WEBSTER COUNTY, Ky. (6/19/13) - After weeks of debate and a lot of complaints from parents, the Webster County School Board reached a decision on the school nursing program at Monday’s board meeting in front of an empty house.
Board members allocated only $50,000 to fund the program, telling Superintendent James Kemp to stretch those funds as far as possible.
In May the cash strapped school board voted to reject an offer from the Green River Health District to renew the school nursing contract the two had been under. The cost to maintain three health clinics they had last school year would go from $20,000 per nurse, or $60,000 per year, to $35,000 per nurse, increasing the total cost to $105,000. This follows a $20,000 increase a last summer.
Webster County was the last of the eight counties in the Green River district to vote down the offer.
Nurse Jeannie McDowell, who serves as the community nurse at Providence Elementary school will continue, unaffected by the decision. The district currently pays $10,000 a year for her services. But her $10,000 will come off the top of the $50,000 allocated by the board, leaving just $40,000 to cover the other five schools in the county.
“We’ve hashed this around enough,” said chairman Pettit. “We have to make a decision tonight so that Dr. Kemp and the administration can made decisions.”
The board asked Webster County High School Principal Tim Roy and Sebree Elementary School principal Aaron Collins a tough questions. WCHS lost one of their core curriculum teachers due to budget cuts, and Sebree has already requested an additional teacher due to growing enrollment and the difficulty of having a large English as a Second Language population. According to numbers expected for the fall, the enrollment for Sebree has grown by nearly 100 students since the 2011-2012 school year.
“If you were given the option of the teacher you need or a nurse, how would you weigh that out?” asked Pettit.
Collins was noncommittal, suggesting that even a part time nurse and part time teacher would be better than losing either.
“We shared a nurse with Slaughters for years,” he said. “There were many days we didn’t have a nurse. We made do.”
“We rely on that nurse quite often, at the high school, for situations that we can’t handle” said Roy. From a piece of mind standpoint, it’s nice to have someone who is trained on the premises. We will make do with the teacher cut.”
“We’ve made do for too long,” said Pettit. That’s where my struggle is. The nurses are important, and some of the care is mandated by the state. There is a high need placed on nurses, but is it because we have gotten used to having them? Or is it because we need them?”
In the 2013-2014 budget, there was $75,000 allocated for the school nursing program as a whole. By cutting back to only $50,000 the district saved $25,000 that could possibly be put towards an additional teacher.
“People assume that there is a lot of money, but when you go through the budget and see what is ear marked for other things, there really isn’t much left over,” said Dr. Kemp.
The board gave him the mandate to take $40,000 and do the best that he could do.
In other business, the State Auditor came to the Webster County earlier this year to audit the district’s financial statements. The findings of the report will be announced at the next board meeting, but on Monday night the board had the uncomfortable responsibility of paying the auditor $13,299.65.
“I can’t say that this pleases anyone,” said Dr. Kemp. “What it amounts to is a bill for 22 hours at $57 per hour for them to come down and do the audit.”
“We didn’t ask them to come,” said board member Tim McCormick. “If there was a circumstance that warranted them coming, I’d like to hear it.”
Dr. Kemp explained that the auditor came because his office had received an anonymous complaint from a concerned party in the community. A complaint that the auditor failed to substantiate during his investigation, but the district is still responsible for the bill.
Board members discussed holding a special called meeting to adopt the state’s new compulsory attendance requirements, which would raise the dropout age to 18. The state is offering between $5,000 and $10,000 to the first 97 districts that adopt the optional age increase.
“Regardless of how we feel, once this policy is adopted by 50% of the school districts, it will become a law in four years,” said Pettit. “So do we take the money now, or wait until the state forces us to adopt this?”
“I don’t see the point,” McCormick replied. “I don’t agree with the policy. I think it’s just politics. I don’t think schools are going to graduate any more students because of this.”
Principal Tim Roy said that if the district did adopt the policy, most likely they would need to put any money they received into the alternative school.
Dr. Kemp reported that starting in August the district would begin a district-wide ‘exit criteria’ pilot program for sixth graders. In order to advance to the next grade each student must be able to achieve certain goals that will be reported to parents and teachers at the start of the school year. This is part of the district’s attempt to put the responsibility of getting an education partially back onto the student.
The board voted to pay $25,631.20 to add an additional $15 million in earthquake insurance.
Interviews for a Middle School Principal and a new principal for Clay Elementary School are expected to be completed by the end of the week.
J-E News Editor
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