Whitesburg KY

Schools facing teacher cuts

The Letcher County school system will be working with four fewer teachers next year.

At its April meeting this week, the Letcher County Board of Education approved the cutting of the four positions because of declining enrollment and budgetary cuts in federal programs.

According to a school staffing summary presented to the board, Beckham Bates Elementary School will lose one teacher whose salary is paid with both general and Title I federal funding. Fleming-Neon Elementary School will lose one teacher whose salary is paid with general funds and one teacher who is paid with Title I funds. West Whitesburg Elementary School will lose one teacher position paid with Title I funding. Title I is a federal funding program based on a formula involving the number of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

Letcher Schools Superintendent Anna Craft said three of the cuts will be taken care of through attrition. She said that leaves one position that she also hopes will be taken care of by a resignation, retirement or a transfer.

Because of the recent cuts in funding for programs such as the extended school service program, Craft is uncertain as to how many classified positions will need to be reduced.

The board approved extending the date of notifying employees of staffing allocations from April 30 to May 15 because the legislature took longer to finalize the budget this year. May 15 will be the new notification date from now on.

Three school employees who will retire at the end of this school year were named employees of the month for April. They are: James Slone, director of operations; Terry Sturgill, assistant superintendent; and Francis Howard, food services account clerk.

“I’m sure Ms. Craft is cringing on the thought of losing three quality people like these who have served our county with such dignity and such hard work,” said board member Dr. Sam Quillen Jr.

Board member Will Smith said Howard is one of the nicest people with whom he has ever worked and that food services will miss her.

“She has done a great job in the years I have known her,” said Cora Sturgill, district director of food services.

Board member Mike Harris said all three have a passion for students.

“There’s always been a passion for each of you for these kids and to do your jobs and it shows. That’s special to me,” said Harris.

Craft agree that Howard, Slone and Sturgill will be greatly missed in the school system.

“The amount of knowledge that these three people possess is going to be so difficult to try to find people that can step. There is no way because they have years of experience together,” said Craft. “I owe them all a great deal of gratitude for the jobs they have done and the difference they have made in the lives of children.”

Referring to Slone and Sturgill, school board attorney Darrell Hall said he will now have to buy a clock for his office.

“Always before I knew it was lunchtime when I saw the blue pickup go by,” said Darrell Hall.

“Thirty-one years’ worth – it’s been a good run and I don’t regret any minute of it,” said Sturgill.

“Thirty-eight years is a long time. As Will said, I have worn a lot of hats,” said Slone.

“I would like to say that I truly appreciated my job at the Letcher County Board of Education. I enjoyed working there. I will miss it but I look forward to retiring,” said Howard.

Five retirements were presented in the personnel report: Bonnie Adams, a highly skilled educator; Teresa Collins, a teacher at Letcher Elementary School; Nina Fields, an instructional assistant I at West Whitesburg Elementary School; Edith Mullins, a custodian/ lunch monitor at WWES; and Sandy Banks, a media librarian at Letcher County Central High School.

Four resignations were presented: Kathy Kincer, a teacher at Fleming-Neon Elementary School; Robert Rex Frohnapfel, track coach at LCCHS; Bryan Dean, an assistant football coach; and Dwana Bentley, a district bus driver.

In other news, Slone said the district paid $47,000 in March for diesel fuel.

“This is something we are going to have to look at. It is beginning to be a real burden,” said Slone.

Craft suggested scheduling boys’ and girls’ varsity events on the same night to save on fuel.

“We don’t want to stop a lot of things we have going on,” said Craft. “It is going to take some very thoughtful and sensitive planning to have a balanced budget.”

Roger Martin, district finance officer, said if the price of diesel fuel hits $5 a gallon, the district would have to spend almost $500,000 on diesel fuel for next school year.

Martin said as of March the district has spent $239,000 on diesel fuel, compared to spending $223,000 for diesel fuel for the 2006-2007 school year. Martin estimates the board spending at least $40,000 for diesel fuel in May.

Kenneth Cornett, director of pupil personnel, said the district’s attendance rate has recently improved. Cornett said the district attendance rate up until this point in the school year is 91.8 percent. Cornett contributes the increase to the state testing period and also said that students like to participate in end-of-the-year activities.

Kelly Hall, district director of curriculum and instruction, said the district hopes to incorporate algebra and geometry at the middle school level.

Next year in addition to a regular math class the district will offer pre-algebra to sixthgrade students and algebra to seventh-grade students.

For the 2009-2010 school year geometry will be offered to eighth-grade students.

Students must have had an algebra class before they can take a geometry class.

“It can only help build a better math student,” said Craft.

Hall also said the math curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade will be enhanced to offer a rigorous curriculum to prepare students for middle school algebra.

The board also:

. approved the following use of school facilities: LCCHS auditorium for a concert hosted by the Whitesburg First Baptist Church and the Whitesburg High School parking lot for the carnival reserved by the Mountain Heritage committee.

. approved the following out-of-state trips: Whitesburg Middle School’s eighth-grade trip to Cincinnati, Ohio; Arlie Boggs Elementary School class trip to Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; Letcher County Central High School class trip to Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va.; West Whitesburg preschool class trip to Hands On Museum in Johnson City, Tenn.; Whitesburg Middle School’s sixth-grade trip to Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; Fleming- Neon Elementary School’s eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C.; and Martha Jane Potter Elementary School’s band trip to Dollywood.

. approved a trip to Dollywood for LCCHS seniors who have successfully completed their portfolios and ondemand writing.

. approved the operation of a summer feeding program for any child under 19 years of age to participate in the program. LCCHS is the preparation and feeding site for this program, which starts May 19.

. approved the financial report, payment of bills and transfers, and payment of salaries for April 2008.

Roger Martin, finance officer for the district, reported there was $4,447,457.87 in the general ledger balance.

. approved continuation of the positions of three resource teachers for the 2008-2009 school year. Funding for these positions come from Title I funds.

. approved re-bidding refrigeration services for Letcher County Food Services.

. ratified a memorandum of agreement with the Kentucky Department of Education in the amount of $100,000 for May 1 through September 30 to provide funds for a program that increases rural children’s access to regular physical activity and healthy snacks in an after-school environment.

. ratified a memorandum of agreement with the Kentucky Department of Education in the amount of $157,367 to provide funds for goals for the Reading First program.

. approved the sale of a modular building formerly used as a band/music building at Letcher Elementary School to Don Childers for $2,500. The modular building was declared as surplus property and was available at a recent auction but no bids were received.

A motion was made at 8:35 p.m. to enter into executive session “for the purpose of discussing litigation, personnel and/or property.”

Smith made a motion at 9:15 p.m. to come out of executive session and reported that no action was taken while in executive session.

The next board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on May 19, which is one week earlier than normal because of the observation of Memorial Day.

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