Some members of the Letcher County Board of Education are upset because they weren’t given advance notice of the Jenkins Independent School District’s decision to move its vocational school students from the county school district to neighboring Wise County, Va.
Letcher board members did not learn about the Jenkins Board of Education’s vote against continuing to use the services of the Letcher County Area Technology Center until they read an account of the Jenkins board’s May meeting in the June 4 edition of The Mountain Eagle.
“I didn’t like the way it was presented in the local paper like we were doing something wrong,” Letcher board member Sam Quillen Jr., Neon dentist, said of comments attributed to Jenkins Board Chairman Durward Narramore Jr.
The decision by the Jenkins board and comments from Narramore appeared over two paragraphs near the end of a front-page report recapping the Jenkins board meeting.
Narramore said during the May meeting that Jenkins students had not always been treated fairly or given equal access to the most popular classes at the Letcher vocational school.
Letcher Board Chairman Will Smith said Narramore’s comments gave the impression that “we treated them like second-class citizens.”
The Jenkins school board will permit its students to attend Wise County Vocational School in Wise, Va. Narramore said that in addition to Wise County offering many more opportunities for vocational training, he has also been assured that Jenkins students will be treated as equals to the Wise students.
Quillen said that after he read the report in The Eagle he contacted a Jenkins school official.
“Supposedly, the Jenkins students had been discriminated against a long time,” said Quillen. “ If there is something wrong on our end we want to know about it. In my years on the board it has never been brought up.”
Quillen said the incident shows the need for better communications between the two school boards.
“They gave two reasons — supposedly offering more opportunities and because kids didn’t get treated right,” said Quillen. “I live in that end of the county and a lot of those kids and families are my patients and my friends and if anything was going on with them I would want to know and try to help them vindicate it.”
Board member Mendy Boggs said she skimmed The Eagle’s report on the Jenkins board meeting and saw the information contained in the final two paragraphs.
“ Didn’t really have a chance to sit down and read it completely,” said Boggs. “I was a little insulted. There was no evidence to back it up. There was just a comment and that was it. I’ve only been on the board a year, but I hadn’t heard anything about it.”
Letcher County Area Technology Center Principal Dejah Burton told the board that Jenkins students were not treated any differently than student from the county school district.
“I don’t feel that we have done any injustice at all,” said Burton.
Although Burton said she didn’t receive any complaints from Jenkins students, three students might have been dissatisfied that they were unable to take a nursing class this past school year.
Letcher schools began the 2013–14 school year a few days before Jenkins and, Burton said, the nursing class had already been filled by the time the Jenkins students signed up for classes. Three juniors wanted to enroll in nursing and Burton said she told them that she would make sure they were enrolled in the class for their senior year.
Burton told the Letcher board at Monday night’s meeting that she did have difficulty communicating with the Jenkins district.
“I’ve always tried to have communications with them and couldn’t get them to,” said Burton. “I’ve sent emails that never get replies. I’ve called. (We couldn’t) get them to give me any information. We never knew when they were coming or if they were staying there for a test.”
Most Jenkins students who took a class at the Letcher vocational school enrolled in the electricity class, Burton said.
“All of them enjoyed it immensely. They really liked the class,” said Burton.
Burton said she also read about the Jenkins board’s decision in The Eagle.
“They never came to me with anything about it,” said Burton. “I just read about it myself.”