• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Board of Education ‘all in’ for a new high school

Members of the Woodford County Board of Education said their feelings about moving forward with the construction of a new high school have not changed.

All five members then voted on March 7 to place the issue of a facilities tax on the ballot for a special election (if a recall petition is certified by Woodford County Clerk Sandy Jones). The board’s 5-to-0 vote came two days after a recall petition opposing the 5.5 cent tax (per $100 of accessed property value) appeared to have been successful, with enough signatures of registered voters to put the tax issue on the ballot for an election.

Instead of rescinding its approval of a facilities tax, the board chose to vote in favor of a special election (the cost borne by the school district) rather than put the tax issue on the ballot in the November general election.

“I’m all in,” said board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV. “My feelings have not changed one iota since I voted that evening for a new high school ... At that time: I said it was an honor to vote yes. And it’s even more of an honor now – in my mind – to vote yes.” He and board member Sherri Springate then objected to an argument that only people with children in the school system should pay for a new high school.

“It’s not just for people with students in school ... When you have a top-notch educational system, your whole community benefits,” said Springate. She said the benefits of having a new high school for students far outweigh the costs.

“No matter what happens,” said board Vice Chair Debby Edelen, “in my opinion as one board member, the thing that cannot happen, cannot happen is that there’s 10 more years of kids in that (existing high) school without all of the advantages” of a modern high school facility.

Woodford County Middle School Principal Tracy Bruno described what the high school’s teachers, students and administrators have been able to do in helping “us become a top-five school district in the state” as “a miracle.” He said the educational resources available in a state-of-the-art high school will help WCHS students compete in a global economy.

One parent told the board she moved here from Lexington because of the schools. She and others who spoke during last week’s special meeting agreed to lead a grassroots effort to support a facilities tax in a special election so the board can move forward with the construction of a new high school.

“I’m all for a new high school,” said parent Hope Hulette. “I’m embarrassed at our high school. I go there every week to watch a ballgame and I hate to go in the bathroom.”

She said her daughter and other WCHS students deserve to have better facilities, and she suggested those opposed and supportive of a facilities tax should come together to talk.

“My kids may never see a new high school, but I’m all in,” said parent Sarah McCoun. Added her daughter, Piper, “We need a new high school ... I don’t know how we do what we do with the resources that we have.”

“These kids deserve a new high school,” said parent Connie Kupets. She suggested the board may want a panel of high school students to tell adults why they need a new school.

Since the board began the process of approving a facilities tax to build a new high school, Wilson said, “I have yet to have one person tell me we do not need a new high school. Not one. Not one.”

With an overflow crowd in the board office last Wednesday, board member Margie Cleveland told them, “It’s nice to see faces,” alluding to the fact that five public forums leading up to the board’s action to implement a facilities tax were sparsely attended.

“The most-frequently asked question that I’ve received as superintendent over the last 10 years is when can we get a new high school,” schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said. “We are finally in a position to be able to answer that question.”

In explaining why the board voted to move forward with a facilities tax now, Hawkins and Edelen said the district has been able to pay down its debt and thereby increase its bonding (borrowing) potential to build a new high school, while also being able to lower the facilities tax to a more manageable 5.5 cents.

Earlier, Hawkins applauded the courage of the five elected members of the school board for their decision to support a tax “because it’s right for kids.”

“And at the end of the day,” he continued, “what we have to be able to answer is do we want next year’s kindergarten class not to see a new high school, because without this tax, that’s the answer that we get.”

If the district does not have the tax revenue to pay for a new high school, Edelen said the board would then have to “pour money” into the current facility.

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