Whitesburg KY

Jenkins board praises Johnson

Jenkins High School students will be eligible to apply for the Dataseam Apprentice Program in the coming school year, which could lead them to a career in information technology (IT).

Jenkins Superintendent Damian Johnson announced the initiative and the Jenkins School Board approved participation at its May meeting. In 2021, Dataseam receiveda$1.5millionAppalachian Regional Commission grant to further expand its registered apprenticeship in technology program for high school students in eastern Kentucky. The program is approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.

With guidance from the Kentucky Department of Labor, the two-year program includes paid IT jobs for students in participating school districts, hands-on coursework, and on-the-job training and mentoring.

As many as 25 school districts in 20 Kentucky counties have the opportunity to participate in the training, which will better prepare the students to further their careers in college-level courses or to seek out IT jobs in education, banking, healthcare, and state and local government among other IT fields. Approximately 45,000 students in the participating counties will have access to new technology as part of the grant. The goal of the apprenticeship program is to address Kentucky’s shortage of IT talent and the increased demands for that talent due to COVID-19.

Dataseam was founded in 2003 by the Kentucky General Assembly to provide computing infrastructure, workforce development, and educational opportunities for students and staff in Kentucky school districts. When the computers provided by Dataseam are not in use in schools, during after school hours and on weekends and holidays, the available computing power is put to work modeling calculations to screen anti-cancer drugs for the Dataseam team and collaborators at the University of Louisville. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Dataseam has worked to help find a cure. Since 2005, the Dataseam program has already provided over $400,000 in technology for Jenkins students for $100,000 in participation costs and Jenkins Schools have a greater than one-to-one ratio of computers to students.

Dataseam operates the only Apple Authorized Training Center (AATC) in Kentucky. More than 8,000 educators, including Superintendent Johnson, have received training, and school technology professionals now comprise the largest cohort of Apple Operating System engineers in the United States. Dataseam Chief Operating Officer Gena McCubbins said that engaging candidates in a skilled trade earlier in life provides them with the opportunity to enter the IT workforce or to seek further instruction at the university level.

“The DOL apprenticeship is the next step in taking what we have learned as part of workforce development in the Dataseam ecosystem and provide those successes to our next generation,” said McCubbins. The University of Louisville and Morehead State University identify and recruit students from 48 participating districts.

In other business, the board gave Johnson a positive first year evaluation and Board Chairman Chris Banks expressed the board members’ satisfaction with Johnson, saying they were pleased with his performance. He said Johnson is doing a great job and has met all the state standards.

Johnson completed his first official year as superintendent with a Capstone presentation last Thursday that highlighted his goals and accomplishments for the year, and his plans for the future.

As of April 30, 2021, the Jenkins system has $790,768.01 in its General Fund. District Finance Officer Candala Gibson also told the board she had submitted the system’s tentative budget for the coming year to the Kentucky Department of Education. The $5.2 million tentative budget was approved. At the end of the school year, enrollment held steady at 400 students.

The board has approved participation in the Kentucky General Assembly’s Supplemental School Year law. Senate Bill 128 allows students to retake courses that were disrupted by the pandemic in the 2020-2021 school year, and not merely gain an additional year in public school or explore additional coursework. Johnson said that he expects around 15 Jenkins students to take advantage of the program. He said he appreciates the language in the bill because he had feared some students may try to use it to gain an advantage in sports.

The board also voted to approve a $500 stipend for experienced teachers who agree to mentor a set number of newly hired teachers. The usual number is five new hires per each experienced teacher. Two of Jenkins most experienced teachers have announced that they will end their teaching careers. Kathy Rose and Leslie Burke, both of Burdine Elementary, have submitted their retirement. Burke has 30 years teaching in the Jenkins system and Rose has 27 years.

The board also recognized Kimber Collins, who won the National Elementary Schools Archery Championship for Elementary Girls. She wi l l represent Jenkins June 10-12 in the World Championships in Myrtle Beach, S.C..

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