first school coach. She has been a professional growth and effectiveness coach for the past 17 years, first at Maxwell Elementary School, where she was also acting principal for a semester, and then at Southern Elementary School. Grant holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Eastern Kentucky University, a master’s degree in elementary education from Georgetown College, and a specialist in education degree and principal certification from Eastern Kentucky University.

“Mrs. Grant is a leader who will lead with heart and passion,” said Fayette County Public Schools Elementary School Chief Tiffany Marshall. “She has a strong instructional foundation and is committed to family and community engagement. I am confident that she will be an asset to the Coventry Oak community, staff, and students.”

Bryne Jacobs, principal at Lexington Traditional Magnet School

Jacobs has 19 years of experience in the field of education, having started his career teaching social studies at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. After six years in the classroom, Jacobs became an associate principal at Paul Laurence Dunbar. In 2012, he was named principal at Lafayette High School. Jacobs holds a bachelor’s degree in social studies secondary education, a master’s degree in secondary education with initial certification in curriculum and instruction, and a master’s degree in educational administration, all from the University of Kentucky.

“Mr. Jacobs has spent the last 10 years creating a wonderful culture at Lafayette High School and oversaw the school as they became the top performing high school in Fayette County,” said Fayette County Public Schools Middle School Chief Tracy Bruno. “Mr. Jacobs possesses an infectiously positive attitude and wants to ensure that the students of Lexington Traditional Magnet School have everything they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond.”

Jodi Johnson, principal at The Academy for Leadership at Millcreek Elementary

Johnson has 14 years of experience in the field of education in Newport News, Virginia. She started her career as a teacher at Lee Hall Elementary and after eight years in the classroom, moved into school leadership. She has spent the last six years as an assistant principal, first at Hilton Elementary, where she also served as acting principal for three months, and then at B.C. Charles Elementary. Johnson holds her primary Montessori certification from Tidewater Community College, both a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in early childhood education from Old Dominion University, gifted teaching endorsement from College of William & Mary, and administrator and supervisor licensure and doctorate degree in educational leadership and policy studies from The George Washington University.

“Dr. Johnson is committed to fostering the emotional and academic growth of all children, said Fayette County Public Schools Elementary School Chief Tiffany Marshall. “She is a servant leader who will work collaboratively with staff, families, and communities to create a welcoming, inclusive climate where children grow and thrive.”

Bryan Kennedy, acting program director at The Learning Center

With 17 years of experience in education, Kennedy started his career as a math teacher at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. He joined the staff at The Learning Center five years ago to teach math and environmental stewardship and was named academic dean last year. Kennedy also spent 11 years working with the Upward Bound Program at Bluegrass Community and Technical College as a teacher and academic coordinator. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in secondary math education, both from the University of Kentucky, and completed his rank I, principal licensure program, and principal program II at Asbury University.

“I am pleased that Mr. Kennedy will serve TLC as Acting Principal for the 22-23 school year,” said Chris Salyers, Fayette County Public Schools Secondary Program Support Specialist. “His dedication, compassion, knowledge of the school, and work ethic make him a great candidate to build upon TLC’s success. He and his team’s vision will launch TLC to new heights in the service of students as they Seek, Seize, and Sustain life readiness.”

Liz Kirk, principal at Yates Elementary

Kirk has 18 years of experience in the field of education, built upon six years of teaching at Yates Elementary School. After spending a year as the Professional Growth and Effectiveness coach at Deep Springs Elementary, Mrs. Kirk moved to Huntertown Elementary School, where she served as a fifth-grade teacher, elementary curriculum specialist, and administrative dean. In 2015, she became assistant principal at Woodford County Middle School, where she has been principal for the past two years. Kirk holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in elementary education from Eastern Kentucky University, where she also studied instructional leadership and received her principal certification.

“We are thrilled to have Mrs. Kirk return to Fayette County bringing a passion for students, a wealth of knowledge and experience, and a special calling and desire to be the next leader of Yates Elementary,” said Fayette County Public Schools Elementary School Chief Meribeth Gaines.

Anthony Orr, principal at Lafayette High School

Orr has 29 years of experience in education, having started his career as a chemistry and physics teacher in Texas. He joined the Fayette County Public Schools in 2000 as a chemistry teacher at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, where he went on to become director of the Math, Science, and Technology Center, assistant principal, and principal. After 10 years at Dunbar, Orr was named superintendent of the Nelson County Schools, a position he held for seven years. From December 2017 to June 2022, Orr served as superintendent of Powell County Schools. He also has three years of experience as an adjunct professor of graduate education at Campbellsville University. Orr holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary science education from Oral Roberts University, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Eastern Kentucky University, and a doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Kentucky University.

“Dr. Orr’s educational journey has brought him back to Fayette County Public Schools, and I am looking forward to hearing about how his vision will continue to support the many amazing things already happening in the school and school community,” said Fayette County Public Schools Chief of High Schools James McMillin.

Matthew Spottswood, principal at Maxwell Elementary

With 18 years of experience in the field of education, Spottswood started his career teaching high school chemistry and earth science at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, NC. After seven years in the classroom, Spottswood moved into administration, first as a principal intern, then as an assistant principal at Neal Middle School in Durham, NC. He joined the Fayette County Public Schools in 2013 as principal at Cardinal Valley Elementary School and then moved into the role of professional growth and effectiveness coach and assistant principal at Lansdowne Elementary School. Spottswood holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary science education from Ball State University, a master’s degree in school administration from North Carolina State University, and his rank I and supervisor of instruction from the University of the Cumberlands.

“Mr. Spottswood will be a welcome addition to the Maxwell family,” said Fayette County Public Schools Elementary School Chief Meribeth Gaines. “He is energetic and innovative, and embodies a growth mindset. I am excited for the next steps for the school and community.”

Tyson Steelman, principal at Athens-Chilesburg Elementary

Steelman has 13 years of experience in education, having started his teaching career at Bowling Green High School and South Warren Middle School. After nearly six years in the classroom, he joined the Fayette County Public Schools team as science department chair and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports coach at Beaumont Middle School. After a year as assistant principal at Mount Sterling Elementary School, Steelman returned to FCPS as the professional growth and effectiveness coach at Athens-Chilesburg Elementary School, a role he has held ever since. Steelman has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Western Kentucky University, and both a master’s degree in teacher leadership and rank 1 in administration from the University of the Cumberlands.

“I am thrilled to announce Mr. Steelman as the next principal,” said Fayette County Public Schools Elementary School Chief Jennifer Hutchison. “During his time at ACE, Mr. Steelman has helped put systems and structures in place that are student-focused and student-centered. I am confident that he will build on the excellence already established at ACE as he leads the school into the future.”

Cassaundra Watkins, principal at The Promise Academy at Harrison Elementary School

Watkins joins FCPS from the Jefferson County Public Schools, where she was most recently the assistant principal of McFerran Preparatory Academy. She has 19 years of experience in education, having started her career as a substitute teacher before joining the faculty at Atkinson Academy for Excellence, where she taught for five years. After three years as the academic instructional coach at Layne Elementary, Watkins served for six years as an educational recovery leader with the Kentucky Department of Education. She holds an associate degree in paralegal studies, bachelor’s degree in justice administration, master’s degree in teaching, elementary teaching certification, education specialist’s degree in instructional leadership and school administration, supervisor of instruction certification, and doctoral degree in educational leadership and organizational development, all from the University of Louisville.

“I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Watkins to FCPS,” said Fayette County Public Schools Elementary School Chief Jennifer Hutchison. “Her experience and knowledge of instruction, systems implementation, and school improvement will be a tremendous asset to the Harrison school community.”

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