The Jenkins Board of Education is expected to announce its choice for a new superintendent later this week.
As the August 6 opening date for classes grows nearer in the independent school district, the search for a replacement for current Supt. Deborah Watts and the filling of other vacancies is picking up speed. Jenkins School Board Chairman Durward Narramore Jr. said at the board’s July meeting this week that the original 18 applicants have been narrowed to four. The board also learned that a new high school football coach has been hired.
Two candidates for the superintendent’s job were interviewed during a closed session held after Monday’s meeting. The remaining two were to be interviewed in closed sessions Wednesday. The announcement of the new superintendent should be made on Thursday in an open meeting. Narramore said the purpose of holding closed interviews was to protect the applicants from retaliation from their current employers for seeking a new position.
Jenkins High School Principal David Lee told the board he has hired Daniel Sexton to be the new football coach at Jenkins High School. Lee said Sexton is currently employed at Red Onion Penitentiary in Pound, Virginia and lives in the Jenkins District. Sexton, who was one of three applicants interviewed, is a graduate of Fleming-Neon High School, where he played football as well.
Narramore also addressed objections voiced by members of the Letcher County Board of Education concerning the announcement Narramore made earlier that Jenkins would begin sending its vocational students to the Wise County Vocational School in neighboring Virginia in the coming year. He said that while he has known Letcher County Board member Sam Quillen for a number of years, he does not regret the change. Narramore added that Quillen’s statements about the Jenkins board’s decision during the Letcher school board’s June meeting validates the Jenkins board’s reasoning that Jenkins students were not getting equal access to vocational classes because of the earlier starting date in county schools.
“They said their school starts earlier, so they filled all the slots,” said Narramore. “That validates all we said. It didn’t use to be that way. To me that validates everything we said.”
Principal Lee also addressed the vocational school issue, saying the change had nothing to do with anything Letcher County Schools did or did not do, but with providing the best vocational opportunities for Jenkins students.
“I was looking for a better opportunity,” said Lee. “The vocational school at Wise is one of the top ones in Virginia.”
Lee said he is looking forward to getting Jenkins students started at the Wise County school and added that the University of Virginia at Wise works with the Wise County system in its nursing program. Lee said he will monitor the progress of Jenkins students closely and will make numerous visits to the Wise campus during the school year. He said he expects the programs to be “great” and added that the school at Wise has an excellent administration. Lee also said the Wise ROTC color guard will present the colors at Jenkins home football games.
The July meeting marked the last for outgoing Superintendent Watts, who announced her retirement at the board’s May meeting. Mrs. Watts told the board it had been a wonderful opportunity to work at the Jenkins system, and added that she had a great school board to work with. She said that she hopes the Jenkins system can last for another 100 years. The board was unanimous in its praise for Watts, who was hired in 2008.
Board Chairman Narramore thanked Mrs. Watts on behalf of the board and added that she had done an excellent job. Narramore said that Watts checked roads in the Jenkins system personally before deciding to cancel classes for bad weather, which necessitated here being out at 3 a.m. He said she put students first and implemented the successful partnership with the University of Pikeville in dual credit programs that allows Jenkins students to gain college credit while getting high school hours at the same time.
Watts told the board that the sale of the McRoberts school is almost final. She added that the McRoberts Homecoming, to be held the weekend of August 2, would still be held on the school grounds.
Elementary Principal Stacy Collier told the board that Burdine Elementary School teachers are already on the job, working on their classrooms and beautifying the school. Collier said she is very proud of the staff and added that at this point, there are approximately 34 students registered for preschool and 40 for kindergarten. There will be a Pee Wee Football program at the elementary school this year and Principal Lee said the elementary program will work closely with Coach Sexton to help establish a feeder program for the middle and high school teams.
Board vice-chairman Tracy Goff announced that two Jenkins students have been named to the Kentucky Academic All-State Track Team. Tanner Goff was named Academic All-State in Class A and Reanna Elswick was named Honorable Mention Academic All-State in Class A.
In other business:
• Finance Officer Candala Gibson reported that the system starts the school year with $703,499.49 in the general fund and $48,965.53 in student activities.
• Director of Pupil Personnel Rondall Baker announced that the projected enrollment for the coming school year is around 520, and added that the loss in coal mining jobs is starting to affect enrollment in schools throughout the county.
• The board voted unanimously to allow the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative to conduct bids for milk and bread for the coming year, as part of their participation contract with KVEC.
• The board set the starting time for Burdine Elementary at 8:05 a.m., with classes ending at 3:05 p.m. Starting time for the Middle High School will be 8:20 a.m., with release time at 3:20 p.m.
• The board voted unanimously to take a seven-year, no interest option to pay for its increased insurance rates. Narramore told the board that insurance rates have skyrocketed for Kentucky schools this year and presented several payment options including issuing a bond to pay the cost.