Whitesburg KY

Jenkins board talks about testing results

The Jenkins Independent Board of Education received a measured dose of good news concerning student test scores at its September meeting this week.

Jenkins Middle High School Principal Lisa Carroll told the board that scores were up by 100 percent in every area of testing required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. However, she also cautioned that while the system did not place in the bottom 10 percent as it did last year, there remains much work to do.

Carroll told the board that the percentage of students receiving “proficient” ratings had increased in all areas except in fifth grade social studies. She said there was also a significant increase from proficient to distinguished.

In response to a question from Board Chairman Durward Narramore Jr. as to quantifiable results, Carroll replied, “Well, we’re not in the bottom 10 percent in the state any more.” She went on to say that the middle and high schools had moved upward about 100 places and that all while elementary schools did not gain that much, they hadn’t been rated as low to begin with, moving from 157 to 138. She said the system now places in the lower middle of state schools according to test data.

“We saw a lot of movement, but we’re not there yet,” said Carroll. “The high school had the biggest jump. We moved about 100 places, but there is a lot of room for improvement. The teachers are all excited and we’ve had a taste of success. We celebrated. We had cake.”

Carroll said the teachers and staff had been anxious to get the data and have already been working toward improving for the next round of testing. She added that professional development procedures are going much more smoothly and some that had taken an entire day last year are now accomplished in half that time.

In other business, the board heard from “The Green Team,” a group of student activists working on environmental and health issues with high school vocational education teacher Candy Fields. Fields told the board the students were among the leaders in the school and had a number of issues that were important to them. She said one of their concerns was lunchroom issues, including the quality and quantity of lunches and the use of Styrofoam for trays.

About 15 students accompanied Ms. Fields and with the exception of two students who made a short video presentation showing less than appetizing lunchroom offerings, each had a short statement about the school lunches. The students were united in their support of the cafeteria workers and all said they were among the best staff members in the entire school. However, they also said the menus offered by the school left most of them hungry again before the school day was over and had little appeal to begin with.

Several of the students said they played sports and others had jobs and all said they became intensely hungry during practice or work. Others said the cafeteria offerings were either too small or not nourishing. A number of them also expressed concerns about students who have medical problems as well. They said there is no diabetic menu even though diabetes is prevalent in eastern Kentucky. Others said there were no vegetarian offerings either. Every one of the students told the board there were too many carbohydrate heavy offerings and not enough variety in vegetables or salads.

Several of the students also pointed out that a number of students at Jenkins don’t have proper nutrition at home and the school lunches might be the only hot meal they get all day. Narramore said that a significant portion of the 300 students in the middle high school were on free or reduced lunch and agreed that they deserved a decent meal while at school.

The students were united in their objection to the use of Styrofoam for cafeteria trays. The cafeteria staff said the reason was that the dishwasher was broken down and they had to use the Styrofoam. Superintendent Debbie Watts said she had approved the purchase of a new dishwasher for the school and expects the use of Styrofoam to be discontinued as soon as it is installed. The board joined the students in their opposition to Styrofoam for environmental reasons and the additional expense.

Several cafeteria staff members attended the meeting and told the board they would take the students’ suggestions into consideration whenever they could. They said that portions and some offerings are regulated by the state and that while they will try to expand the menu to offer more items, they have always been willing to work with students with special diets, when they are informed about them.

The cafeteria workers also said they will add chef’s salads to the menu immediately, one item several students had requested. Board members said they understood the restrictions the workers operate under, but they were also sympathetic to the students’ requests and asked that they be taken seriously and attempts made to accommodate them.

“I think the students made a good case,” said Narramore. “We need to figure out how to improve what you can serve and we need to get rid of the Styrofoam. The students deserve a decent meal, the best we can afford.”

Director of Pupil Personnel Harvey Tackett reported that system enrollment as of September 22 is 593, up by 61 from last year. Tackett said that while the ADA (average daily attendance) on September 22 stands at 92.8%, it is likely to be revised upward, perhaps by as much as three points, after problems with a new state software package for attendance are addressed. Tackett said that he and Technology Director Damien Johnson are aware of the “bugs” and have spoken with representatives of the Kentucky Department of Education about them. He said the problems are statewide and he and Johnson will meet with DOE representatives later in the week to fix them and will have new figures by the next board meeting. ADA figures are used to determine funding from the state.

Tackett also went over procedures to disinfect campus buildings and to clean and deodorize the equipment students come in contact with to help prevent influenza and other viruses from spreading. He said that as of August 18, 84 hand sanitizers were ordered and were strategically placed in campus buildings. A special sanitizing product, San-a-Safe, has been incorporated into the custodial staff ‘s cleaning regimen and a San-a-Guard defogger has been installed in athletic locker rooms and the Fitness Center as well as school libraries, computer labs, and other areas deemed necessary. School nurses are available on each campus and custodial staff received training on the new products to ensure proper use.

Tackett added that all students will receive information concerning H1N1 pandemic flu (swine flu) safety precautions and said he had attended a statewide Annual Health Coordinator’s Conference in Lexington. Tackett said the system has not been impacted by either seasonal influenza or the H1N1 variety as yet, and said they will take every precaution at their disposal to prevent it.

In other board business:

• Superintendent Watts told the board that the RAM (Remote Area Medical) program held at the middle high school had been successful but had served fewer patients than had been anticipated.

• Financial Director Candala Gibson reported that the state SEEK (Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky) funding for the year has been reduced by $270,910. Gibson said the funds will be replaced by federal stimulus funds from President Obama’s stimulus package, most of which have been used in Kentucky to make up for budget shortfalls.

• Gibson also reported that state funding for textbooks was cut from $17,000 to $1,700, although the system has already committed over $5,000 for textbooks.

• The board voted unanimously to re-post a science/ math teaching position at the JMHS to a strictly math teaching position.

• Burdine Elementary Assistant Principal Diane Sutphin asked that the discipline policy in the student handbook be revised to address elementary students. Sutphin said the age difference between five and 18 was significant and requires policy changes. JMHS Principal Carroll, who originally revised the policy, said there would be no problems accommodating the request.

• McRoberts Principal Kristie Collett reported that Jerry Klinger, vice president of Merrill Lynch, visited the McRoberts Elementary School recently and said he will send thousands of books to the school for the library and will provide prizes for a school writing project about veterans for Veterans’ Day. Collett also said that a Kentucky Chautauqua performer portraying Abraham Lincoln will visit soon. The performance is sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Humanities.

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