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Getting A’s now easier in Jenkins

Making A’s and B’s has just gotten a little easier for students in the Jenkins schools.

The Jenkins Independent Board of Education voted this week to give a little more leeway in the district’s grading scale to allow for higher letter grades in the coming year. In a unanimous vote, the board agreed to lower the grade scale to 90–100 for an A, 80–89 for B, and 70-79 for a C. The move came at the board’s July meeting as part of the adoption of the 2010-11 system handbook and will bring Jenkins into line with other systems in the area. The Jenkins system had previously required a grade of 93 or above for an A.

Board member Paul Stambaugh told board members he would like to see them adopt the 90–100 standard to help Jenkins graduates with KEES (Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarships) money and other scholarships, which he said are largely based on letter grades. Stambaugh said he understood that the intent of the higher standard had been to encourage students to work harder, but that it also penalized Jenkins students when applying for scholarships when other schools had a lower standard. Stambaugh said it was also difficult for student-athletes to maintain higher grades because of the demands of games, practices and travel.

Board vice-chairman Tracy Goff agreed with Stambaugh.

“I applaud the intent, to work harder,” said Goff . “But it can and has affected some students when it is the basis to qualify for scholarships.”

Board Chairman Durward Narramore said the intent had indeed been to get students to strive for higher grades. But he added that in most cases, students who have a higher degree of parental involvement in their lives and school work will usually do better in school and have higher grades than those students whose parents are not involved.

Federal Programs Director Sherry Wright said statistics show that five to seven students per grade level had dropped a letter grade under the 93–100 scale. She said the higher standard also created a problem for students who transferred into the Jenkins system from schools with a lower standard.

Superintendent Deborah Watts told the board she didn’t oppose going to the lower grade scale, but said if the board intended to make a change the time to do it was before the student handbook was approved. Watts said the higher scale definitely affected borderline students and that it was uneven in relation to the systems around Jenkins. Newly-hired Burdine Elementary Principal Gracie Maggard said the higher scale was to be commended, but the desired results of higher grades could be achieved by good instruction and assessment.

The board unanimously approved the Jenkins Independent System Handbook for 2010-11 after making a few minor changes in language and adopting the grade standard.

The board voted to specify that students who are absent will have one week to make up the homework they missed. Superintendent Watts said whether the absence was excused or not, students should be responsible for their work because homework is vital for student success. She said it was more important to have students succeed than to be concerned with whether an absence was excused or unexcused. Tracy Goff asked that language be added to accommodate students with serious illness who miss a great deal of school. Goff said those students would need more time frame to complete their assignments, and his recommendation was adopted as well. The board also voted to ban all knives, including pocketknives, from Jenkins schools.

In other business, Superintendent Watts introduced two new teachers to the board, along with Burdine Principal Maggard. Whitney Prater will teach High School English at the Middle High School and Terri Sergent will teach Third Grade at Burdine Elementary. Watts said she is still conducting interviews for a pre-school teacher and aide as well as the open MHS principal position and will need to hire a new music teacher to replace Frances Lutz, who had resigned earlier that day. She said the elementary schools are fully staffed but depending on enrollment, they may have to create one additional position.

Watts told the board that work on McRoberts Elementary School for the new school year is complete and that every teacher had come in early to decorate and create a theme for their room. She said the Burdine Elementary School is almost finished, with a few small items left.

The new principal’s offi ce for the MHS, to accommodate moving the Central Offices to the MHS building, is almost done and is on track for the August 4 opening day for students. The first day for teachers will be Monday August 2.

“We think we will have a great year,” said Watts. “We have a great staff and there is no reason this can’t be the best year we’ve had.”

Both elementary schools will hold open houses on August 2. Burdine Elementary’s open house will be from 5-7 p.m., and McRoberts Elementary’s from 6-8 p.m. Burdine Principal Maggard told the board the elementary schools received a grant from 21st Century and the Family Resources Center for beautifying their campuses and that planters full of flowers have been added to each school.

Superintendent Watts said she intends to get planters for the MHS as well. She praised the custodial staff for their hard work, saying they had worked long hours to get the buildings ready. Watts also praised Technology Director Damien Johnson for his work in getting all wiring and computer systems work finished before opening day. She said Johnson has resolved problems with the server cabinet and that everything is in place. Several teachers asked for and received surplus computer for their classrooms in addition to the regular compliment and “Smart Boards” have been installed in two rooms. Watts said she expects a big year for technology in the system and tech standards will be taken to higher levels.

Director of Pupil Personnel Harvey Tackett told the board that work is ongoing on some changes to the security system and that a 52 inch monitor will be installed in Superintendent Watts’s office that will allow her to monitor all three campuses. He said work on a new camera and door buzzer entry system for the Family Resource Center is also underway.

Tackett also said he will be working with Letcher County District Court Judge Kevin Mullins on a Truancy Diversion Program. The program will focus on grades six through ten and will work through focus groups which will meet monthly on each campus. Superintendent Watts said attendance will be a top priority for the system and Tracy Goff encouraged Tackett to do all he could to achieve higher attendance rates.

In other board business, football coach Larry Maggard presented the board with a template for an Athletics Handbook and asked members to read it and add any changes they would like to see and to be ready to conduct a first reading at the August meeting. Maggard said the handbook would be important for student athletes and parents as well as the school system. He said that since the system’s change to a K-12 system, there were no actual athletics policies in place, only those made by the sitebased councils under the old system.

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