WEBSTER COUNTY, Ky. (5/1/13) - Webster County School Board officials heard from Dan Douglas of Western Kentucky Junior Achievement (JA) Monday night in a board meeting at the Webster County Area Technology Center.
Douglas was on hand to urge district officials to partner with JA by allowing them to introduce their program into Webster County schools.
“40 percent of employers nationally say that high school graduates aren’t prepared for entry level jobs,” Douglas said. “JA is designed to help students make the connection between what they are doing now, and what they’ll be doing in the workplace.”
According to Douglas, JA, founded in August of 1916, is the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. The Western Kentucky region, based in Owensboro, is the fastest growing region in the state.
“Since 2005 we have grown from one county to 16,” Douglas said of the region. “We’re now in 100 different schools. We’ve been in Henderson for years, and we’re currently talking with Union County. Hopkins County will be joining soon as well.”
He explained that JA programs help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students put these lessons into action and learn the value of contributing to their communities. Many of these skills are those that are required by the Work Ready Program recently launched by the County.
Douglas said that Junior Achievement is the 2nd lowest cost program of this time in the country, only falling behind one run by the city of Chicago. It costs roughly $18 per student, and there is no money required by the school.
“JA is typically funded by the business community,” Douglas said. “All programs are taught by local business volunteers that we train.”
“I’ve had this program in other school districts,” Superintendant Dr. James Kemp told the board. “The students who participate have an understanding of how this will help them in the future.”
The board made no decision, but agreed that the matter needed to be looked into.
The first item of old business was the future of Board Attorney Amealia Zachary. Board policy says that the board will hire an attorney for a period of one year, and then have the ability to resign them for two additional one year terms if they choose. Zachary is up for her final renewal.
At the last board meeting it was discovered that there had been no contract between the district and its attorney since Zachary was originally hired almost a decade ago. At that time board members instructed Dr. Kemp to either find a copy of the old agreement or produce a new document before they proceeded.
“I know we tabled this at last month's meeting,” said Chairman Jeff Pettit after reviewing the new contract, based on one used by Crittenden County. “Personally I would like the board to take a look at this contract and make sure we’re comfortable with the language. I want both the board and the attorney to be clear on what we expect of each other.”
The board plans to address the matter at its next meeting scheduled for May 6, 2013 in the board office.
Next the board approved a scheduled payment of $350,640 to TRANE and Dr. Kemp reported that he had made no progress on getting an estimate for moving playground equipment from the former Slaughters Elementary to Sebree Elementary. Some of the equipment would have to be repaired to code before this could be done.
The board then approved SBDM allocations for the 2013-2014 school year. At a meeting earlier this year the board approved changes to the formula used to determine allocations. Under the old formula, when dividing the number of expected students by the cap size, the resulting number would be rounded up.
For example, Clay fourth grade has a cap size of 28, but expect 32 students next year. The equation would work out to 1.14. With the old formula this would necessitate hiring an additional teacher, but under the new formula the board rounds to the nearest whole number. One in this case.
The reason for the change is that despite limited changes to enrollment, the old formula would have necessitated hiring an additional 8 teachers at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars.
The new formula actually cut the number of teachers district wide by 7. To alleviate any hardship to the schools the board will grant an additional teacher for each position, keeping the number exactly the same for next school year.
With a 5-0 vote the board accepted bids to improve the cafeteria at Sebree Elementary. New equipment will be purchased from C & T Design of Evansville for a cost of $37,290, and the physical improvements will be carried out by Glen Stone Construction of Henderson for $14,000.
In other business, the Green River District Health Department has notified the board that they are increasing the cost of the three school health clinics it maintains at Sebree Elementary, Clay Elementary and WCHS/Dixon Elementary.
Currently the district pays $65,000 to maintain the three clinics. The increase would raise the cost to $105,000 per year. The health district offered a second option of having one nurse cover the district’s four effected schools for $45,000 a year.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” said Dr. Kemp. “If we go with a single nurse they will be running back and forth from one end of the district to the other. I would recommend paying the additional $40,000.”
“With me being in the health field, I think we need to keep our quality of medical care as good as possible,” said board member David Higgins. “I don’t think stretching one person that far is a good idea.”
“I see no end in sight,” said Jeff Pettit. “We went through this last year. Now we’re doing it again.”
“If they’re having trouble collecting their billing, why would it be any different next year?” board member Leland Steely asked. “It could cost us an additional $30 or 40,000 next year.”
Board member Mickey Dunbar suggested they table the discussion and schedule a work session to discuss it further, stressing that he wanted to take a look at the big picture. The board agreed.
The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday May 6, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. in the board office.
J-E News Editor
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