Whitesburg KY

Letcher board wants to keep drafting, diesel classes

The Letcher County Board of Education approved sending a letter to Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky Secretary of Education Helen Mountjoy expressing its support of two programs at the Letcher County Area Technology Center that may be in danger because of recent budget cuts.

Barbara Ison, principal of the technology center, told the board at its June meeting Monday that if Gov. Beshear does not restore funding, the vocational school may not be able to offer drafting and diesel classes in the fall.

“The diesel program is one of the most popular classes among students,” said Ison.

Ison said the Office of Career and Technical Education will mostly look at positions that have a vacancy and positions that have less than one year of experience. The diesel instructor position is vacant and the drafting position was filled in December.

Ison said if the school is able to keep one position, it will be drafting because she already has an instructor for that program.

“Diesel and drafting are so related to the coal industry and you would think they would never cut these two programs,” said Supt. Anna Craft.

“Energy crisis is the big thing right now and that’s just a slap in the face in what we are trying to do,” said Dr. Sam Quillen Jr., a board member. “We are cutting the funds that would promote those things and it just seems so counterproductive of what this country is supposed to be trying to do right now.”

Ison said 479 students from the school district took classes at the vocational school last year. Other classes offered at the vocational school are office technology, industrial maintenance, carpentry, electricity, welding and health sciences.

Ison is afraid the allotment for classroom supplies and equipment will be cut in half. The vocational school spent $40,000 on classroom supplies last year and $33,000 on equipment.

In other action at this week’s meeting, the board approved updating the Student Code of Conduct to include banning students from using cellular phones, cameras and video recorders to film or take pictures of students involved in inappropriate activities while on school property. It is against school policy to use recordings of other students to bully or harass students. According to the new policy, posting video clips and photographs of students made on school property could result in criminal prosecution of the person posting the images and the owner of the phone from which the images were made.

“These parents need to understand that what is put on their cell phones is their responsibility,” said Terry Sturgill, assistant superintendent of the Letcher County School System.

Sturgill said filming other students on school property violates confidentiality policies.

“It has been a concern all school year and we have had several of those situations this year,” said Sturgill.

The board approved adding a policy stating that students must be within one credit of graduating to be able to participate in graduation exercises.

Darrell Douglas, landscape architect with Sherman, Carter, Barnhart PSC, said July 2 is the latest date of substantial completion for the new baseball field at Letcher County Central High School.

“Unfortunately I cannot say the field is done,” said Douglas.

Douglas said nine tractortrailer loads of sod were to be laid on the baseball field this week.

The baseball field was not completed in time for the baseball team to play games on it this season and Will Smith, chairman of the board, asked what Douglas did to get the workers on track.

“I think they were embarrassed by the newspaper articles,” said Douglas.

Sturgill said the district ended the school year with an attendance rate of 91.28 percent. Sturgill said there were 44,290 student absences reported last year resulting in a loss of more than $1.3 million to the district. Sturgill said that includes 16,727 unexcused absences.

“Every day we have 300 kids missing school. That’s what it amounts to,” said Smith. “That’s a huge number.”

Roger Martin, district finance officer, reported that the Kentucky Department of Education’s current mileage reimbursement rate is set at 43 cents per mile. Martin reported that the board will adjust the school system’s rate to be the same as the state rate, beginning July 1.

Bernice Evans and Kaye Parker, custodians at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School, were named employees of the month.

The board also: • approved the Letcher County Central High School band trip to Kings Island in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 9.

• entered into an agreement with Ohio Casuality/Indiana to provide coverage for comprehensive general liability, educator’s legal liability, property, fleet and umbrella for a total premium of $189,154.

• approved participating in the National School Boards Association and the Kentucky School Boards Association and to pay $4,828.57 to each association for membership dues.

• approved a membership agreement with Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative for the 2008-2009 school year. Cost to participate is $8,500.

• approved a membership agreement with Kentucky Purchasing Cooperative whose fiscal agent will be Kentucky Educational Development Cooperative (KEDC).

• approved reimbursing the LCCHS track team for expenses up to $1,000 for recently competing at the state level.

• approved submission of the elementary arts and foreign language integration grants through the Kentucky Department of Education for Martha Jane Potter and West Whitesburg elementary schools. Each grant is for $45,980 and would be used to hire a foreign language teacher, purchase a computer-based foreign language program and provide training.

• approved employing Richardson and Associates for construction of a sidewalk project for the Safe Routes to School Project. Architect fees for this project total $20,000 and the total cost of the project is $192,000.

• voted to use Roberts Insurance as the insurance agent for student accident coverage for the 2008-2009 school year at a premium cost of $45,003.36.

• entered into an agreement with the Kentucky River Health District to provide limited school nursing services for the 2008- 2009 school year. The school district will contribute $5,000 for each nurse.

• ratified contractual services for the 2008-2009 school year with the Kentucky River District Health Department for use of teen leaders in the schools.

• entered into a contractual agreement with Jenkins Independent School System for provision of physical therapy and services for visually impaired students.

• approved continuation of a contract with the Letcher County Sheriff’s Department to provide a security officer for the school district for a cost of $32,451.30 in addition to $49.76 each month as partial payment for health insurance.

“I think this has been a good thing having a deputy on site,” said Craft. “I think it is very necessary and wish we could hire two.”

• ratified the following master agreements with the Commonwealth of Kentucky: Reading First program at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School, $150,000; and Reading First Professional Development grant at Beckham Bates Elementary School, $12,500.

• entered into a contract with Premier Drug Testing Company to conduct drug testing for all employees that possess commercial driver’s licenses and to complete any necessary paperwork that will ensure that the district is in compliance with statutes. The cost is $52 for each urine drug screen test and $30 for each breath alcohol testing.

• approved an agreement with the Save the Children programs at Letcher and Cowan elementary schools. Cowan will receive $108,378 to implement a literacy and fitness program. Letcher Elementary School’s funding has been reduced to $89,589.

• approved payment of claims for services rendered for the construction of the baseball field at LCCHS to Elliott Contracting, $94,216.98.

• approved the financial report, payment of bills and transfers, and payment of salaries. Martin reported the general ledger balance containing $5,014,041.66.

• authorized obtaining a finance officer’s bond in the amount of $400,000 and obtaining a treasurer’s bond in the amount of $400,000.

• established an instructional assistant I position at LCCHS to assist with the Credit Recovery program.

• approved the three academic coaching positions (one head coach and two assistants) be combined and paid equally among the three coaches.

• approved the continuation of Title I teacher positions and primary teacher positions in the teacher quality program.

• approved one-year, emergency and provisional certification for teachers of specified areas of shortage in order to fill unanticipated vacant teacher positions which may occur after the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.

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