Students at all three schools in the Jenkins Independent Schools District will have new administrators this year. David Lester, a retired Pike County administrator, has been hired as interim principal to fill the vacancy created when former Principal Lisa Carroll resigned at the middle high school.
Lester served in the same capacity after the demotion of former Principal Teresa Bentley in the 2008-2009 school year, before Lisa Carroll was hired as principal last year. Gracie Maggard, who was introduced at last month’s board meeting, is elementary schools principal and will be located at Burdine Elementary, and Superintendent Deborah Watts told the board a new assistant principal has been hired and will soon transition into McRoberts Elementary. Former McRoberts Assistant Principal Kristy Collette resigned due to the impending birth of her first child.
Superintendent Watts also introduced several new teachers to the board at the August meeting. Steven Wright of Pike County will teach language arts and social studies in grades 4, 5, and 6 at Burdine Elementary. Heather Combs of Henry County has been hired to be the new band director and teach music in lower grades. Ashley Bentley of Letcher County will teach special education at Burdine Elementary. Katie Short of Lawrence County will teach K1 at McRoberts Elementary, and Katrina Whisenant of Jenkins will teach pre-school at Burdine Elementary.
In other business, Superintendent Watts reported that the relocation of the central office to Jenkins Middle High School is now complete and everything is in order. Watts said the principal’s office is now complete and the cooling system has been installed in the server room and is working well to keep computer servers operating at the proper temperature. She also told the board the system has implemented an ACT plan, to help juniors and seniors succeed on the American College Test and qualify for scholarships.
Watts said that in addition to the ACT, the district is working with eighth graders who will take the Explorer Test to develop the skills necessary for success. She said the Explorer Test is a pre-cursor to the ACT and reveals problem areas for the later test which can be targeted by teachers. Watts told the board that all three campuses are in good shape and asked the board to approve pay requests to Elliott Construction of Pikeville for work done to facilitate the central office move.
Burdine Principal Gracie Maggard told the board that elementary teachers are focusing heavily on developing math and reading skills this year, and that Andrea Cheng, a successful author of children’s’ books, will visit Burdine Elementary on September 17. She also said incentives for attendance are in place and Breakfast Clubs and Lunch with Books programs to create an interest in reading have been implemented and are very successful.
In the absence of David Lester, Federal Programs Director Sherry Wright told the board the middle high school math department is implementing a hybrid algebra program to facilitate teaching algebra and that three math teachers and one English teacher are working in leadership roles in content areas.
Director of Pupil Personnel Harvey Tackett introduced school health reports, which will be filed monthly by school nurses. Tackett said the reports will be used as part of an effort to increase attendance and will help him to determine when absences have to be treated as truancy. Tackett, who is also Safe Schools Director, told the board that new cameras and other security equipment are in place and that Superintendent Watts can now monitor each campus from her office. A card reader has been installed at McRoberts Elementary to arm and disarm security systems, and emergency response buttons are in strategic locations at each campus to allow for silent notification of authorities in the event of an emergency.
In other board business:
• Attendance for the current year stands at 94.62 percent and Tackett said keeping attendance levels high will be an ongoing target at every school. Board Vice Chairman Tracy Goff seconded Tackett’s comment and said attendance has dropped off in the past few years and he would like to see it remain a priority.
• Technology Director Damien Johnson told the board he has been training administrators and office personnel on a new program, “About Now,” which integrates with the statewide “Infinite Campus.” Johnson said the district should get an 85 percent reduction in telephone and fiber optic costs this year through participation in the Telco service and that he is satisfied with cooling plans for the server room.
• The board voted to approve fundraising activities for elementary schools but tabled the plan for JMHS seniors until a senior advisor could be present to explain plans for the senior trip. Board Chairman Durward Narramore Jr. and Tracy Goff both said they don’t want to see the state of confusion that existed in fundraising activities last year.
• The board voted unanimously to approve a Greenhouse Project for JMHS students to operate a greenhouse on school grounds for science classes. Approval was contingent on obtaining funding.
• The board also voted to approve several annual contracts and to rebid soft drinks, water and other supplies after only receiving one bid.