The Letcher County Board of Education this week accepted Supt. Anna Craft’s letter of intent to retire on June 30. The board made its decision on February 18, a week after Craft submitted her letter of resignation.
Former board chairman Will Smith said he is proud of what has been accomplished in the district while Craft has been superintendent.
“She has done some things that no one else can do,” he said, citing the Letcher County Area Technology Center as one project that never would have been completed if not for Craft.
“When they bonded the project they said that money came from more sources than any other project they had ever bonded,” said Smith. “We got that money a dollar at a time.”
“We have had some tough times,” Smith, of Whitesburg, added. “We have had some real good times and some fun times.”
Board member Dr. Sam Quillen, a Neon dentist, said Craft has “a vested interested in her county, people she loves, the kids, a never ending desire to make things better.”
“She was born and raised that way,” Quillen said. “(Her) mom and dad who would be very proud.”
Board member Terry Cornett o Linefork said he, too, has always supported Craft.
“She really has done a lot of wonderful things for our county,” said Cornett. “She has worked many, many long hours, days, weekends and (taken) many trips to Frankfort to try to get everything she can get for Letcher County. I’m real pleased.”
The board also voted at Monday night’s meeting to hire Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) to assist the board in a search for a new superintendent.
In other business, Regina Brown, president of the Letcher County Teacher’s Organization (LCTO), asked the board to investigate ways to find money to purchase new and updated textbooks.
Brown said teachers have expressed concern to her about how much time they are spending beyond the school day searching for resources on the Internet.
“It has been more than 12 years since textbooks have been purchased in certain areas,” said Brown. “I have seen more teachers frustrated this year and break down and cry when they talk about the amount of time they spend on afternoons, weekends and Sunday evenings searching on the Internet for materials to print out and give their students every week. This is not a problem this board has created. This is a problem the state has created. They do not fund for textbooks currently.”
Brown said math books are 12 years old and are greatly needed in the district. To purchase a set of math books alone for all schools in the district would cost about $300,000, she said.
Brown said there aren’t enough books to be able to send books home with students to complete homework assignments.
“I know the money is not there,” she said. “We have got to have some supplies for our teachers. I have never seen them as stressed out.”
Smith said he doesn’t know what the answer is.
“It would take about $1 million to do this and the other day we got a $1 million bill from our insurance trust fund so that is another million we are going to have to pay,” he said.
Cornett suggested surveying faculty and staff to see if they have ideas on how to cutback on spending elsewhere.
Board Chairman Robert Kiser, who was elected in November and assumed office in January, asked if grants are available to help with the purchase of new textbooks.
“We can certainly look, but so is every school district across the country,” said Craft. “It is a joke that school districts have invested in stock in Duck Tape. It’s a sad situation when that is the answer across the country is Duck Tape when this legislature won’t step up and give teacher raises and they are not giving (money for) textbooks.”
Before approving the tentative site based decision making school allocations and staffing plan for the 2013- 2014 school year, Kiser said he looked at the plan closely in an effort to find a way to save money.
Kiser initially wanted to reduce the number of assistant principals at Letcher County Central High School from three to two.
“They all seem busy, tied up, tied down and stretched pretty tight,” said Quillen.
Curriculum, discipline, attendance and serving as a liaison with the Letcher County Area Technology Center are some of the main duties of the assistant principals.
“Each one of them has an area assigned,” said Craft.
Craft told Kiser that all three of the assistant principals have administrative tenure and one would need to be demoted.
Smith said attrition would eventually take care of the problem.
“That’s the best way,” said Smith. “If you get into tenure you get into legal matters and it is a problem.”
The board approved the staffing allocation plan with the condition that if one of those positions becomes available it is not to be filled.
“I’m trying to figure out where we can save money,” said Kiser.
Stephen Banks, a special education teacher at Letcher Middle School, told the board during public participation that he now sees the benefits of consolidation.
“When I am wrong, I am wrong,” said Banks. “Roughly about a year and a half ago I came to the board and I was strongly against consolidation of Beckham Bates Elementary and Letcher Elementary because I didn’t want to lose our school.”
Lisa Maggard, speaking on behalf of the Fleming Neon Middle School baseball program, said the team doesn’t have a place to practice.
“We’re at the county field right now and they are saying by the time we are halfway through our season that we are really not going to have a place to practice,” she said.
Maggard said the team will play its home games at the Earnest Cook Memorial Park, which is located across from the Whitesburg hospital.
Smith said he would speak with Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward and Letcher County Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto about the situation.
Kiser mentioned letting the middle school baseball teams use the Letcher County Central High School baseball field some when the LCCHS baseball team isn’t using the field.
In other business, board member Mendy Boggs said she read in the site based decision-making council minutes for LCCHS that there is concern about parent volunteers not being drug tested.
“In this day and time, it concerns me, too,” said Boggs.
Craft said it would be extremely expensive.
“If there is suspicion, the principal can immediately contact the superintendent and a drug test can be done,” said Craft.
Kiser told the board that Lenny Holbrook, the owner of the semi-professional football team, the Letcher County Wolves, needs to read and sign a new contract agreement before the team is allowed use the Fleming- Neon Middle School football field.
“Based on past history, there were some concerns that would have to be addressed before the contract can be signed,” said Kiser.
Kiser said an issue came up last year when a school function was taking place in the gymnasium during the same time as a football game and representatives with the Wolves were trying to charge parents admission for them to enter the gate to go to the gymnasium.
“Those facilities are for our kids first and foremost,” said Kiser.
Some of the proposed requests include that the Wolves will accept liability and assume responsibility for all injuries and damages during an event. The facility used by the Wolves is limited to the football field and the Wolves will be responsible for renting portable restroom facilities. The Wolves must provide security at each event.
The Wolves must pay a $500 maintenance and security deposit the date the agreement is signed and the Wolves will be charged a lighting fee of $75 per event.
If any of the requests are not met during the football season, the board will hold a special-called meeting and will terminate the contract.
The board also:
• named Amy Baker, Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) director at Letcher Middle School, employee of the month. approved a contact with Kenmark, Inc. and LCCHS drama department for lease of backdrops for the drama department’s upcoming production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Cost is $3,093.
• approved purchasing two 66-passenger schools buses at a cost of $83,204 each.
• learned of the certified employment of John Tyler Watts, a teacher at Letcher Elementary School.
• learned of the certified transfer of Stacy Isaac. She was a district resource teacher and she is now interim principal at West Whitesburg Elementary School.
• learned of the classified retirements of Lester Cornett, a custodian at Arlie Boggs Elementary School, and Gloria Ramsey, an instructional assistant at WWES.
• learned of the classified employment of Dreamela Dixon as a cook/baker at the Letcher campus.