Board discusses graduation terms
Giving students reduced credit options for earning a Woodford County High School diploma was suggested by Board of Education member Sherri Springate on Monday night. Students would still have to complete the state-required English, math, science and social studies coursework, but shouldn't have to earn 26 credits to graduate from WCHS, Springate said. Instead, she suggested that Safe Harbor Academy students could earn 24 credits and still graduate. In opposing a change in policy that would allow a student to graduate with two fewer credits, board member Margie Cleveland said she does not want to place "a lower expectation on students at Safe Harbor Academy," while Springate argued that "it's a realistic expectation" for some students. Under the current policy, students may also earn 28 or 30 credits to graduate with honors from WCHS. Allowing students to earn 24 credits would offer an avenue for students who may not otherwise graduate, Springate said. "I just hate to see our children - with 22, 23, 24 ... 25 credits - not have a diploma. And their neighbor who just lives a county over having their diploma, and the only difference is their address," she explained. Not having a high school diploma, "changes the job you can get. It changes your earning potential..." The state minimum for earning a high school diploma in Kentucky is 22, but Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm said he's not aware of a student in Woodford County who has earned 22 credits and also completed all the state-required coursework. Board policy already allows a student to submit a hardship application to graduate, but this process has only helped students wanting to graduate early - not students who have completed the state-required courses and 22 credits. Instead of lowering the minimum required credits to earn a WCHS diploma, board members Karen Brock and Cleveland both supported an effort to ensure counselors and students are aware that this hardship option exists for students who have 22 credits, but could not earn a high school diploma under the current graduation policy. Graduation location With the Frankfort Civic Center's pending demolition, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins told board members that he has spoken with WCHS Principal Rob Akers about finding a new location for graduation ceremonies next year. Senior sponsor Scott Ellis has already begun checking on potential graduation locations "just to see what options we might have," Hawkins said. "One thing we have to kind of anticipate (given the limited number of potential locations)," he added, "we may not get a weekend date ... And I know our community, our parents have really wanted that. That just may not be an option." Adult ed partnership The district has entered into a partnership with Yokohama and is close to finalizing a partnership with NSG glass to provide employees at those industrial companies with adult education services, according to Brehm. He said those employees will be hired and will remain on the payroll as long as they continue taking classes provided by adult education as they work toward earning a GED. "It's a huge win for the (adult education) program, the community and our businesses," said Brehm. The classes will be offered onsite, added Hawkins. "So we'll be actually offering the courses at Yokohama and at NSG so ... they don't have to go to a different location," he said. The partnership has energized adult education teachers who are excited about the business community's support of their program, said Brehm. In a related matter, the board will be asked at next Monday's regular meeting to restructure two adult education positions, from part-time to full-time. Preparing its graduates The school system has reached out to the Woodford County Economic Development Authority and local industries to get their feedback on how the high school can better-prepare its graduating students for new jobs coming to the community, according to Brehm. "We're not going to be an all-encompassing technical program" that can prepare students for every job that employers may need, said Brehm, "but what we're confident that we can do is have an absolutely stellar program" to match a common need of employers - no matter if that's advanced manufacturing, logistics or something else. Gifted program With about one-quarter of its student population identified as gifted in a variety of different areas last school year, the district formed a committee to delve into providing services tailored to the individual needs of students. The committee's top recommendation to address those needs would be for the board to create a full-time gifted coordinator position that can focus on services provided to students. An alternative option would involve an expansion of an existing position into a half-time position focused on gifted education at no additional cost, with stipend positions remaining at the schools to focus on student services. Board members discussed and voiced some support for a third option - creating a full-time coordinator position and also keeping the stipend positions in the schools. "They definitely want more leadership and cohesiveness at the district level," said Edelen. She noted that the stipend positions were originally created to focus on curriculum support - not administrative paperwork. The district provided services to 1,015 students identified as gifted, according to Brehm. He said a different aptitude test for students was available this year to remove a bias related to language barriers. The new test measures a student's reasoning and problem-solving skills to better ensure under-represented student populations are identified correctly, he explained. If the board votes to create a full-time gifted services coordinator at its regular meeting next Monday, the district could hire a coordinator for the 2017-18 school year or wait until next year. Summer reading All four elementary schools had summer reading programs this year. Northside Elementary has averaged 60 students a day at its program, while Southside Elementary averaged 18 students a day, Huntertown Elementary averaged 20 students a day and Simmons Elementary averaged 35 students a day. Those numbers indicate that families are willing to take advantage of opportunities to enhance their child's education, according to Brehm. "Those are real kids in the classroom learning from certified teachers, and that's been an amazing opportunity." He said the number of students participating in those programs exceeded his expectations. About 40 students - all rising third-graders - were targeted by the district last summer for additional support to improve reading skills, according to Martha Jones, director of student achievement. Like last year's group of students, the progress of this year's students will be monitored this school year to track improvement, she said. Student rep There were seven eligible candidates seeking to represent students at Woodford Board of Education meetings, but Springate asked if the board policy allowing a student-representative should be changed so high school students with fewer than three unexcused absences can be that voice. Students cannot have any unexcused absences (under the current policy) to be eligible to represent their peers at board meetings. Springate's proposal failed to garner support from other board members, who agreed to revisit the issue if an issue arises in being able to attract quality candidates as the non-voting student-representative. A student-representative is expected to begin attending board meetings in August, Hawkins told board members. College credit Springate voiced support for changing a board policy so students earn the same scores regardless if they are taking an advanced placement (AP) or dual-credit course. "I just think it should be consistent," she said. "A college credit at the high school should either have weighted grades or they should be un-weighted." Before making a decision on whether or not to change the policy, Cleveland said she'd like to hear feedback from high school administrators about why grades are weighted in AP classes and not in dual-credit courses. "We want to just be careful we don't create unintended consequences," agreed Hawkins. He said it makes sense to seek input from members of the WCHS site-based council before making a decision. No action was taken on changing the policy, but the board may revisit this issue as early as next Monday. Board redistricting The board will be asked to approve a redistricting plan for school board districts next Monday. The plan proposes four minor adjustments to the boundaries for school board districts, Hawkins said. He said the proposed changes would ensure population numbers in each of the five districts - each represented by a board member - would become more balanced than the current boundaries. The population gap between the largest and smallest districts is reduced from about 1,300 to about 500 with the proposed boundary adjustments, Hawkins said. When 2020 census data becomes available, he said the board would have an opportunity to make further adjustments to district boundaries using more current population numbers. KSBA membership Hawkins and board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV shared three concerns related to the Board of Education's membership to the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) during a meeting with its executive director, Wilson told other board members. One concern focused on school board member training that "had become in some cases repetitious," and board members - in some cases - couldn't find trainings that they hadn't done before, said Wilson. He said concern was also expressed on the neutral stance that KSBA has taken on the issue of charter schools in Kentucky. A third concern involved having to pay for any service provided by KSBA even as a dues-paying member, he added. Wilson said the district heard no feedback from KSBA about its concerns. If the local board chose not to continue its KSBA membership, Wilson said, the district would have to pay twice as much for services as members do. Because of the uncertainty related to how much outsourced services - not provided by KSBA - would cost the district, the board agreed to delay a decision on whether to terminate its KSBA membership until those costs are determined. "There will be a lot of new costs," said Cleveland. "Whether they're less than what we're paying now - we don't know." The logistics of having to work with more than one service provider would also be more complicated than dealing with KSBA for those services, she added. "I don't see any way we can rush on this," said Cleveland, before board Vice Chair Debby Edelen added, "without another plan in place." Annual dues for KSBA membership rose 2 percent to $5,400.75 this fiscal year, Wilson said. Dues were to be paid on July 1. Discussion items Board members are being asked to identify discussion items for meetings so administrators are better prepared to answer questions on those topics. "I think it'll make it better for everyone," said Wilson. "However, I still will be asking if anyone has anything they would like to" discuss at the end of a meeting. Financial report Woodford County Public Schools began June with a total cash balance of $12.135 million and ended the month with $9.8 million, according to Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith's financial report. The district ended June with a balance of $7.7 million in its general fund, $653,822.06 in its construction fund and $174,303.38 in its building fund. Also, a bond payment of $76,058.85 was made last month, her report stated.