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BOE Budget talks continue

The ongoing discussion on how to shave about half a million dollars from the McCreary County School District’s budget continued last Wednesday night as the Board of Education met in special session.

Superintendent Donnie Wright, at the request of the Board, presented his recommendation on how to possibly make the cuts, but it still fell short of a balanced budget by more than $200,000.

Wright’s budget recommendation, as presented would still leave the District about $200,000 short of a balanced budget.

Proposed cuts included abolishing four teacher positions, which were over allocated, potentially saving about $185,000. It included a savings of about $150,000 from the prior abolishment of a full time and part time Instructional Supervisor position, and a further savings of nearly $200,000 from the loss of the Pine Knot Career Institute positions.

Wright also suggested a five percent cut in extra service percentages for all administration, including Assistant Principals, who only get four percent. That calculated savings would be about $65,000.

Those cuts would put the District about $100,000 to the positive when calculating the budget.

But, when adding the three full time teachers, part time special education teacher and secretary at the McCreary Academy, which would add an additional $300,000, the budget would still be short about $200,000.

The Board balked at taking the extra service percentage from the assistant principals, but requested District Finance Officer Kristi Curry recalculate the projected cost of increasing the cut for administration and central office staff to 10 percent.

Board Chair Brandon Kidd wondered how the District could have cut more than $2 million over the past two years and still be needing to cut additional funds.

Curry stated that in the past the District had received grant funding to hire additional teachers, but when the funding was cut off, many of those teachers had received tenure, and had to be added to the payroll.

With no final decision reached, discussion turned toward the McCreary County preschool, which had several staff members and parents in attendance to voice their concerns over a proposed integration of the school into Whitley Elementary and Pine Knot Primary.

Kidd also proposed adding two additional teachers and aides to the McCreary County preschool, which should allow every child to attend preschool.

Debbie Gibson addressed the concerns over the possible move, and noted she had visited the school and was “shocked” at the condition the buildings were in.

“Preschool teachers should not have to work in these conditions,” an emotional Gibson said. “We have done these children an injustice. Your school is a dump. I blame the supervisor who has been in charge and our Superintendent.”

“We have not done what needs to be done for the children of the District.”

The Board addressed the possible move, noting the students would be kept separate from the general population of the school, but were looking for possibilities of obtaining a new location for the school to keep the kids and staff together.

“They have done a great job with the conditions they are in,” Kidd said. “Imagine what they could do if it was a proper facility.”

Gibson stated she was forming a plan to seek donations from wealthy Kentuckians to possibly purchase land and build a new preschool for the county.

Near the end of the discussion, Kidd asked Wright if he would be willing to take a similar cut if the budget reductions were to include the cuts to extended service pay.
Wright answered it would have to be a question for his lawyer, since his salary is determined by contract, but noted he has taken cuts along with the rest of the staff.

“I have taken the same cut as administration in the past,” he said.
Kidd closed the meeting by stating he would bring his own proposal to another special called meeting to balance the budget. “I think we need to get away from the paycheck and back to the kids,” he said.

In other actions by the Board Wednesday night: the Board readdressed a request from Pine Knot Primary Assistant Principal Dr. Anita Coffey regarding extra days.
Dr. Coffey requested 25 additional days at last month’s meeting on the basis she is performing the duties of Principal for the school as well, since the current Principal is on medical leave.

With some members of the Board expressing concerns over the cost, the motion died without a second at the last meeting.

Wednesday, Debbie Gibson, who forwarded the motion in the past meeting stated she was bringing the issue up again on the merits of the request, and not on the “harassment” and emails she had received on the subject.

Gilreath stated the Board did not receive an email addressing the request, with Kidd blaming administration for not explaining the request.

“The situation never should have arose,” Kidd said. “In my opinion, it is failed leadership from the administration.”

The motion passed unanimously on the second try.

The Board also addressed adjusting the request to the Kentucky Department of Education concerning making up hours due to the winter storm.

Last month the Board voted to take all spring break days and apply for five disaster days from the state to ensure all students would be out of class by June 5.

Wednesday, Director of Pupil Personnel Mitzi Stephens, informed the Board that the five disaster days were not needed, and the state would only allow districts to apply for needed time.

Stephens said the option the Board chose when deciding to amend the calendar meant all schools besides Whitley City Elementary would have fulfilled their minimum hourly requirements without any additional time. WCE, she explained, would fall short by seven hours due to variances in bus schedules.

She requested the Board amend their request to the state to only reflect the needed seven hours.

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