Whitesburg KY

Teachers put on notice by Jenkins superintendent

Jenkins Independent Schools Superintendent John Shook is angry over the way two teachers at Jenkins Middle High School reacted to a broken air-conditioning system at the middle-high school building.

When the subject arose at the August meeting of the Jenkins Independent Schools Board of Education on Monday night, Shook said when a broken fan left the building without air-conditioning on one of the hottest days of the year, two teachers told their students they should have their parents call school board members and the Kentucky Department of Education if they want to have the air-conditioning working before October, when a planned renovation of the system will be undertaken.

Shook said the teachers made the comments without first speaking with Principal Teresa Bentley to find out how the school system intended to address the problem. Shook said as soon as he found out the air-conditioning would be down for several days, he immediately bought $44,000 worth of window airconditioners and had them placed in the school. He said the main system is working satisfactorily now. Shook said he is angry about the teachers’ comments and will remember them if either or both is involved in another incident this year.

“I don’t mind having people call my office,” said Shook. “But when employees of the school district stand up in the classroom and tell students to have their parents call the board, two of our highly-paid professionals, if anything else from these two comes across my desk again, we are going to have a real good conference on the Code of Ethics and insubordination. Parents have a right to complain, but when professional teachers sic these people on others, they (the teachers) become like the people who call Speak Your Piece.”

Shook said the system will be removed from the roof of the middle-high school building and replaced in October, so the window units will possibly be necessary if the warm weather continues. He said the breakdown came during the hottest spell he had seen in the early weeks of school since he became superintendent of the Jenkins system, and he bought the window units because, since the system was installed in 1972, it took a few days to get all the parts together.

“We have never jeopardized the health and welfare of our kids,” said Shook. “We won’t do it now. If the Lowe’s units hadn’t worked I would have closed the schools.”

Shook said he appreciated the response of the students who maintained a 98 to 99 percent attendance rate during the time the window units were the building’s only air-conditioning. Shook said the hallways got very hot and classrooms were warm but attendance remained high.

Shook’s comments came during Director of Pupil Personnel Harvey Tackett’s report on attendance for the first month of school. Tackett said the district had a lower than normal attendance of 94.8 percent for the month but during the emergency, it remained high. Tackett also reported that the school district has an enrollment loss of 39 students overall from the 2006-07 school year, including a drop from 313 in 2006-07 to 264 in 2007-08 in the Jenkins Middle High School. Total enrollment for the system is 565 this year as opposed to 604 last year. Shook said the system faces tough competition from Letcher County Schools and from Pike County as well.

“Customer relations, student relations and parent relations, all have to focus on keeping the kids happy to be at our school,” said Shook. “They have a real good alternative just down the street. We’ve lost at almost every grade level. We’re in a hard competition for kids. We may deny that but we are.”

“I don’t deny it,” said Board Chairman Durward Narramore Jr.

Narramore said the key to student transfers often lies with parents and sometimes parents will take their children out of one system and place them in another if a misunderstanding occurs.

Board member Raymond Prunty asked if there is a way of conducting exit interviews with transferring students but DPP Tackett said students not only don’t have to answer exit questions, they don’t have to notify the system they are leaving. Tackett said often when a student transfers the first notice the school receives is when the guidance counselor at the student’s new school asks for their records.

In other business, the board voted to set school tax rates at 56.7 cents per $100 for real and tangible property and 69 cents per $100 for motor vehicles, the same as last year. Board member Prunty moved to keep both rates the same and the board voted unanimously in favor of both motions.

Curriculum and Instruction Director Jan Tackett told the board the different tests students are now subject to and standards for meeting No Child Left Behind (NCLB) guidelines will become even more confusing when the state-mandated inclusion of ACT (American College Test) testing is added. Tackett said the ACT tests are more recall oriented, while the state CATS tests are more concerned with the application of knowledge to solve problems. She said since the NCLB funding is based on CATS tests for the time being, CATS will continue to be emphasized but schools are at the mercy of state and federal education departments.

The board also:

. Revised the district volunteer policy to house highly confidential records from criminal background checks and drug tests in the central office for safety.

. Approved a request from Lady Cavs basketball coach Jerry Bentley for overnight travel to play in Madison County, and for the central office of the Letcher County Board of Education. The 60-month lease is for a mail machine with a five-pound integrated weighting platform. The cost is $134 a month.

. entered into a grant agreement with VH1’s Save the Music Foundation to provide band instruments to be used at Cowan and Fleming-Neon elementary schools.

. approved the financial report, payment of bills and transfers and payment of salaries for August 2007. Roger Martin, finance officer for the district, reported that the general ledger balance contains $4,555,347.72.

. approved hiring the following persons for the Save the Children grant program: Megan Sumpter, literacy coordinator at Arlie Boggs Elementary School; Vivian Banks, literacy coordinator at Cowan Elementary School; Michelle Robinson, literacy coordinator at Beckham Bates Elementary School; Elizabeth Adams, literacy coordinator at Letcher Elementary School; Suzan Maddin, literacy tutor at Letcher Elementary School; Cindy Blair, literacy tutor at Letcher Elementary School; Melissa Shepherd, literacy tutor at Letcher Elementary School; Lisa Elkins, literacy tutor at Beckham Bates Elementary School; Mattie Collins, literacy tutor at Beckham Bates Elementary School; April Hammonds, literacy tutor at Beckham Bates Elementary School; Linda Craiger, literacy tutor at Arlie Boggs Elementary School; Jacqueline Hall, literacy tutor at Cowan Elementary School; William Banks, literacy tutor at Cowan Elementary School; Tammy Cook, program assistant at Beckham Bates Elementary School; April Stevens, program assistant at Letcher Elementary School; and Michael Sparks, program assistant at Cowan Elementary School.

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