• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

School board agrees to change auditor

The Woodford County Board of Education agreed to hire a different accounting firm to conduct the school district’s 2017-18 financial audit at its planning meeting on Monday.

While school board members and schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins expressed their appreciation for the district’s current auditor, Summers, McCrary & Sparks, board member Sherri Springate said her trainings point to the benefits of having a fresh perspective on a school district’s finances, which have been audited by the current accounting firm for the past four years.

“Since we’re in the middle of this tax thing (alluding to a proposed facilities tax on the ballot for a special June 26 election) and a lot of people are watching,” said board member Karen Brock, “it probably would be smart to have a new auditor so they can’t say that we’re covering anything up. Not that we have any control over the auditor, but fresh eyes are always good when people are watching you.”

No action was taken on Monday, but the board is scheduled to approve the hiring of an auditor at its next regular meeting Monday, May 21, at Huntertown Elementary. The current auditor submitted the lowest of three bids.

Before the board voiced support to hire Barnes Dennig (with a recommendation from its chief financial officer), Hawkins said, “We’ve been very pleased with our current auditors. We feel like they’re very thorough. They have a different partner assigned to the audit each year so it’s a different person leading it.” He also acknowledged the desire for a change.

Workforce development

The school district continues to explore what the community needs in its workforce – especially in manufacturing, Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm told board members.

He said talks continue with Quad/Graphics about starting an apprenticeship program for Woodford County High School students. The local manufacturer needs approval from its corporate office before moving forward with the partnership, he added.

“We’re ready,” said Brehm, “so as soon as we get the go ahead from them, we can get students moving into that” program.

Students who complete an apprenticeship program earn a national certification and training that can lead to a degree after they graduate from WCHS, Brehm explained. He noted that students already work in local businesses through the high school’s cooperative education program, but they cannot earn national certifications.

WCHS seniors toured several local manufacturing facilities on “Industry Day” in March. The students learned that those jobs are different today and also about health insurance and other benefits for workers, Brehm said.

While emphasizing that he’s not campaigning for a new high school, Brehm acknowledged that without a new high school (and repurposing space in the current high school building for workforce development), it will be more difficult to prepare students for manufacturing job opportunities.

“Can we get those industries to say that?” Brock asked. “That’s our hope is that they recognize that (need),” Brehm responded.

State assessment

Instead of receiving a score in the new state assessment, Kentucky public schools will be placed in one of three categories: Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) or other. Schools in the bottom 5 percent or with a graduation rate below 80 percent will be identified as CSI schools. TSI schools will have at least one sub-group of students in the bottom 10 percentile, according to Director of Student Achievement Martha Jones.

“We don’t anticipate having any other label than other,” she said.

Separate academic indicators will measure science, social studies and writing, according to Jones. She said the ACT scores will determine a high school’s proficiency in reading and math. Transition readiness will be another factor in a high school’s results, she said.

Each school will have a report card (still under development) with state assessment data, added Jones.

She said school districts learned of the accountability model for the 2017-18 testing cycle last week. “…There’s still some pieces of that puzzle that aren’t exactly clear yet,” she said.

Budget update

Before the board approves a tentative budget for next school year on May 21, Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith said the 2018-19 budget remains very similar to a draft budget approved by the board in January. It maintains a property tax rate of 66.4 cents per $100 of accessed value, and no longer includes a proposed 5.5 cent facilities tax to pay for a new high school.

“…This is a restricted tax that has to go straight into our building fund,” said Smith of the facilities tax. She said the additional revenue generated by the tax will be put back into the budget if voters approve the tax during a special election on June 26.

Financial report

Woodford County schools began April with a total cash balance of $14.657 million and ended the month with $14.244 million, according to Smith’s financial report.

The general fund ended April with $11.837 million, the capital outlay fund (restricted for debt payments and capital projects) with $169,521.60 and the building fund with $497,402.68 (restricted for facilities and debt payments), she reported.

Transport vehicle

A recommendation to purchase a nine-passenger (or less) vehicle for transporting small groups of students and staff led to a discussion about safety. While a smaller vehicle will sustain more damage if involved in a crash, it was noted that larger vans (for more than nine passengers) are actually not recommended because “that is a safety issue,” said Hawkins.

Board members asked that parents be informed whenever a smaller vehicle will be transporting their children.

The driver must have a valid driver’s license and be a school employee, Hawkins said. He said the vehicle, which will be purchased from a state bid list, would be covered under the district’s fleet insurance.

“We’ve just run into several situations this year where three, four or five students are going to an event,” he said, “and this would be a much better mode of transportation in terms of being able to do it more efficiently. It would be less costly for whatever club or sport or activity…”

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