The candidates for Fayette County school board in District 2 bring a mix of assets and liabilities.
The appointed incumbent Kirk Tinsley impresses with his devotion to children, has given many volunteer hours in schools, and has been a conscientious, if quiet, board member. He's a Toyota quality control inspector and graduate of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence's Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership.
On the downside, Tinsley was sued by the state in 1995 for not paying property taxes, the backbone of public school financing.
Tinsley has a plausible explanation for why he didn't pay the taxes on a condo in a development he says was caught up in the collapse of Kentucky Central Life Insurance.
Tinsley said he and his wife bought the residence with the understanding that the other units would be owner-occupied. When they were converted to rental property, he and his wife insisted the lender take back their residence. Tinsley said he thought not paying the property taxes would strengthen their case. And, he says, "I was young and dumb." He says he regrets the mistake, is wiser now and that his taxes are all paid up.
Challenger Thomas H. Duncan Jr., a retired state corrections officer with degrees from the University of Kentucky, is finishing work on a teaching certificate at Kentucky State University. He wants to put more "foot soldiers" in the classrooms by trimming administration and is passionate about improving Bryan Station High School, which he says is dramatically underperforming.
He's calling for replacing Bryan Station's principal. This is troubling because school boards have had no say in school personnel decisions since 1990, when reforms de-politicized school hiring in Kentucky.
Duncan's determination to meddle reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the roles of board, superintendent and school councils.
The other challenger, Douglas W. Barnett, is a University of Kentucky graduate and lawyer, who has some appealing ideas, such as taking school board meetings to schools around Lexington. He also has a plan for how the district could begin paying for students' school supplies. Barnett is intelligent but we are not convinced he has adequately thought out how he would be the voice of the whole district and not just that of the Sandersville area where he lives.
On balance, Tinsley's experience and dedication win our endorsement.
The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Friday.