School board members visit Safe Harbor Academy
During a student-led tour of Safe Harbor Academy on Monday night, Woodford County Board of Education members learned about the district's alternative school program. Austin Meyer, a rising senior at Safe Harbor, explained how he and his peers learn in their school's direct-instruction classroom setting, and also how they learn independently using computers - with teacher support - in their blended classroom. "I really like it here," Austin told members before beginning the tour of Safe Harbor. "It's a really solid place to learn." He did acknowledge later that he would like to take art or music classes, which are not currently offered at Safe Harbor Academy. In addition to traditional classroom settings, Safe Harbor Academy allows students to get hands-on experience in "aquaponics," a project-based learning program that relies on fish to produce nutrient-rich water for vegetables growing in indoor float beds, and an outdoor vegetable garden. "Here, I feel like I'm a part of it," said Austin during an interview. "And the teachers care about what I'm learning. They're extremely involved." Principal Logan Culbertson followed up the tour of Safe Harbor by explaining to board members how he and his teachers are focused on providing rigorous instruction and high expectations that students get at Woodford County middle or high schools. "Holistically, what we're doing and what we're trying to achieve and model (for our students) is done in a positive and consistent way," explained Culbertson. He and his faculty are now exploring how the alternative school program will change after students from the Methodist Home are no longer taking classes at Safe Harbor. Sometime during the 2017-18 school year, the Methodist Home will relocate its operations to Jessamine County. So Culbertson and his faculty plan to soon begin visiting other alternative school programs to determine how they can best serve their students in coming years. Safe Harbor served 68 students (about half of those from the Methodist Home) last school year, according to Culbertson. He said the average length of service for students was 63 days. In addition to focusing on individual student growth in math and reading in the coming school year, Culbertson and his faculty will continue to emphasize employability to help prepare students for life. "I think Logan (Culbertson) and his staff have done a wonderful job in creating a culture where kids feel comfortable here, where they are learning to make better decisions; and they're also getting some strong academic support while they are here," said schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins. Policy changes The board unanimously approved second reading of an update to its policies and procedures, including a change related to how many parent organization fundraisers are allowed annually. With the revisions, booster clubs and other approved parent organizations may have up to five fundraisers beginning next school year. School organizations are still limited to two fundraisers annually. Hawkins told board members in June that limiting an approved parent organization to two fundraisers becomes problematic if one of its annual fundraisers does not generate the dollars that were anticipated. The board agreed to not have a second reading of a policy change whereby eighth-graders could no longer earn high school credits in middle school beginning next school year. "We just want to get that language exactly right," said Hawkins. He said conflicting language exists when comparing state law and administrative regulations, "so we've been in contact with the Kentucky Department of Education trying to get a little more clarification" before moving forward with that policy revision. If the policy is revised, students who have already earned high school credits while at Woodford County Middle School will not lose those credit hours. The board also had a first reading of policies related to staff working days, sick leaves and vacation days so they are consistent with school handbooks. A second reading will be held next Monday. Board member Margie Cleveland was not present for the board's planning meeting at Safe Harbor.