Belcher has left quite a mark on the community

June 04, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

Looking back at the end of a far-reaching and influential 31-year career with Boyle County Schools, Kathy Belcher isn't sure how she got it all done.

"I've never really had the time to stop and think about it," said Belcher, who is retiring at the end of the month. "It's kind of overwhelming to go back and see that I've had the opportunity to do all this."

Though Belcher is retiring as director of Community Education, a program she created in 1997, her hands have been involved in shaping numerous other important developments for the schools and community at large, starting with her work as a fourth-grade teacher at Boyle County Elementary School in 1973.

A short list of Belcher's contributions include after-school and summer programs for students, the Central Kentucky Regional Jobs Training Consortium, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, 21st Century Learning Centers, the Day Treatment-Alternative School, and artist-in-residence programs.


Perhaps most significantly, Belcher's talents as a grant writer have helped bring in millions of dollars to fund these programs, and her skills in coalition building have helped ensure that all that money has enriched the community, benefiting everyone from pre-schoolers to retirees.

"Kathy Belcher brings energy and commitment of the highest order to her work," said Pam Rogers, superintendent of Boyle County Schools. "This community has experienced a remarkable life-long learning and youth advocacy through Kathy's collaborations. She assembled leadership from this community to do what no one agency could deliver. We will miss her enthusiasm and dedication."

Belcher graduated from Boyle County High School in 1968, returning five years later as fourth-grade teacher. Early on, she decided she wanted to provide something extra for her students and hit on a strategy she would follow the rest of her career - tapping into public agencies and private business to bolster and broaden learning opportunities for students.

In one of her early projects, Belcher wanted to started a newspaper club at her school and went to The Advocate-Messenger for help. It worked, and Belcher continued to use that approach with bigger and better things down the road.

"The bottom line for me has always been improving student achievement," Belcher said. "I'm always looking for a collaboration from the community that will support what happens in the classroom."

She was a state Teacher of the Year

Belcher spent 12 years in the classroom, earning a state Teacher of the Year award along the way, before moving to the central office as director of federal programs, special education and pre-school programs. There, she began honing the grant writing skills that would become a key part of her legacy.

"I'm just an average writer, an average person, but I have developed a knack for finding something - the right details - that catch the attention of the people with the money," she explained. "But you can't write a grant by yourself. You have to have people with the vision and a lot of input from a lot of people to make it work."

In 1997, former Boyle superintendent Tom Mills asked Belcher to start up the Community Education program with help from Danville schools and Kentucky School for the Deaf.

"When he first asked me, I didn't even know what Community Education was," Belcher said. "But I love looking for resources and pioneering new programs, staying with them until they get off the ground and then moving on to something else that needs to be done."

Under Belcher's guidance, the Community Education program has blossomed into a nationally recognized clearinghouse for a variety of offerings that touch virtually everyone who lives and works in the county. From the after-school and summer programs that keep kids busy and moving forward to the life-long learning classes such as photography, crafts, ballroom dancing and computer skills for older residents, Belcher's office helps enhance the community's quality of life.

One of the major spin-offs from Community Education has been the Central Kentucky Regional Jobs Training Consortium, made up of 21 area corporations and businesses to provide the kind of training employees need to increase their job skills. Those same classes are offered to the community at-large at a low cost.

She's been effective at providing community needs

Jamey Gay, a Danville city commissioner and athletic trainer at Centre College who chairs the Community Education Advisory Board, said Belcher has been extremely effective in filling gaps in the community. For example, Gay said that when the Urban League pulled out of Danville about three years ago, there was no place residents could go to sharpen their computer skills. Belcher quickly stepped in, rounded up the funding and set up a computer lab near her office on the KSD campus.

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