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McCreary County School Board Wraps Up 2014

By: Eugenia Jones

The final meeting for 2014 of the McCreary County Board of Education ended with a surprisingly abrupt adjournment when a vote to enter into Executive Session to discuss an issue concerning an individual student failed to pass.  The failure to enter Executive Session occurred immediately after controversy over two unrelated agenda items.

With school board members Brandon Kidd and Nelda Gilreath not in attendance at the December 18 meeting, the three school board members who were present, Roxanne Shook, Larry Davis, and Deborah Gibson, needed to vote unanimously in order to pass agenda items.  The motion to enter into executive session concerning a student issue failed to pass when Shook and Davis voted in favor and Gibson voted against.  The failed executive session vote came directly on the heels of a presentation and ensuing discussion concerning the financial feasibility of the scheduled mid-year move of McCreary Academy from McCreary Central High School to McCreary County Middle School and the lack of a second for a motion to create an additional form/procedure regarding bullying.

According to District Finance Officer Krissy Curry, the McCreary Central Academy Financial Feasibility Study regarding a mid-year transition of McCreary Academy from McCreary Central High to the basement of McCreary County Middle was prepared based on her knowledge and available information.  Academic information for the Academy while located at the high school, including data regarding student transitions and disciplines, was also included as part of the presentation.

Curry stated the Academy, if moved to McCreary Middle School as scheduled next month, will incur additional salary and fringe cost through administrative and possible special education staff.  Curry also projected additional transportation costs pending the continuation of McCreary Central Academy students participating in Career and Technical courses at McCreary Central.  Curry also projected additional costs to the district’s general fund for items such as technology and textbooks which are currently paid through school based monies.  Curry projected the move (including salary, fringe, and operating costs) will cost the General Fund approximately $158,977.  Curry commented that much of the cost is an additional expense for this year since monies were not appropriated for the mid-year move.

McCreary Central High School Principal Sharon Privett suggested the transportation costs for students travelling between the middle school and high school for Career and Technical courses might be offset by use of an existing community van already in use.  She also noted some of the technology costs would be offset by moving some equipment and computers from the high school to the Academy’s new location at the middle school.

After the presentation, School Board Member Deborah Gibson reacted by suggesting the Feasibility Study is a farce and “just another attempt to make us look ignorant.”

“I don’t care if it costs a million dollars if it is going to help students graduate,” Gibson voiced emotionally.

Superintendent Wright responded by asking Gibson what reason he would have to present incorrect information.

“That would not benefit me or anyone else,” Wright stated.  “I have informed all board members this week that districts across Kentucky have received a decrease in SEEK funding.  Our decrease is $60,000.  The reduction in funding may impact current student programs.  It is important that we have financial data so the board can adopt an efficient budget aimed at student achievement.”

The Academy has been a controversial issue in the past.  Originally located in the basement of McCreary Middle, the Board voted in 2013 to move the Academy to McCreary Central.  Just last month, the Board voted to move the Academy back to McCreary Middle.  Both votes saw a 3/2 split of the Board.  The Academy is now scheduled to move back to the middle school from the high school in January, 2015.

Following the discussion about the McCreary Academy move, Gibson made a motion for the Board to take action on creating a form/procedure regarding bullying and fighting (particularly in regard to parental viewing of videos of bullying incidents.)  Her motion died for lack of a second.  It was noted the Board already has policies and procedures in place addressing bullying and that the Kentucky School Board Association (KSBA) advised against routinely allowing parents to view videos of incidents because other students are also visible in them.  According to KSBA, federal privacy laws and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibit providing or showing such information in order to protect the rights of all students involved.  FERPA also prohibits the disclosure of information about other students (name, etc.) on forms notifying an individual parent of their own student’s violation of the school behavior and discipline code.  KSBA noted three McCreary County policies are already in place for bullying including an actual policy on bullying with a reporting form, a policy on the student discipline code which states students can report violations of the code along with a form notifying parents of code violation, and a related policy on harassment/discrimination which includes procedural forms.

In other business, the Board heard annual reports as required by Board policy from Pine Knot Primary School, McCreary County Middle School, and McCreary Central High School.

The Board subsequently voted to approve the 2015 Comprehensive District Improvement Plan which pinpoints many areas from primary grades through high school in need of significant gains in the numbers of Proficient and Distinguished students.

The Board also heard the district financial audit report as presented by accountant Artie White of White and Associates and unanimously voted to accept the audit report for the school year 2013-2014.  In his report, White commended the McCreary County School District for an excellent audit.

With outgoing board member Larry Davis casting a final vote, the meeting was adjourned.  The next scheduled meeting of the McCreary County School Board is January 22, 2015.

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