This month, our community bids farewell to three stalwart supporters of K-12 education as they leave public office. John Blaney, Mike Clark and Nancy Eskridge will leave their posts at our local school boards, taking with them over 100 years in public education experience. School board members are a hallmark example of service above self. They are not in it for the money or benefits. They generally make less than $2,000 a year before taxes. And considering the school fundraisers and events they all give to or in which they participate, the bottom line is they pay out of their pocket to serve.
They make tough decisions that can cost them sleep, friends and even their health at times. But they have a deep appreciation for the power of education to change lives and to shape a community’s future.
John Blaney came to Owensboro from Pittsburgh to attend Kentucky Wesleyan College. He never went back. His distinguished career in education spanned from the classroom to the principal’s office at Foust, Estes and Owensboro Middle School. Like Blaney, Mike Clark also spent years in the classroom (at Apollo High School) and as a revered principal at Burns Middle School.
Blaney and Clark had a burning dedication to continue serving the districts where they shaped so many lives and careers. Blaney may not be on the school board come January, but he will continue to be at fine arts festivals, performances and in the bleachers at sporting events as he continues his role as grandfather to several current OPS students. Clark will continue to influence for good through his work with causes such as Dream Riders.
Nancy Eskridge leaves her post as the longest-serving board member in OPS history. Eskridge’s legacy to the district is vast. Her advocacy for early childhood development and the Fine Arts programs at Owensboro Public Schools has been instrumental in creating programs of national distinction. And she is always quick to the give credit to others.
How do you measure success? There are many ways. But in reflecting, I believe two of the best questions to ask are “Did I make life better for people?” and “Did I leave the place better than when I found it?”
John, Nancy and Mike, you did just that in serving tens of thousands of children.