Whitesburg KY

Board says McRoberts school will stay open

Members of the Jenkins Independent Board of Education say there is no truth to rumors that the McRoberts Elementary School will be closing.

Speaking at the board’s December meeting, which was held at the McRoberts school, Board Chairman Durward Narramore said he was concerned about what he called unfounded rumors the board planned to close the school. Narramore said he is also concerned about the loss of McRoberts students to schools in the Letcher County system and asked the visitors for suggestions on keeping McRoberts children at their community school.

“This is a viable school,” said Narramore. “It’s pure hearsay when you hear that we want to close it down. We are losing students and we need to address it. We want to hear the concerns of the public.”

A number of parents and community members from McRoberts attended the meeting and spoke up, while others spoke to board members individually during a refreshment break. Among the concerns voiced were the lack of a male role model at the school (the school has all female staff) and the need for a full-time administrator.

While community members unanimously voiced their support and approval of Diane Baker, who is the principal of both the McRoberts School and the Burdine Elementary School, they said that Ms. Baker’s parttime status at the school isn’t enough. Parent Jerri Shepherd told the board she would prefer to have Baker all the time but McRoberts needs a full-time principal.

Other concerns centered on the shifting of teachers from McRoberts to other schools in the Jenkins district and the loss of several exemplary teachers. Several parents said their children would just become close to a teacher when she would be moved to another school and that the lack of continuity hurt the school. Alfred Fields said he has been associated with the school system for 30 years and has been involved with athletics for a good deal of that time. Fields said he believes some kids go to Letcher County Schools for the opportunity to play sports there. He said he has heard some say they would really like to play on the big football field at LCC.

Narramore told the parents their comments would be taken very seriously and repeated that the board has no intention of closing the school. Narramore also suggested the board pursue hiring an assistant principal to provide a full-time administrator for the school and said the board would address other matters which were in their power to correct. Finance Officer Candala Gibson said funds for the position are available and the board voted unanimously to pursue it.

“You’re hearing this from the people who will make the decision,” said Narramore. “We have no intention of shutting down the school. I don’t know who started that. As for sports, how do you compete? The playing field is still 100 yards long at Jenkins too and we have a good field. Unless your child is a superior athlete, it’s likely they will ride the bench at a larger school. We are more concerned with the test scores, the ACT scores that will get them into college. There are very few athletic scholarships, but colleges look closely at grades when they hand out financial aid.”

Narramore added that while the budget is pretty much set for the rest of the year, the board will look for money to address concerns about a male role model and will address instructional issues as well. Vice-Chair Goff agreed and emphasized the board’s commitment to McRoberts. He added that as the system enters into its new status as a single entity rather than three separate schools, there will be a good deal of re-organization.

“We have no desire to close this school,” said Goff. “The board is committed to McRoberts. We came here to dispel the rumors of closing. They are not true.”

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