The McCreary County Board of Education met before a standing-room-only crowd Thursday evening, but the reason was much more pleasant than recent months.
Following a presentation by member Debbie Gibson recognizing board chair Nelda Gilreath and member Brandon Kidd, Superintendent Arthur D. Wright recognized students honored through the Rewards Program.
Through the program, students may earn points for good grades, attendance and behavior. At the end of the year, one student from each grade at each school is selected to receive a reward ranging from $100 up to $1,200 (depending on grade level), which is kept in an account for the student until he or she graduates.
[UPDATE: 2012-13 Rewards Recipients were as follows:
• Pine Knot Primary School: Lilly Howard, Kierra Vanover, Caroline Richmond, Noah Loudermilk
• Pine Knot Intermediate School: Alyssa Keith, Kelsey King, Noah Burchett
• Whitley City Elementary School: Tessakiah Upchurch, Victoria Murphy, Olivia King, Taylar Rose, Alexa Bruce, Erin Stephens, Noah Jones
• McCreary County Middle School: Brooklyn Perry and Brooklyn Stephens
• McCreary Central High School: Chelsea Newsom, McKayla Hamlin, Jeremy Ross, Cole Marlow]
The meeting was then turned over to State Senator Sara Beth Gregory, who had been invited to update the board on both the recent and upcoming legislative sessions in Frankort. Gregory spoke about how the recently-approved pension reform would affect new classified staff but that the teachers’ retirement system remains unaffected.
Gregory also expressed surprise at how quickly some school districts approved plans to raise the dropout age to 18. The graduation bill had been approved with the caveat that it would not become mandatory until 55 percent (or 96) of Kentucky’s school systems had approved implementation. With state education officials offering $10,000 grants to those first 96, the goal was reached in less than a week.
McCreary County was not among those first districts, and has until 2017 to raise the dropout age.
“I see pros and cons,” Senator Gregory said, “but I’m hopeful it will ultimately benefit Kentucky.”
As for the upcoming General Assembly, Sen. Gregory expects legislators to at least maintain education funding (which amounts to some 56 percent of the commonwealth’s General Fund). While she couldn’t say if an agreement would be reached, Gregory also expects tax reform to be a hot topic.
When it came time to vote on agenda items, most were passed with little or no discussion. Board members reserved most of their questions for a request to deduct Kentucky Association of Professional Educators’ (KAPE) fees from payroll checks.
KAPE, an alternative to the Kentucky Education Association, first formed in Fayette County before it was opened to other counties in 1982.
Superintendent Wright told the board that his office had received a request to allow members to pay their fees through salary deductions rather than in a yearly lump sum. He noted that Pulaski County required at least 50 certified teacher members before instituting such a plan.
“Shouldn’t we ask the teachers if they want it?” Gibson asked.
Gilreath explained that the board would not be promoting either organization, that employees could choose whether or not they want to join. Board Attorney Winter Huff added that some districts need to have a certain number of employees requesting the deduction to make it as efficient as possible for the bookkeeping staff.
“You may want to get feedback from Kristi [Sizemore, accounting manager] or do an informal poll to get an idea of how many might be interested,” Huff said.
Superintendent Wright also promised to get more information from districts similar in size to McCreary. The board voted to table the issue until the next meeting, to be held August 22 at 6 p.m.