New Board Chair proposes guidelines for school board meetings
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With three board members scheduled to take their oaths of office during the January meeting, the McCreary County Board of Education met in regular session on Monday (1-23-23). McCreary County Judge-Executive, Jimmie W. Greene, II administered the oath of office to returning board members Stacey Hammons (Division 1) and Braxton King (Division 2). As a newcomer to the board, Estle Swain was sworn in to represent Division 4.
Board Member Johnny Barnett (Division 5) was unanimously elected chairperson, and Stacey Hammons was elected co-chairperson. The regular meeting time for the coming year remains on the fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Office. Due to Christmas, the board will meet on the second Monday in December.
During Monday’s meeting the Board discussed construction of a District Athletic Complex. DECO Architects had previously been chosen to design a new athletic complex with adequate space for student athletes to practice and compete. Currently, several sports such as wrestling, archery, etc. have little or no space for practice sessions. Board members also discussed the advantages of surfacing the football field with turf. Athletic Director Kenny McKinney noted a turf field allows more use of athletic fields. Typically, when a non-turf fields are overused by multiple schools scheduling multiple practices and games, the fields sustain damage. The addition of turf maximizes the use of athletic fields without damage when the fields are used by more than one school for multiple sports. The Board decided to meet in special session on February 7, 2023 to receive input from athletic coaches in the District and determine the most economical route for building an adequate sports complex.
Board Member Johnny Barnett made several policy suggestions during his debut meeting as the newly elected Board Chairperson. Barnett asked that his suggestions, with the exception of one, be voted on during the February meeting.
“I’m making these motions based on feedback from the community, our teachers, and parents,” Barnett said. “The taxpayers deserve public notice of how their tax dollars are being spent. Our community deserves transparency.”
Barnett proposed the following be voted on during the upcoming February regular meeting:
- Begin filming McCreary County Board of Education meetings live on Facebook.
- No new positions to be created without at least one month’s notice to the public outlining what the position will be and what it will cost.
- All newly created positions to be advertised with effort made to attract multiple applicants.
- Raises to not be given without at least one month’s notice to the public describing what the raises are for and how much the cost will be to taxpayers.
- Eliminate or abolish the position of Instructional Supervisor (recently retired). Job duties now being handled by employees already on payroll.
Barnett requested one motion be voted on during Monday night’s meeting, deeming it an emergency motion. Barnett requested the board vote to put a hold on an administrative position for CTE Pathway and LAVEC Coordinator.
“After my research and contact with the Kentucky Department of Education, I am concerned, as all of us should be, that this position is not fully paid for (by a grant), as it was presented when we voted on it,” Barnett said. “I’m simply making a motion that we table the approval of this position until we can absolutely confirm that it will not cost the taxpayers anything or what exactly it will cost the taxpayers.”
Despite Superintendent Gunn indicating a desire to move forward with the position as planned, noting his belief that the position will be paid for with a grant, the board voted unanimously to table the item until February.
The Board also voted unanimously to create a School Based Law Enforcement Agency (SBLEA). Currently the school district operates with a School Law Enforcement Officers (SLEO) program. The current SLEO route is governed by the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. An SLEO has much tighter jurisdictional restrictions and hiring is more complicated. Under an SBLEA, the School Resource Officers hired operate the same as police departments at universities and are eligible to receive grants for equipment, etc. Under an SBLEA, the school board employs officers, and the superintendent is the town mayor. A chief and other officers are hired as budget allows. Since SBLEAs are peace officers in KY, the officers can write tickets or perform law enforcement duties outside of their jurisdiction in certain cases; however, it is not encouraged unless there are inter local agreements. Districts should never encourage SBLEA officers to operate outside of their “original” jurisdiction.
The board voted unanimously in favor of establishing an SBLEA.
District Finance Officer Tiffany Duvall presented the monthly financial report with a General Fund balance of $6.298 million and total balance of funds $14.369 million. Duvall also presented and received acknowledgement of the 23/24 draft budget, based off of the 2022-2023 budget and projections. The estimated beginning balance of the draft budget is $4.6 million with an ending balance of $4.2 million. The contingency of $3.86 million is 13% of the budget. According to Duvall, the draft budget is very similar to budgets over the past four years.
The state has been funding school districts based on frozen average daily attendance (ADA) calculations from 2018-19 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic); however, during the 2023-2024 school year, SEEK funding will be based on actual ADA calculations from the 2022-23 school year. As a result, a decrease in SEEK funding is expected. The district has decreased by approximately 130 students, and the decrease in enrollment was projected into the draft budget. If the funding had not been frozen, districts would have seen gradual declines in funding each year. However, instead, the reduction in funding will now come all at once. The draft budget is based merely off of projections and more accurate information will be forthcoming for the tentative budget due in May. The draft budget does not require submission to KDE or board approval. The board is simply required to acknowledge receipt of the draft budget document by January 31, 2023.
In other actions, Superintendent Gunn recognized all of the Board Members by presenting them with individual plaques in honor of School Board Recognition Month.
The District also recognized McCreary Central’s highly successful Golf Team.
The next regular board meeting is scheduled for February 27, 2023 at 6:30 at the Central Office.