School board asks Hawkins for priority list of possible cuts
Superintendent Scott Hawkins was directed to provide the Woodford County Board of Education with a priority list of possible cuts in educational programs and services during a special board meeting Feb. 6. By a vote of 4 to 1, the board gave Hawkins until Feb. 11 to create a prioritized list for its consideration at the planning meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Board member Sherri Springate, who voted in opposition to board member Ambrose Wilson IV’s motion directing Hawkins to create a priority list of potential cuts, said she did not understand why this item was added to the agenda for the special meeting – one week after community members asked the board to un-restrict funds set aside for a new high school to limit cuts to programs and services. The item was tabled at the Jan. 27 meeting, and Springate said she did not understand why it was added to the special meeting’s agenda with little notice to the public. “If we know what expenses are going to have to be cut,” said board Chair Debby Edelen, “then we’ll know better if we want to un-restrict that money, because we’ll know what’s at stake.” Springate also raised concern with a decision, without prior board approval, to direct its attorney to craft the language for this request that the superintendent “as statutory professional advisor” to the board create a priority list of potential budget cuts. Wilson addressed her concern by explaining that board attorney Bob Chenoweth told him that “it was completely within our scope to ask for the superintendent to provide this.” Asked by Springate to clarify what was being requested, Wilson said, “Whatever (cuts) the superintendent believes would least affect teachers and the students to offset the (operating budget) deficit that he has talked about now for two months.” Springate questioned the rationale for asking to create a prioritized list of programs and services for potential cuts before giving people in the community a chance to provide their input. “This list is a starting point to get them involved,” Wilson responded. “And we’ve been talking about this” at board meetings since November. “There is no way that this can be a surprise. This is not a surprise. It’s just not,” he added. Asked by Edelen if the board has a right to ask him for a priority list (if expense cuts are necessary) without the board voting on the request, Hawkins said, “I think the board should take action in order to move that process forward.” Edelen agreed that it should take board action to make the budget cuts, but she asked Hawkins if it should also take board action to get its superintendent’s advice and expertise on what budget cuts would have the least affect on student achievement. “Something of this magnitude for a list of prioritized cuts, yes ma’am,” responded Hawkins. He said being asked to create a priority list for board consideration “should be voted on by the board.” As a part of the presentation of the draft budget for next school year in January, the board received a list of all educational programs and the cost of those programs. Springate described that list as a sufficient starting point for the board to make decisions on possible program cuts if they become necessary to balance the budget. Public Forum The board voted unanimously to host a community forum to get public input on a new high school in the Woodford County High School gymnasium. The board agreed at its Jan. 27 meeting to have the forum on Tuesday, March 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Edelen said her only concerns with having the forum in the WCHS gym was people not being able to hear because of the facility’s acoustics and making sure everyone can see what’s being shown during visual presentations. She was assured by Hawkins that two big screens can be used to ensure everyone can see the information being presented during the forum. The board also approved a flyer that will be used to inform the public about the forum on the district website, through email newsletters to parents from schools and other methods such as advertisements in The Woodford Sun. WCHS graduation The board did not take action on when to have graduation for Woodford County High School. The decision on setting a date for graduation has traditionally been made by the high school’s administration. Friday night, May 22 and Sunday afternoon, May 24 are options for this year’s graduation, with graduating seniors surveyed split: 99 to 93, with the slight majority favoring Friday night, Hawkins told the board. He said a survey of parents showed a 60 percent to 40 percent split, with a majority favoring Sunday. Hawkins said a large majority of WCHS staff favored a Friday night graduation and students in performance groups also favored Friday night, but he was unaware of how many. Hawkins said graduation has been held on a Saturday night on multiple occasions during his years as superintendent. “Eight of the 11 graduations have actually been at night since I’ve been here,” Hawkins said. “Only in the last couple of years have we’ve been able to have more during the day, and that was once we moved (graduation) to the (Kentucky) Horse Park and we started sharing the venue with other schools.” Four high schools graduate over one weekend to lower the cost to each. A scheduled event at the Horse Park on that Sunday may cause issues with that date, Hawkins told the board before reading an email from the Horse Park’s events manager explaining why that date may be problematic because of the number of participants and horses involved in the event. Asked why Saturday was no longer an option, Hawkins said Horse Park officials informed the school districts partnering for a graduation venue that all four could no longer have their graduations on Saturday. WCHS was in line for a Saturday graduation date in October when a change in Horse Park event managers resulted in Anderson County High School getting that spot on Saturday, Hawkins said. He said WCHS did not receive notification of the change until early-January. “Really the lack of communication falls on the Horse Park,” said Hawkins. “I’m sorry, (but) it is in their lap. When they had a change in event managers, the ball got dropped. And that’s not on us. It’s not on Anderson County. It’s not on Franklin County. It is on them.” The board agreed to make a decision on whether the board or WCHS administration will decide on the graduation date, and what that date will be, if it’s a board decision, at its next meeting on Feb. 18. Wilson, who has served on the board for 25 years, said he cannot remember a time when the board voted on a graduation date. Closed session The board went into executive session to discuss its annual evaluation of the superintendent after finishing its regular agenda. No action was taken afterward.