The Letcher County Board of Education abolished the position of assistant superintendent and two other jobs at a special meeting Tuesday night.
In the absence of Superintendent Anna Craft and board members Dr. Sam Quillen Jr. and Will Smith, Board Chairman Robert Kiser and members Mendy Boggs and Terry Cornett also abolished the positions of elementary/middle school athletic director and bus driver trainer assistant.
The order of the agenda was not followed at a special meeting, which began at 6:30 p.m. on May 7 in the Lendell Smith Memorial Room of the Letcher County School Bus Garage. After discussing a policy concerning board-owned vehicles, Kiser skipped three items on the agenda and made a motion to go into executive session.
“The next thing on the agenda like I said is supposed to be positions abolished, but we do feel it is appropriate to move to executive session before that so at this time a motion will need to be made to go into executive session under authorization of KRS 61.810 section 1. b, c and f at 6:38 p.m. for the purpose of discussing litigation, personnel and/or property,” said Kiser. “I will need a motion for that.”
Boggs made a motion, which was seconded by Cornett. All three members voted aye.
KRS 61.810 section 1. f states that an exception to open meeting is “discussions or hearings which might lead to the appointment, discipline or dismissal of an individual employee, member or student without restricting that employee’s, member’s or student’s right to a public hearing if requested. This exception shall not be interpreted to permit discussion of general personnel matters in secret.”
Kiser did not follow all of KRS 61.815, which states that “notice shall be given in regular open meeting of the general nature of the business to be discussed in closed session, the reason for the closed session and the specific provision of KRS 61.810 authorizing the closed session.”
After coming out of executive session at 7:35 p.m., Kiser reported that no action was taken during executive session. Then Kiser said the next item on the agenda was to abolish the position of bus driver trainer assistant.
“I’d just like to say any of these positions, we are just trying to make an attempt to reduce our budget,” said Cornett. “We are in a depressed economy and I think the whole country is facing hard economic times. We just need to try to find a way to save some money to buy some books for our students. We need to be looking in a whole lot of different directions, a whole lot of different areas.”
Nancy Ratliff, an instructional assistant I at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School, asked the board if the bus driver trainer assistant would be placed in another position in the district.
“That would be up to the superintendent, but I would assume, yeah, if there is something open they could place them,” said Boggs. “I don’t know that I am going to be 100 percent right on that, but I would assume if there is another place to place them then, yeah. I wouldn’t want somebody to not have another place to go to.”
The board then unanimously approved abolishing the position.
Kiser opposed abolishing the job of assistant superintendent, while Boggs and Cornett were in favor with doing away with the job. Kiser said the motion passed 2-1.
According to the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) leadership guide, the motion does not pass if only three board members are present at a meeting and two vote for a motion and one member votes against that motion. Three concurring votes are required in order for the motion to pass, according to the KSBA leadership guide.
The board voted unanimously to abolish the elementary/ middle school athletic director position and combine those duties with those of the high school athletic director.
At the beginning of the meeting, the board directed the policy and procedure committee to create a new policy concerning boardowned vehicles and how they are used.
“With the way things are these days in our budget, all the budget cuts that’s coming up and everything that we are facing, money for textbooks we haven’t had for 10 years and I know we don’t spend a huge amount on gas and maintenance on our vehicles, but I think we can cut back on some of that to prevent I guess basically to prevent losing any of our staff that is in contact with our children every single day,” said Boggs. “ They would be the very last place that I would look at many changes. This is one way I think we can look at making a change on.”
Cornett agreed with Boggs.
“A lot of different agencies, a lot of different state agencies, you know, they’ve got their vehicles kindly in a pool and if somebody needs one they could come in and have that vehicle assigned to them if they need to go somewhere in the county or if they need to travel outside the county,” said Cornett.
Kiser said he is “not sure exactly what the cost of vehicles are to have them the way they are now, but one thing that I look at it with it is in most cases perception becomes reality to the public when you are looking at cuts with the school district.”
“The first thing everybody is going to think is school personnel is driving these vehicles,” said Kiser. “That’s been something that we have all talked about before today. So I do think that it would be appropriate to direct the committee to look at that policy and see what we could do with it.”
Boggs gave an example of a school that does have a system in place for checking out vehicles.
“Even with like Southeast Community College, you go in and sign your vehicle out,” said Boggs. “State why you’re signing it out. Bring it back and sign it back in. Put the mileage down. That covers any talk amongst the public. I know that has been one of the things we as board members we have heard quite a bit. I have never seen anybody use a board vehicle for personal use, but that is, like you said, reality becomes perception in the public’s eye and I think that is something we can do something about.”
Paul David Sturgill, a teacher at Letcher County Central High School, asked the board to writing a charge for the policy and procedure committee so the members could know what they are to address in the motion.
“Would it be appropriate for us to pass that on to (school board attorney) Darrell (Hall) and then have him pass on?” asked Kiser.
“I could work with Sandy Hogg (chair of policy and procedures committee) and KSBA because I’m sure they have some policies that would save a tremendous amount of time that we could work on,” said Hall.
Assistant Superintendent Twyla Messer and Elementary/ Middle School Athletic Director Larry Maggard attended Tuesday night’s board meeting, but did not comment about the status of their jobs.
Messer told The Mountain Eagle that she has not applied for the position of Letcher County superintendent, which will be vacated by Craft at the end of June.
Based on state school laws, the district would have to find another administrative position for Messer. Maggard would still have his position as a homebound teacher.