Two newcomers were elected to the Owensboro Board of Education, both beating a three-term incumbent in the 2018 general election. Though they may be new to the board, both Michael Johnson and Dr. Jeremy Luckett have brought with them new ideas and fresh perspective in their first semester as board members.
Johnson, retired 23 years from U.S. Navy, said he wanted to run to help the school system from which his five children graduated. He said that although he may be new to the board, he is not new to Owensboro Public Schools. Throughout his children’s time at OPS, Johnson served on site-based councils, youth advisory committees and coached the Owensboro High School boys track team.
“Working with the school board, I bring a specific skill set by being in the community and a lot of things I see will add to the scope of the board, which will give a different perspective of the needs of our students,” Johnson said.
As president of a local nonprofit, Truth Outreach, Johnson aims to meet the needs of Owensboro’s homeless population. He believes it is that mission that helps him bring a different view to the board table.
Of particular concern to Johnson is JUULing, the act of using the electronic cigarette device called a JUUL, which he said is a growing problem among local teens.
“It has crept into the schools,” he said. “It has become recreational to students.”
Johnson said he plans to work with the board and Superintendent Nick Brake to create middle and high school level curriculum addressing e-cigarettes and vaping.
“It contributes to achievement gaps,” he said. “Teachers are trying to handle those situations, then the students are not learning. It is getting them out of class too much and they are not able to achieve their goals.”
Johnson is the first black man to serve on the Owensboro Board of Education, a role he said is an important one to fill.
“Diversity is such a key in every aspect of our administration,” he said. “We want to reflect the community. We have a very diverse student culture and we need to reflect that. It’s an opportunity that I don’t take lightly.”
Luckett is a physician at Vineyard Primary Care and a graduate of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce’s program, Leadership Owensboro. As a part of the leadership program, Luckett interviewed Owensboro Board of Education member Jeremy Edge, which he said inspired him to run for a seat on the board.
Luckett said it has been an exciting time to join the board as OPS wraps up its first year with fifth grade back at the elementary schools and the creation of the new iMiddle School.
“It has been a whole lot to learn, more than I anticipated, but it has been worthwhile,” he said, noting that the recent graduation ceremonies he was able to attend was particularly rewarding.
His healthcare background, Luckett said, helps bring a unique perspective to the board. Mental health is especially important to Luckett as the board continues to talk about and implement new school safety measures. He said as a physician he sees mental health vastly underserved. He plans to meet with Brake as OPS addresses mental health needs in the annual budget.
Luckett said one reason he ran for the board seat was because of his interest in the arts. When Nancy Eskridge, a tireless champion for the OPS arts programs, retired from the board after 27 years of service, Luckett said he wanted to carry on her legacy.
“She was very passionate and I also carry that passion,” he said. “It has been a good, seamless transition.”
According to Luckett, arts play a vital role in the success of the student.
“Arts pays more dividends than we realize,” he said. “Students who are academically successful are often involved in some type of arts programming.”