The Jenkins Independent Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a tentative budget of $3.7 million Monday evening at its May meeting. This year’s budget is up slightly from last year’s budget of $3.4 million. District Financial Officer Candala Gibson said it would be very tight because of various cost increases including a hike in retirement to 18.6 percent from 16.3. Superintendent Deborah Watts said there would be no raises for staff other than state-mandated step raises.
Gibson said the increase in the budget is due to the re-implementation of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, a program that provides education formula grants to states to stabilize state and local budgets and minimize reductions in education and other essential services. This funding is provided contingent upon a commitment to advance education reform in four key areas: achieving equity in teacher distribution; improving collection and use of data; raising standards and assessments, and supporting struggling schools.
Gibson told the board that in order to balance the budget, she had to take the salary of three tenured teachers out of the general fund and put them in the federally funded “Edu Job” Fund. She said the 2011-2012 budget will be even tighter than the current budget. Superintendent Watts added that all non- tenured teachers had received letters of non-renewal, but said she hopes to hire back as many as possible before the school year begins. Tenured personnel have been rehired and Watts said the system will have a “skeleton staff ” in place for the time being.
“It doesn’t feel good to say we don’t know if you will be back in class,” said Watts. “It’s not an easy thing to do when you talk about job losses,”
In other business, the board voted unanimously to pay half of the school system’s costs for a set of movable bleachers for the softball field. Board Chairman Durward Narramore Jr. said the athletic boosters could not pay the entire cost of $7,500 and had asked the board for help. Narramore said the original agreement for the bleachers had called for the City of Jenkins to purchase one set and the boosters’ organization to purchase the other. The city’s set is in place and both can be moved downtown for parades, events in the city park, etc.
The board declined to vote on a request to pay expenses for track and field athletes from the Jenkins track team to attend the Kentucky State Track Meet. Narramore told the board that three participating members and five other members of the boys’ and girls’ track teams were going to attend and said expenses would cover Thursday through Saturday evening. Board member Eileen Sanders said she did not like the idea of setting a precedent in helping with the expenses, and Narramore said in the past the board has helped out. No motion was made.
Burdine Elementary School teacher Anita Bolt was honored by the board with the Teacher of the Year award. Bolt, a 1968 graduate of Jenkins High School, has spent her teaching career at Burdine and told the board she felt blessed to be able to work with children. Two staff members, Director of Pupil Personnel Harvey Tackett and Technology Coordinator Damien Johnson, both said their children had been in Bolt’s class at Burdine and praised her as a highly effective teacher.
The board was serenaded by students from McRoberts Elementary at the beginning of the meeting. Students from the McRoberts second and third grade classes played two songs on recorders. Led by JHS band Director Heather Coombs, second graders Makenna Tolliver, Shaylee Smith, and Makaylee Branham joined third graders Kenzie Collier, Rheagan Holbrook, Katlyn Fosskhul, and Kameron Collier to entertain the board.
Director of Pupil Personnel Harvey Tackett reported that overall attendance currently stands at 91.23 percent. Tackett said if the trend holds, the system will finish almost two points higher than last year’s total. He added that most schools in the surrounding area are near 92 percent as well.
School nurses reported seeing 561 students at Burdine Elementary, 355 at McRoberts Elementary, and 230 at the middle high school between April 21 and May 16. Ten student parent conferences were held to address truancy and 13 telephone calls were made to parents or guardians. Ten letters were written to Court Appointed Worker Mike Watts and legal charges were filed in one case in District Court. Judge Kevin Mullins oversaw three truancy-related court cases between April 21 and May 18 and six final notices were served.
Tackett also heads the Safe Schools Program and reported that as part of the District Safe School Site Visit, walkthroughs were held at all campuses and harassment and bullying presentations were conducted for all K-12 students.
Testing is currently being conducted at all three campuses and the principals reported it is going well and said students are enthusiastic. Burdine Principal Gracie Maggard said that the average 10-year-old student has answered 14 open response questions and 10 multiple choice questions and McRoberts Principal Amanda Sturgill said testing averages between one and three hours and up to five hours per day. The nationally administered Iowa Norm Reference Tests will be given this week.
MHS Principal Lisa Barker told the board her students are finishing up the Iowa tests and said that after testing is complete, teachers will focus on preparing students for their classes for the coming year. She said the Junior Senior Prom went very well and MHS seniors visited the University of Pikeville during testing.
In other business:
• The board voted to authorize dual credit classes with the University of Pikeville in addition to currently conducted dual credit classes at the Whitesburg Campus of Southeast Community and Technical College. Students who attend dual credit classes at Pikeville will be responsible for providing their own transportation and insurance and cannot take other students with them.
Technology Coordinator Damien Johnson reported that the school’s Internet was down for a day due to copper thefts in Hazard. Johnson said that a hard drive in one of the system’s servers failed and had to be rebuilt and is now up and working. McRoberts Elementary students competed in the state Student Technology Leadership Program and Johnson, who was one of the judges, said that although they didn’t place, they did very well for their first time at the competition.
• The board voted unanimously to include End of Course testing as 20 percent of final grades for the coming year. Schools that decline to include EOC tests as at least 20 percent of the final grade will have to write letters explaining their reason for not doing so to the Kentucky Department of Education.