LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education will interview five finalists for the District 4 vacancy that must be filled by Sept. 14.

The board met behind closed doors for two hours Thursday, the first meeting in which members discussed candidates for the opening. The five were selected from 11 applicants for the vacancy.

The finalists for the seat are Saundra Gibson, business and community partnership administrator for the Metropolitan Sewer District; Debra Gray, a self-employed human resources consultant for non-profit organizations; Joe Marshall, a teacher at West End School; Shameka Parrish-Wright, Louisville site manager for The Bail Project; and Cassandra Ryan, a homemaker.

Board member James Craig made a motion that the board schedule interviews with the five finalists, which the board passed unanimously. Those interviews will be conducted in executive session.

The board will likely continue deliberating on a replacement for Ben Gies, who resigned his District 4 seat July 1 after taking a policy job with Kentucky Youth Advocates, during a special meeting 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, a date and time suggested by Chairwoman Diane Porter. 

A second meeting, if necessary, may occur 5 p.m. Aug. 22, she said.

Porter told reporters before the meeting that she hoped to find someone to fill the District 4 vacancy who is committed to the education provided by Jefferson County Public Schools and to the time it takes to serve on the school board. "The willingness to have a heart for public education" will also be key, she said.

The five finalists are among eight who filed candidacy paperwork with the Jefferson County Clerk's Office by Tuesday's deadline. Since the District 4 term had more than a year remaining as of Aug. 1, the seat will be on the ballot Nov. 5.

The JCPS school board will be among the first in the state to fill a vacancy itself after the General Assembly passed a law this year giving that authority to remaining board members rather than Kentucky's education commissioner.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated that the Jefferson County Board of Education would be the first in the state to fill a vacancy using a new state law. Harlan County's school board was the first in the state to fill a vacancy under the new law, according to the Kentucky School Boards Association.

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