The Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) named its finalists for the 2023 Fred Award.

1. Mahlon Thomas (Bus Driver, Carlisle County Schools)

2. Joe Webster (Custodian, Grant County Schools)

3. Shanon Leavell (School Nurse/Cheer Coach, Russellville Independent Schools)

The Fred program, now in its 16th year, seeks to honor support staff who are the heart and soul of our public schools today.

KASA is proud to partner with author Mark Sanborn and American Fidelity to recognize Freds across the state. This year’s award will expand the program’s reach to 49 school districts statewide.

A favorite for KASA members, the Fred Award Program draws in nominations from school districts across the commonwealth each year. The award, inspired by Fred Shea, the postman who became the subject of Mark Sanborn’s national best seller, The Fred Factor, recognizes non-administrative staff statewide whose daily efforts are deemed extraordinary and integral to a positive learning atmosphere in their school communities. Finalists for this award must embody four guiding principles:

  • makes a positive difference each day
  • has a heart for people
  • changes ordinary moments into memorable ones
  • leads by example

“Freds are change agents. Not only are Freds the consummate encourager, they go out of their way to show compassion to everyone. The result is a stronger school culture where students feel safe, valued, and loved,” said KASA Executive Director Dr. Rhonda Caldwell. “Freds have a natural gift of connecting with students who often need them most. They give immeasurably more when it comes to personal resources and time. Freds are quiet leaders with unofficial titles who unknowingly weave a legacy of greatness around them.”

A film crew will visit each finalist’s district to capture the spirit of their service. The video will be used by the judging panel, representing education leaders from school districts across the state, to determine the statewide winner, who will be named July 28 at KASA’s annual leadership institute in Louisville. The winner and finalists receive a distinguished marble plaque, a copy of Mark Sanborn’s book, The Fred Factor, complimentary lodging at the Galt House Hotel, and a financial gift of $250 (finalists) or $500 (winner).

KASA’s Leadership Awards program is provided in partnership with American Fidelity Assurance Company.

The following profile of Grant County’s Joe Webster was included in the announcement:

Joe Webster, C

ustodian, Grant County Schools

Positive, upbeat, dedicated, responsible, and determined — these are just a few of the adjectives the staff at Grant County Middle School use to describe Joe Webster. He understands the importance of his role as a custodian, but to him it is so much more than painting the walls, sweeping the floors, or cleaning up messes.

Joe believes it is just as important to purchase lunch for a student who forgot their money or reassure a student who is having a rough day because he or she failed a test.

“He hears their hearts. Joe provides whatever is necessary to reassure them that all is going to be ok,” said nominator Jason Frilling, Principal, Grant County Middle School. “Joe often works individually with a student who just needs a kind word or a pat on the back. And he does this without giving it a second thought. Joe knows what is important — the students in our building, and he commits himself to fully meeting those needs.”

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