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Letcher County school board elects new leaders



The two newest members of the Letcher County Board of Education have already been promoted to chairman and vice chairman.

Board Member Terry Cornett, who has been vice chairman for the last 14 years, nominated new Board Member Robert Kiser as chairman during Monday night’s meeting after Will Smith, who has been chairman for the last 13 years, called for nominations. Mendy Boggs, another new board member, seconded Cornett’s motion. Dr. Sam Quillen Jr., who has served on the board for nine years, nominated Smith, but no one seconded the motion. The board then voted unanimously to name Kiser as its new chairman.

Cornett nominated Boggs for vice chairman, Smith seconded the motion and the board unanimously voted in favoring of naming Boggs.

Boggs and Kiser were elected as board members in the November election and were sworn into offi ce during a special-called board meeting on January 11 at the Letcher County Extension Office.

Kiser and Smith switched seats and Kiser conducted the rest of the meeting.

In other business, Kiser asked about the possibility of having early release one day a week for all schools in the district in an effort to alleviate the amount of time teachers spend doing paperwork after school.

Twyla Messer, assistant superintendent, said some school buses drop students off at multiple schools and “if the high school does it, it makes it easy for us to do.”

Supt. Anna Craft said the district can’t afford duplicate bus runs.

“ We can’t give them separate fleets,” said Craft. “When you look at the added fuel and the wear and tear (on the buses).”

Boggs and Quillen agreed that early release is good when used the way it is supposed to be used, but Smith wants more information.

“We’ve got to do a lot of thinking on this,” said Smith. “I’d like to see how many schools really want it and how many don’t.”

Kiser said the board does need more information and will act on the issue at the next board meeting.

The board asked Messer to have principals at Letcher, Cowan, Arlie Boggs and West Whitesburg elementary schools and Whitesburg

Middle School survey teachers to see if they are for or against having early release.

Teachers at Letcher County Central High School were surveyed.

“ Certainly the high school would like to keep what they are doing now,” said Craft. “Part of the problem is elementary schools do not have planning periods. High schools have planning periods every day.”

Charlie Thompson, project manager of the construction of the softball field, two tennis courts and a golf putting green at LCCHS, said the final completion date is now March 11.

Board members want the softball field, which is located adjacent to the Letcher County Area Technology Center, to be finished in time for the first softball game in April.

“I would say in the next six weeks everything will be complete except the sod,” said Thompson. “Worst case scenario, if we lay the sod the last week of March, games start the first week of April.”

Thompson said the softball team should be able to play its first game on the new field.

Thompson said employees worked in 16-degree weather.

“They are working hard,” said Terry Sturgill, district director of special projects.

Quillen said he wants the public to know that the LCCHS softball team will be playing its games on the new softball field come April.

Messer said safety walks and lockdowns have been conducted at all schools in the district.

Kiser said most schools knew the lockdowns were going to happen and he suggested having police officers that staff isn’t familiar with conduct the lockdowns.

“Do it really as a surprise and see how it is handled at that point,” said Kiser.

In addition to looking at procedures, police and school administrators listed maintenance issues that would prevent schools from being safe. The maintenance department is calculating a tentative cost to do repairs.

“We are being proactive to prevent things from happening,” said Messer.

Nancy Ratliff, a kindergarten aide at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School, said the wide-angle security monitor the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) purchased for the front office at the school makes it easier for staff to see who is in the parking lot.

“It makes you feel a lot safer,” said Ratliff.

Kiser said a similar monitor was placed at Fleming- Neon Middle School.

Messer mentioned the idea of having students carry clear backpacks next school year. The board did not vote on requiring clear backpacks.

Sturgill said Martha Jane Potter Elementary School had the highest enrollment for the fifth month of this school year with 91.94 percent. The district’s attendance rate for this school year is 93.07 percent.

Sherry Sexton, district energy manager, said the district has saved $10,339.39 this school year by conserving energy. She contributed the savings to turning off computers in the evenings and making sure lights are off.

Craft told the board that US Congressman Hal Rogers will be at the LCCHS auditorium at 2 p.m. on Thursday to congratulate the marching band and JROTC honor guard for participating in the Presidential Inauguration Parade.

Brian Johnson, the principal of West Whitesburg Elementary School, has been hired as director of district-wide programs/ finance. Gary Caldwell, the district finance officer, was killed in a car wreck in Knox County on Christmas Eve.

Stacy Isaac has been named interim principal of WWES for the remainder of the school year.

The board also:

• named Betty Von Caudill, a fourth- and fifth-grade math teacher at Letcher Elementary School, employee of the month.

• approved the Cowan Elementary School dance team’s request to travel to Atlanta, Ga. on March 7 to perform at an Atlanta Hawks basketball game..

• voted to allow students at Letcher Elementary School to sell local business discount cards as a fund-raiser to purchase additional two-way radios and surveillance system equipment.

• approved a student/ parent archery competition for the archery teams. The fund-raising event will take place on Feb. 2 at the old Whitesburg High School gymnasium. Money raised through the event will help pay for archery equipment and travel expenses for the archery team.

• chose Lincoln Financial for employee group life insurance. The price quote of $7,387 is 30 percent less than what the district paid Standard last year.

• approved the following payment of claims for the construction of the Letcher County Area Technology Center: Alliance Corporation, $59,664.12; Elliott Contracting, $148,322.13; and Codell Construction, $999.25.

• approved the following payment of claims for services rendered for the construction of the Letcher County softball fields, tennis courts and golf range project: Cumberland-Cape Electric Supply, $50,228.77; Rising Sun Development, Inc., $136,156.50; The Wells Group, $6,072.25; Atlas Metal Products, $3,185; Bluegrass Truss, $3,381; Codell Construction Company, $6,020; and Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects, $2,878.27.

• approved the annual draft budget for 2013-2014. Martin projects the Supporting Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) dollars to be down $483,000 next school year.

Martin said administrators have applied for a federal grant similar to the cash for clunkers program, except for buses. If chosen the district will be able to purchase five buses for the price of three. If not, the district has budgeted $200,000 to buy two new school buses with air conditioning.

Martin said the contingency fund will be at about $1 million.

“I think we are as low as we ever want to be,” said Martin. “We need to look at reducing expenditures.”

Martin said the food service program is expected to break even this year and Martin said that is the goal. Through a pilot program, all students in the district are receiving breakfast and lunch free of charge.

Martin told the board he would do a budget workshop to help Boggs and Kiser learn more about the district budget.

• learned of the certified resignations of substitute teachers, Ramie Hensley and Michelle Stone.

• learned of the certified employment of Rebecca Dollarhide as a special education teacher at WWE.

• learned of the classifi ed resignations of Dustin Brown, program assistant II; Michelle Craft, LCCHS head dance coach; Roland Craft, bus driver; Sylvia Hammonds, cook/baker at Letcher campus; Rhonda Hensley, substitute lunch monitor; and Zohira Hutton, district-wide program assistant II.



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