Despite continued job losses in the mining industry in Letcher County, student enrollment in the county school district fell by only two students between the end of the 2014-15 school year and the 2015-16 year, which ended with 3,097 students enrolled.
“Our enrollment has held steady,” said Debbie Cook, a secretary with the Letcher County Board of Education. “I’m curious to see how that holds up when school starts.”
The 2016-17 school year will open August 8 for district employees and August 10 for students, said Denise Yonts, district director of curriculum and instruction.
In other business at its June meeting, the county school board agreed to look into a proposal that would allow food service managers to earn extra money by completing online courses and obtaining proper certification.
“I can’t leave in all good faith without trying to help my area a little more and trying to help my managers,” said Cora Sturgill, dis- trict director of food service, who is retiring August 1. “They are hardworking. I’m sure every group of classified and certified personnel are the hardest working personnel, but I know for that certain food service folks are some of the hardest working people there is.”
Sturgill asked the board to consider a 25-cent increase in pay per hour for obtaining certification from the School Nutrition Association (SNA). If approved, managers would be eligible to earn one certification level per school year. To earn a level one certificate, an employee is required to take eight hours of core courses in nutrition education and eight hours of food safety and sanitation. To receive a level two certificate, employees must meet core requirements in addition to taking 70 hours operations, nutrition, administration and communications. A level three certificate requires 60 additional hours in the key areas required for a level two certificate.
“I have a group of managers that are eager to do their job as good as they can and are eager to learn and grow in their knowledge of their fields,” said Sturgill. “They are willing to undertake that on their own time on computers there at the school after they get finished working and study for those levels. If they get to level one that only means $328 per year per manager increase in their salary. Food service has the money.”
Board Chairman Will Smith said the board needs time to study Sturgill’s request.
“This is something new that was sprung on us,” said Smith. “We’ve got to figure out the impacts of it and think about this a little bit.”
Board member Robert Kiser said if managers achieve the certification, they should be compensated.
“The small amount that it is, I would be in favor of it,” said Kiser.
In other business, Letcher County Area Technology Center Principal Dejah Burton asked the board to find a new place for the Letcher County Central High School wrestling team to practice this coming school year. The wrestling team practiced in the center’s upstairs multipurpose room during the previous school year.
“It was difficult for them and us,” said Burton. “They had to (take) everything out of the room and put the mats down. When it was needed to be used by someone else, it was too much of an expense to take those up because that tape costs a lot of money.”
Burton said that the multipurpose room smelled like a locker room and sand had fallen from the blocks as a result of the wrestling practices.
“We have sand in the walls in those blocks to keep sound from shop to shop upstairs and a lot of that sand fell to the bottom floor in the shop area,” said Burton. “I felt like it was hurting the building. I know they need somewhere to go, but I was hoping we could find somewhere else.”
The board also:
• approved the appointment of Kimberly Sergent as a social studies instructional specialist with Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVAC) for the 2016- 17 school year.
• approved Chris Bentley to serve as a network instructional specialist with the Kentucky Department of Education for the upcoming school year.
• approved the appointment of Dionn Bates to serve as an achievement gap/literary specialist with KVEC for the upcoming school year.
• voted to continue insurance coverage with Liberty Mutual for comprehensive general liability, educator’s legal liability, property, umbrella and bus/fleet insurance at a total premium of $246,163. The board also continued workers compensation insurance with Kentucky Employers Mutual at a total premium of $195,633.48 for the 2016-17 school year.
• entered an agreement with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services for the Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSC) for the upcoming school year. Funding for fiscal year 2017 is $362,709.23.
• awarded the bid for drug testing of bus drivers, other employees and students to Kentucky Drug Testing for the coming school year.
• approved two propane supply and equipment lease agreements with Heritage Propane for Arlie Boggs Elementary School and Letcher County Central.
• approved the financial report, payment of bills, transfers and May salaries. Brian Johnson, district finance officer, reported a balance of $7,386,846.50 in the general fund. Johnson also said the district’s mileage reimbursement rate is now 39 cents per mile.
• learned of the following teacher resignations: Gabriel Burns, teacher at Letcher Elementary School; Amy Gray, teacher at West Whitesburg Elementary School; Cara Perry, teacher at LCCHS; Donald Shrader, teacher at Letcher Middle School; and Cassie Stamper, teacher at LCCHS.
• learned of the following retirements: William Richard Adams, Alternative Education teacher; Stephen Banks, teacher at Letcher Middle School; Sharon Burton, teacher at Cowan Elementary School; Linda Cantrell, teacher at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School; Diana Faye Collier, teacher at LCCHS; Patricia Gilbert, district-wide teacher; Anna Jayane Lynch, substitute teacher; Brenda Quillen, teacher at LCCHS; Mary Quillen, teacher at MJP; Carolyn Spangler, teacher (Kentucky Department of Education memorandum of agreement); and Wayne Watts, ROTC instructor at LCC.
• learned of the following coaching resignations: Paige Adams, volleyball coach at Cowan Elementary School; Jeffery Breeding, head boys’ basketball coach at Fleming-Neon Middle School; and Sarah Maggard, cheerleading coach at FNMS.
• learned of the following coaching hirings: Robert Scott Boggs, boys’ basketball coach at Cowan Elementary School; James McAuley, elementary/middle school athletic director; and Ben McCray, head football coach at FNMS.
• learned of the following contract non-renewals for the 2016- 17 school year: Andrew Bentley, teacher at LCCHS; Rebecca Dollarhide, special education teacher at WWE; Chelsea Tucker, teacher at Whitesburg Middle School; and Marissa Wooten, teacher at FNMS.
• learned Betty Acevedo, teacher at Letcher Elementary School and head soccer coach at LCCHS, was suspended without pay.
• learned of the resignations of James Cummings, maintenance tech II; Rickey Gilley, custodian at Letcher Elementary School; and Edith Mullins, custodian.
• learned of the retirements of Jessie Hall, bus monitor; Gregory Lynch, custodian at Letcher Middle School; and Shirley Stidham, instructional assistant I at MJP.