The Grant County Board of Education wishes to extend its sympathy to the family of James Joseph “Jimmy Joe” Gardner. Mr. Gardner, who served as Superintendent of Grant County Schools March, 1989, - September, 1994, passed away at his home in Oklahoma, this past Monday, March 3, 2014.
Jimmy Joe grew up deeply entrenched in education and Grant County Schools – both at home and at school. His mother, Pauline, served as a teacher in Grant County Schools (1947-1962), and his father, Marion Gardner, was a 40+ year teacher and administrator for Grant County. Mr. Marion Gardner served as Superintendent of Grant County Schools (1948–1962) during the consolidation of the four high schools in the county system (Corinth, Mason, Dry Ridge, and Crittenden) and the construction of the then “new” Grant County High School (now Grant County Middle School) and the original front building at Dry Ridge Elementary.
Son, James, was always just “Jimmy Joe” to all who knew him. He was a 1959 graduate of Grant County High School, then attended Georgetown College where he earned his Bachelors Degree in 1963, and his Masters Degree in 1969. He received his Rank One Certification and Superintendent’s Endorsement from Xavier University in 1983.
Jimmy Joe’s career in Grant County Schools began in the Fall of 1963, when he assumed a position at Grant County High School teaching “two sections each of Bookkeeping and Typing I and one section of Business English”.
After four years in the classroom, Jimmy Joe received his Director of Pupil Personnel certification, and began serving in that capacity in the Fall of 1967 – a position he held for 15 years. In 1982 he transitioned to Director of Transportation, where he remained until 1989 when he was selected as Superintendent of Grant County Schools.
In Mr. Gardner’s first year as Superintendent, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the “entire system of common schools (in Kentucky) is unconstitutional“ and required the legislature to “recreate, re-establish” the entire system of public education. This ruling resulted in the Kentucky Educational Reform Act (KERA) of 1990, which brought about monumental changes in school finance, curriculum, and assessment. With Mr. Gardner at the helm, KERA was implemented in Grant County Schools. Also under his leadership, Mason Elementary and Corinth Elementary Schools were consolidated and the new Mason-Corinth Elementary School was constructed.
Mr. Jim Colson, current Board chair who began his service on the Grant County Board of Education in January, 1985, recalls Mr. Gardner’s leadership during those years, “As I look back at those years, I realize major, major changes were occurring. Everything -- including long-held, proud traditions that dated from the early 1900’s at Mason and Corinth, to funding formulas, and even every child’s report card -- changed during those years. Jim provided us the leadership we needed. His respect for education and his down-home approach smoothed a lot of ruffled feathers and allowed us to not just weather the storm, but move ahead rather nicely. He was a good man and served our district well.”
Fortunately, for Grant County Schools, the Gardner legacy continues in Jimmy Joe’s daughter, Jamie Kellam. Jamie has served Grant County as media specialist, assistant principal at GCMS, and advocate for secondary student achievement, with promise of more great things to come.
Jimmy Joe is survived by his wife, Jackie, and five daughters: Tammy, Deana, Jenny, Jamie, and Johnna. The family has chosen to have no public memorial service, but our sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.
James Joseph Gardner
9/3/1941 – 3/3/2014