Negative responses from Jenkins school teachers participating in a statewide survey concerning working conditions in their schools prompted a strong response from Board Chairman Durward Narramore Jr. at the July meeting of the Jenkins Independent Board of Education.
Narramore said some of the responses are of concern, but added that the small staff size at Jenkins means that five or six disaffected teachers can significantly skew a survey. He also cautioned teachers that negative comments they might make about schools in the community have an adverse affect on the entire system.
“How you talk in your community is how people will view your school,” said Narramore. “When you talk, be positive.”
He added that as long as he is on the school board, Jenkins will not make a move to join the Letcher County school system.
“ We’re here to stay,” said Narramore. “There are only two ways to shut a district down — for financial (reasons) and a five-to-zero vote to close it. As long as I’m here you won’t have a five-to-zero vote. Even if I’m gone after the next election I still don’t think you’ll get a five-tozero vote.”
The survey Narramore took exception with is the TELL (Teaching. Empowering, Leading, and Learning) poll conducted by TELL Kentucky. According to the website at www.tellkentucky.org, TELL Kentucky is a statewide survey of schoolbased educators to assess teaching conditions at the school, district, and state level with the purpose of guaranteeing student achievement at the highest level.
While the overall comments were mostly positive, there were several areas Jenkins teachers rated negatively by more than 50 percent. Among the survey questions were: Class sizes are reasonable such that teachers have the time available to meet the needs of all students – Jenkins 41.7 percent, state average 58.8 percent; teachers have time available to collaborate with colleagues – Jenkins 33.3 percent, state average 66.0 percent; the non instructional time provided for teachers in my school is sufficient – Jenkins 36.1 percent, state average 60.6 percent; and efforts are made to minimize the amount of routine paperwork teachers are required to do – Jenkins 25.0 percent, state average 50.5.
Narramore pointed to a 17-toone student-to-teacher ratio in Jenkins, which he said is unusually low for Kentucky. He said the system could save thousands of dollars by raising the ratio to 28-to-one, which would be more in line with the rest of the state, but added that the lower ratio is more conducive to student achievement. He said the paperwork load is largely determined by state and federal reporting requirements and said non-instructional time should be adequate to address planning needs.
“ People nit-pick and talk about the school (being bad),” said Narramore. “It’s not.”
A number of the other negative responses revolved around the site-based decision making council system which Jenkins no longer uses. Narramore said the disaffected teachers should get over the change and embrace the new system rather than continuing to linger in the past.
“Some people here think the councils are going to return to this school, but it’s not going to happen,” said Narramore. “If we hadn’t taken the action we took, we would have been in the same situation as some of the Louisville schools, having to replace staff. The councils aren’t coming back. Sorry, people, move on to something else.”
Narramore said that while it is important for teachers to be satisfied with their workplace, it is also important to be personally satisfied. He said the system works well and is a good one and again addressed those who would like to see the Jenkins system move into Letcher County Schools.
“If you lose your school, you lose your community.”
Narramore pointed to what he considers negative effects on Fleming-Neon community after it lost its high school and predicted similar problems for the Town of Pound and other Wise County, Va., communities if they consolidate. He also said that while Jenkins residents often complain that the system hires quite a few out-of-state teachers, those are the teachers who are applying for the openings in the system.
In other business, the board also heard a report from Russell Crawford of Cintra Engineering Consultants, which works with Lucas Schwering Architects, the system’s architectural consultants. Crawford told the board that the aging high school building will continue to present challenges as its infrastructure deteriorates and said the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) will have to eventually be replaced unless a new school is built.