Scott County KEA Membership More than Doubles in One Year
Growing membership is no miracle. It’s plain old educator-to-educator communication
When Courtney Casebolt was elected president of Scott County Education Association (SCEA) in July 2021, the local had seen membership dwindle year after year; they were down to 149 members. But once Casebolt took office, she set a goal. Her aim was to activate educators across her growing county and double the size of SCEA in her first year as president.
Casebolt came from Letcher County to teach in Scott County in 2016. “KEA has a strong presence in Letcher County, so I had that background and understanding of what a strong union can bring to a school district. I feel like I’ve been here long enough now to know the needs of this county very well.”
Today, almost a year to the day to taking over as SCEA president, Casebolt has reached her goal. SCEA now boasts 332 members, plus renewed activism and attitude in Scott County.
But, says Casebolt, without the help of colleagues like Amanda Sunda and KEA staff like UniServ Director James Hay, her goal could never have been met. “When we started this rebuilding drive, we didn’t have union building reps in all our school buildings. We knew we had to start recruiting building reps—real leaders—in all our schools. That’s when this really began.”
That’s also where Sunda came in. A history teacher at Great Crossing High School since 2019, Casebolt approached her to be a building rep. They clicked instantly. “I didn’t even know who the SCEA president was before Courtney. But she told me she really needed my help to rebuild SCEA,” said Sunda. “And from there we started a great relationship. I was already a KEA member, and I told her I’d be here for her to do whatever I could. Courtney is like a little lightning bolt. I wish we could bottle her up.”
For the members who have joined KEA in Scott County, having a KEA building representative in their own school has truly made the difference. Building reps like Sunda began getting together to be briefed and updated on issues that affect their schools and policies. As a result, they became the source for Scott County educators to get information and answers.
“I’ve spent 22 years working in Scott County and I joined KEA when I first started, but haven’t been a member for twenty years,” said Susan Wickline. “I hadn’t really heard about it since I was just a couple of years out of college.
“But people have started talking more about the union now, and how they are advocating for changes in the school and giving educators a voice. There are things going on in the county that I didn’t agree with, and we hadn’t had a real raise in seven or eight years. So, I joined KEA again. I should have rejoined years ago.”
For others, simply being told about what KEA does for educators was incentive enough to become a member. “A lot of people aren’t members because they simply haven’t been asked,” said James Dummer, a special education teacher at Great Crossing High School who joined KEA in March. “And it’s good to have the backing of an association like KEA.”
Kenya Duhamel, a fellow social studies teacher at Great Crossing, also joined in March. She began to see the union actively advocating for educators at local school board meetings and in Frankfort. That made the difference in her decision to join. “Over the last two years teaching has gotten so much harder. We have had to deal with COVID and mask mandates and teacher shortages,” said Duhamel. “There is lots of controversy about teaching social studies now. There’s politics about raises and fairness. Raises are a big topic in this district, and we want to be on par with the surrounding districts. SCEA has stepped up and helped pushed for that. It’s nice to know there’s an organization here to support and protect you.”
Scott County has seen massive growth over the last decade, and with the billions of dollars of investment from Toyota announced this year, the county’s need for quality public schools and quality public school educators will only increase. That’s something Casebolt wants to be a part of. “I’m happy to take the lead and take the reins of SCEA and try to grow this with the help of my fellow educators and KEA.
“Our teachers, our education support professionals, our school, and our district are underappreciated by our state elected representatives. The legislature made that clear last session when they gave well-earned raises to every state employee, and also gave raises to themselves, but deliberately carved public school employees out of that benefit,” said Casebolt. “That’s rubbed a lot of educators the wrong way and it’s forced every school district and school board to take on the task of voting for raises.”
As for more than doubling the SCEA membership since last July, Casebolt credits simply being active, reaching out to educators, and advocating for them with principals, school board members, and legislators.
“When you’re talking to educators, they’re just appreciative that someone’s talking about issues that impact their livelihood, that someone’s advocating for them and is looking out for their best interests, said Casebolt. “People are very receptive. Teachers want the support. They often feel like there’s nobody looking out for them.
“We want them to know that SCEA, KEA, and their fellow KEA members statewide are here to give them the support they need. And they’re signing up and joining us. That’s how we’ve grown in Scott County.”