WEBSTER COUNTY, KY (5/2/12) – A report that took weeks to prepare and included numerous administrators, teachers, and other staff at Webster County School District calls for a three-phase approach that would make the district solvent and allow it to continue to provide necessary services for students, starting with the immediate closing of Slaughters Elementary at the end of the current school year.
As part of “Phase One,” the plan would rezone the district’s attendance boundaries for Dixon, Clay, and Providence elementary schools, with students from Slaughter being reassigned to Sebree Elementary. Those in the Onton/Breton area would attend at Dixon Elementary, and Providence Elementary’s boundaries would be expanded to take in much more than it does currently.
According to the prepared report, the changes would put between 300 to about 430 students in each of the four remaining schools, with Clay Elementary at the lowest with 310 and Dixon at the highest with 427.
In “Phase Two,” which would be implemented in the 2013-2014 school year, the district would create a junior high/middle school complex inside a currently unused portion of Webster County High School, and then redistrict the Sebree Elementary attendance zone address overcrowding concerns there.
“Phase Three” of the plan calls for the district to follow the recommendations of a recently prepared Local Planning Committee report, which would ultimately result in the closing of all of the district’s elementary buildings within 20 years. A central elementary building would be built on the current Dixon campus.
Administrators reportedly worked on the plan, which was presented to the Webster County Board of Education and a group of about 150 parents and teachers, at the board’s meeting Monday night at the WCHS library. After a close to four-hour discussion with those in the audience, the board voted to conduct a special called meeting on Monday, May 7, at Slaughters Elementary.
The proposal outlines a number of specific details about its implementation, including how many students would be moved to a different elementary school, how many teacher positions would be cut, and how much operating Slaughters Elementary would cost the district compared to how much closing it would save.
The district is projecting a roughly half a million dollar shortfall at the start of the school year in August, and Webster County School District Superintendent James Kemp has repeatedly cautioned the board that that number could go higher as the year goes on, depending on financial decisions the state makes due to budget woes.
A total of 240 elementary students would be moved, and every school will be affected by the change. 46 students would be reassigned to Providence from Clay, along with another 34 students that would come from Dixon. Only a few students, less than five from almost every school except Clay, would be moved to a different elementary. Eight students currently attending Dixon Elementary would be required to attend Clay, according to the report. Dixon Elementary would pick up 77 Slaughters Elementary students, with the other 63 transferring to Sebree Elementary.
Six teacher positions — most through attrition — would be eliminated, at a savings of $300,000, along with the elimination of a guidance counselor position at a savings of almost $67,000.
The proposal states that to operate Slaughters Elementary in the next school year, it will cost more than $1.14 million, while closing it will save the district about $281,000. Coupled with the $367,000 in salary reductions, that would bring the savings total to approximately $648,000.
The proposal stated 16 instructional gains that such a change would provide, including the possibility of implementing a foreign language program, providing advanced classes, and development of more opportunities for extracurricular activities.
If the proposal isn’t adopted, a list of alternative cuts are included on how the district can come up with close to the $1.14 million. The alternative list of cuts total about $1.18 million, and while some board members contend only $550,000 worth of cuts is needed, Kemp has told them that some things in the list would have to be cut because if the funding is reduced mid-year, the district won’t be able to afford them or the contracted personnel that are hired to provide those services.
The list of cuts include eliminating:
•arts and humanities, physical education, and middle school band at the elementary level;
•Trojan Academy, a district-wide tutorial support program;
•three vacant custodial positions;
•substitutes for classified personnel;
•staff and student drug testing;
•librarian and guidance extended days;
•one band position; and
•ten instructional assistant positions.
It also calls for reducing the number of district librarians by five, and charging ABA for the use of athletic facilities. Additionally, Site Based Decision Making council support funding for the purchase of supplies would be reduced from $135.80 to $100.
Those who worked on the proposal include Webster County School District Superintendent James Kemp, assistant superintendents Alan Lossner and Riley Ramsey, Instructional Supervisor Kim Saalwaechter, Special Education Director Sheila Wheatley, Transportation Director Jill Simpson, Food Services Director Shane Bosaw, Maintenance Director Dennis Parrish, WCHS Principal Tim Roy, Alternative School Principal Mark Spainhoward, and elementary principals Georgiann McCord (Clay), Eric Wheatley (Dixon), Greg Bowles (Providence), Aaron Collins (Sebree), and Tiffany Jones (Slaughters).
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