NICHOLASVILLE — Jessamine County Schools Superintendent Lu Settles Young on Wednesday was named the 2012 Kentucky school superintendent of the year by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators.
Association executive director Wayne Young (no relation) surprised Lu Young with the award Wednesday afternoon as her family, school board members, school district employees and other friends looked on at the Jessamine Career and Technology Center.
Jessamine Deputy Superintendent Owens Saylor lured Lu Young to the technology center by telling her that board Chairman Eugene Peel was waiting there and she'd better rush over to see what was going on. Young arrived to find a room full of people and news cameras.
"I feel completely ambushed ... shocked ... a little stunned," she said. "It's a real honor. I appreciate it so much."
The award includes a trophy bearing an American Eagle, and $2,500 for a yet-to-be-selected high school senior in the Jessamine County system this school year.
Young was picked from about half a dozen nominees by an independent selection committee made up of educators, business people and community leaders.
"When you look at Lu, what you see is the whole package," Wayne Young said. "She's smart; she works hard; she's well-versed on every topic related to carrying out the CEO function in a school district. As I have put it in the past, Lu is the smartest person in the room, no matter who else is there."
Lu Young, 51, joined the Jessamine County Schools as a teacher in 1983. She became superintendent in 2004, and she has been highly regarded among school superintendents statewide.
Last summer, Young was one of three finalists for superintendent of the Fayette County Schools. Tom Shelton, who formerly headed the Daviess County Public Schools, got the job. Young and Shelton, who attended Wednesday's announcement, are close friends.
Young holds bachelor's and master's degrees in Spanish, and she briefly taught Spanish at a Catholic school in Richmond during college. She was immediately hooked on education and decided to make it her life's work.
Among other accomplishments during her 28 years with Jessamine County, Young wrote a dropout-prevention grant that helped launch the school system's Providence School, an alternative program for struggling students. Providence has sharply cut dropout rates in the system, district officials said.
She also helped develop the Career and Technology Center, where she received her award Wednesday. The center, which opened in 2006, offers classes in information technology, pre-engineering, health sciences and agricultural technology.
Young said her award is a tribute to the entire Jessamine County school district.
"It says a lot about our district," she said. "I feel like I'm in a wonderful place and getting to do the great work that we need to do. It's a small community where children matter and being able to serve them is an honor."