Grandmother questions decision on cheerleader tryout
A grandmother questioned the decision to not allow her granddaughter to try out for the Woodford County High School cheer team during Monday’s Board of Education meeting. Cynthia Snapp told the board nothing was ever mentioned about her granddaughter turning in her uniform in order to be eligible to try out for the 2019-20 WCHS cheer squad. After spending 45 minutes preparing for last Friday’s tryouts, Snapp said her granddaughter was told she could not try out for next school year’s squad because she had not turned in her uniform. “She was devastated, humiliated and totally unprepared as to how to respond,” said Snapp of her granddaughter. Snapp said the uniform was going to be returned when her granddaughter was picked up. She then questioned why the athletic director and superintendent were involved in making a decision that’s not supported by a written policy. “Nothing justified the actions taken by this administration on Friday,” said Snapp. In the past, she said the return of a uniform was never a high priority and nothing was done to a student who didn’t return a uniform last year. Snapp urged board members to investigate the incident and determine if the decision to not allow her granddaughter to try out for the 2019-20 cheer squad was justified by following policy. “I would like for someone, though, to tell me – preferably the superintendent,” said Snapp, “in the past 10 years how many students has he denied the opportunity to participate in cheerleading tryouts for the high school and why were they denied?” She noted her granddaughter, a sophomore, was a member of a national championship cheerleading team at WCHS and that their family has deep roots in Woodford County. Board members did not respond to Snapp’s concerns or questions, which involve personnel, during the meeting. Superintendent evaluation After coming out of closed session, the board voted unanimously to table its annual evaluation of schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins, which is required in an open meeting, until May. “We’re going to finalize it in May,” said board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV. He offered no explanation for the delay after the meeting was adjourned. Since being hired in March 2008, Hawkins has regularly gotten high marks for his performance as superintendent. Last year, he was given an “exemplary” evaluation for his job performance. Of seven superintendent evaluation standards, the board ranked Hawkins as exemplary in strategic, instructional, cultural, human resources, collaborative and influential leadership. He was ranked as accomplished in managerial leadership last year. “I think he’s doing a great job. I think our kids – their accomplishments, their opportunities are growing under his leadership,” board Vice Chair Debby Edelen said last May. Steering committee The board named members of a steering committee, which will help lead conversations to garner input on the design of a new Woodford County High School. Board members Dani Bradley and Edelen will be joined by Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm, student Ryan Alvey, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott, Midway resident Brenda Richards, WCHS teachers Tracy Probst and Andy Smith, guidance counselor Kristen Wilson, and Hawkins. Representatives of RossTarrant Architects had suggested limiting the size of the steering committee to five to eight members, but Bradley said, “I understand the thought of keeping it smaller. But with a project of this size and of this importance to the community,” she sided on including more representation and her motion to do so passed unanimously. Kevin Locke, of RossTarrant, then provided the board with a comparison of classroom and other spaces at the current high school, the state’s model high school for 1,400 students and a new high school with a total cost of $32.579 million. The number of regular classrooms at the new school would be higher (42) than at the current high school (34). However, the proposed classrooms are smaller (710 square feet) than what’s recommended as a model high school by the state (750 square feet) to reduce cost. The current high school’s classrooms average 665 square feet, an informational sheet given to board members stated. To reduce the cost of a new high school, computer labs are not shown for a new high school because of the district’s one-to-one initiative that places a tablet computer into the hands of every WCHS student, Locke said. In order to remain with a budget of about $32 million by reducing total square footage from 183,162 square feet (in a model high school) to 136,993, a new high school has an auxiliary gym, a smaller library/media center and cafeteria, while not accounting for the cost of an auditorium in this scenario, Locke said. He said the cost of a required storm shelter – location to be determined – was not included in this $32 million budget. “I would like …, as individuals, to start reaching out and talking to some of the businesses in our community … about sponsorship opportunities,” Bradley said. “I think we would be selling ourselves short,” she added, “if we don’t at least try to ask … businesses or individuals who would be interested in funding things like the (competition-size) gym or the auditorium.” Moving forward, Locke said he would like to have a meeting with the steering committee and begin getting input from teachers, students, parents and others before the school year ends. The board agreed to have a work session with its fiscal agent, Hilliard Lyons, on May 15. “We have to sit down and look at all of our resources and say what we’re going to do (in terms of setting a budget for a new high school),” said Edelen. Security window project The board approved documents seeking state approval to move forward with a district security window project. The cost to replace windows in every school’s entryway to make those buildings more secure is higher than an initial estimate of about $48,000. In order to slow an intruder’s entry, Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith told board members April 15 that a costlier grade of glass and opaque panels would be installed at the schools for a cost of $112,420 – about $70,000 more in total costs. Resource officers The board unanimously approved an agreement with the City of Versailles to provide school resource officers (SROs) at the middle and high schools for an increased cost: from $35,000 to $55,000 next school year and $75,000 in subsequent years. Letter to sheriff Board members approved a letter asking the Woodford County Sheriff to provide them with a breakdown of its costs to collect property taxes for the school district. Wilson said he would hand deliver the letter to the sheriff on Tuesday, and the board agreed to set a deadline of May 6 for the sheriff to provide the requested breakdown of costs. If the sheriff fails to do so, the board can file an open records request for the information. Edelen, who has strongly supported filing an open records request, was the lone no vote on the motion, which passed by a 4 to 1 vote. Psychiatric residential treatment facility The board took no action on a possible working relationship with a company (JWAN, LLC: owned by four physicians) that’s exploring the possibility of opening a psychiatric residential treatment facility for youth in Woodford County. A 24-bed facility, Purchase Youth Village, opened in Benton, Kentucky, with another 24-bed facility planned in Bardstown, because of the growing need, said Russ Salzman. He said the proposed facility in this area – potentially in Woodford County – would have 48 beds. The public school district would provide for the educational needs of psychiatric facility’s residents if an agreement were reached to locate here, Salzman said. He said the facility will also offer outpatient care to youth. Board members agreed that they need to have a work session before making a decision to partner with the company, which will need to obtain a certificate of need from the state before construction begins on a new facility that could potentially open in 18 or so months, Salzman said. “The mental health of our students is crucial,” said Bradley, but she and other board members agreed they need to have their questions answered before making a decision on whether to enter into this partnership.