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Academy moving again

By: Greg Bird

The McCreary Academy, a school designed to help troubled students, will be moving back to the McCreary County Middle School and will operate as it had before it was moved to McCreary Central High School last year.
In April 2013 a split Board voted to move the Academy from the middle school to the high school as part of cost-cutting measures. The transition was contested heavily from opponents, including then-Academy Principal Mike Cash, who stated they believed the move would hurt attendance and cause issues between the Academy students and general population of the high school.
Operating for less than a full school year at the high school, the Academy reportedly lost over half of its enrollment, and Board members hinted at other problems, including disciplinary issues occurring since the transition.
MCHS Principal Sharon Privett was not present at the Board meeting, and was not able to provide a report on the Academy at her school.
Tensions started to rise when the Board started to tackle the potential moving of the Academy back to middle school.
Following a vote to create a new Principal position for the Academy, which Board members Roxanne Shook and Larry Davis voted against, discussion turned to the next agenda item – moving the Academy.
Superintendent Donnie Wright asked the Board for the opportunity to work with whomever was hired as Principal and provide the Board with a cost analysis and logistics of the potential move at the next Board meeting, but Board member Brandon Kidd said he didn’t believe the costs would be any different from last year.
“According to when we transitioned it the first time, doing it will cost us nothing to transition it back,” he said.
Wright protested, stating that the Board was presented the information when the move was proposed last year, and that they held discussions on the move then.
“We did talk about it, we just weren’t heard,” Board member Debbie Gibson said.
Kidd put forward a motion to move the Academy back to the middle school, with an added clause that the staffing allocations for the school to be kept the same.
Board Attorney Jeff Hoover cautioned that since the meeting was technically a special called meeting, due to the holidays, any deviation from the agenda was not advised.
Wright continued to ask for time to present more information to the Board, but Kidd reformed his original motion to move the Academy, and pressed for a vote. Gibson, who seconded the motion, and Board Chair Nelda Gilreath voted in favor, while Shook and Davis again voted against.
Following the vote, Wright asked if the Board would still like him to present an analysis on the move, which should take place over the holiday break, but was told it would not be necessary.
The next step for the Academy will be hiring a principal for the position, which should be posted by the end of this week.
Since the school does not have a Site Based Decision Making Council, it falls to the Superintendent to make the hiring decision from qualified applications he receives.
One of the more likely candidates for the job would be Mike Cash, who served as Principal of the Academy for several years before the transition. Additionally, the Board voted to eliminate a Principal/Teacher position at the Pine Knot Job Corps Thursday, which had been held by Cash after the closure of the Academy.
Next, Wright gave a brief presentation concerning the relationship of the school district and the Pine Knot Career Institute (Job Corps). Gilreath had requested the information a few days prior to the meeting.
Wright stated the district’s revenues through the agreement totaled just over $303,000, mainly through SEEK funding.  Total expenses (salary, supplies, etc.) came to just over $295,000. The overall profit for the district totaled over $17,000, including a $9,000 reimbursement from the Job Corps for a software purchase.
He also stated the enrollment freeze that had affected the Job Corps has been lifted, and enrollment is expected to rise.
As a final statement, Wright said ending the agreement with the Job Corps would not only cost the district the SEEK funding, it would also have an added cost in salaries and jobs as the teachers at the Job Corps would have to be relocated elsewhere. He estimated the potential cost to the district at over $570,000 if that were to happen.
When Kidd asked how he had arrived at that cost, Wright stated he would be glad to bring in someone at the next meeting to answer all questions.
“How come every time I ask you a question, you have to ask someone else?” Kidd asked. “Do you not know what is going on in this district?”
The Board requested Wright extend an invitation to Job Corps personnel to attend the next meeting to provide details on the relationship between the Federal institution and the school district.
In other Board actions Tuesday, Pine Knot Intermediate School and Whitley City Elementary gave their annual presentations to the Board, and PKI was also honored for being named a Distinguished School in the latest K-Prep accountability testing.
The Board approved a contract with Ross Tarrant to begin work on replacing the gym floor at McCreary Central as part of the district’s facilities plan.
The Board also approved BG-1’s to send to the Kentucky Department of Education for the construction of the batting facilities for the baseball and softball teams.
This marks the third time the matter has come before the Board.
In last month’s meeting, the Board approved the BG-1 with the understanding that monies in the facilities fund would be used to supplement the construction. The KDE rejected that proposal, noting the projects were not on the district’s facility plan, and the fund could not be used as such.
For the latest plan, donations from outside individuals and businesses will be used to pay for the majority of the projects, which has been scaled down to an estimated $12,000 for each building.
The Board will next meet on Thursday, December 18 at 6:00 p.m. in the Central Office.

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