The first order of business for the cabinet and its most important agency, the Department of Education, is dealing with a severe budget shortfall. The cabinet and department felt the first impact of Fletcher's developing plan to deal with the shortfall with his order Monday to cut 2.5 percent from state budget funds that go to Family Resource Centers, preschool and afterschool programs, and education technology programs.
"With a shortfall of some $300 million, we are in a budget crisis across the state, across state government," said Montgomery. "The good news is that education gets a bulk of state funding. The bad news is that when everyone gets cut, education gets cut and its cut is large because of the percentage of the budget allocated for it."
However, Montgomery said the administration is taking pains to protect the vast majority of funds that go to education.
"The governor has put together an exemplary group of cabinet secretaries and other individuals who are going to do as he promised and tighten our belts and cut waste to get us on sound financial footing, but do it as judiciously as possible to make sure the bulk of most programs, including education, is protected," she said.
Regarding her new position, Montgomery said that, under Fletcher's cabinet restructuring, the Education Cabinet has added post-secondary education and the former Workforce Development agency.
"Our cabinet now oversees all levels of education, including reading initiatives and literacy programs as well as classroom instruction, from K-12 and after high school, and it also has an economic component with Workforce Development," she said. "The realignment makes sense because education and job training and jobs definitely are related."
Montgomery said her main duty is overseeing kindergarten through 12th grade, while Fox is responsible for post-secondary programs.
Montgomery said she was a strong supporter of Fletcher during the primary and general elections.
"When he was in Congress as our (6th District) representative, Mr. Fletcher was very supportive of education in general and teachers in particular," she said. "I especially was drawn to his emphasis on literacy and the basics of teaching and learning."
Montgomery had been with the Danville school system for one and a half years, serving as gifted and talented teacher under program coordinator Greg Schultz. She primarily worked with the district's three elementary schools but also was involved with the middle school.
"Mardi is a very energetic and enthusiastic educator, and her enthusiasm has been infectious," said Danville Superintendent Bob Rowland. "I hated to see her go, but I never want to hold back people who have great opportunities offered to them."
Rowland said that he has posted Montgomery's position but said it may be difficult to find a replacement since the vacancy occurred during the middle of the school year.
"We are looking at different ways to fill the void, and, of course, Greg is the coordinator and can handle many of the responsibilities," he said.
Rowland said he has granted Montgomery a leave of absence and has promised to make a position available to her in the event she wants to return to the Danville district.
Prior to her position with the Danville schools, Montgomery was an English teacher at Boyle County High School for nine years. The Department of Education named her the 2000 Kentucky Teacher of the Year.
A native of Indiana with roots in Laurel County, Montgomery received a bachelor's degree from Centre College, a master's degree and education administration certification from Eastern Kentucky University, and gifted and talented certification from Georgetown College.
She and her husband Joe, district conservationist for Mercer County, live in Danville, and they have two children, Ryan, a Danville High School graduate and now DHS teacher, and Anne, a senior at DHS.