Board tables action on unrestricting dollars for new WCHS
With Chair Debby Edelen absent because of illness, the Woodford County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to table all decisions related to a new high school and funding sources for the project. Board members agreed Edelen needs to be present for that important discussion, and were informed there’s a deadline of May 30 for submitting a 2020-21 tentative budget, which was also tabled. Because of the urgency to approve a budget and make a decision on whether to un-restrict up to $950,000 in the general fund, which pays salaries and other operating expenses, board members agreed that needs to happen sooner rather than later. The board was unable to set a date for a special meeting to tackle those issues this week because of scheduling conflicts, but board member Ambrose Wilson IV said he was confident “we’ll find a date within the time restraints.” Several emails read during the public comment portion of the meeting supported unrestricting general fund dollars in order to cover unknown expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “There will be health, safety and academic issues we cannot even anticipate that will have to be addressed …,” wrote David Beach. Stephanie Wells agreed. “The board’s vote to un-restrict the funds would demonstrate a willingness to set aside a new high school and focus resources on challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she wrote. Keli Reynolds said unrestricting the general fund dollars will also address concerns related to projected operating deficits of more than $1 million annually in coming school years. “It may be a time to put on hold the construction of a new high school …” “While we hope that this will be over soon and we can resume normal lives, the reality is we just don’t know. And in budget planning I always say, ‘Hope is not a strategy.’” Letha Reid urged board members to stop attacking one another and asked them to rethink their priorities. “Over the past year the sole focus has been a new high school,” she wrote. “Our students and staff have taken a backseat while personal agendas have been pushed through without any community input.” Graduation dates Students in Woodford County High School’s Class of 2020 will be honored June 1 to 5 at the WCHS gym, according to schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins. He said students and their families supported this scaled-down ceremony, which allows each graduate to receive his or her diploma with up to four family members in attendance. “We are continuing to work to secure a venue … for an in-person graduation (for the Class of 2020) for later in the year,” Hawkins said. Retirees Hawkins recognized district retirees for their combined 404 years of service to the students of Woodford County. He said once the board is able to resume regular in-person meetings, a date will be scheduled to recognize the 17 retirees. Thanking Ryan Board members lauded student-representative Ryan Alvey, a graduating senior, for his contributions to their meetings. While his career interest may be engineering, board Vice Chair Dani Bradley said his true calling may be public service because of his incredible leadership abilities. “You are one of the finest young men I have ever been around,” said Wilson. “… Thank you for your service. Thank you for helping us.” In an email read during public comments, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott wrote, “Twenty years from now, I wouldn’t be surprised if my claim to fame is not that I am the most handsome and modest mayor in the history of Versailles, but that I served on two committees with Ryan Alvey.” Ryan thanked the board for an amazing experience and a rewarding opportunity to represent students, and wished Piper McCoun, his successor, well. He then predicted, “She’s going to do wonderful things speaking for the students … the teachers … and the citizens of Woodford County.” Committees The board agreed to employ its attorney, Grant Chenoweth, to provide legal advice on what types of committees are subject to the state’s Open Meeting Act. Chenoweth told the board it would cost “substantially less than $1,500” to do the work. Board member Sherri Springate voted in opposition to the action, which passed 3 to 1. She questioned whether this was a good use of dollars, and pointed out there haven’t been any problems with committees in the past. Land used by students Southside Elementary School physical education teacher Chavi Muniz urged the board to not sell the vacant land located between Southside and Huntertown Elementary. Students use the land for hiking and biking, and also observe nature and wildlife during science classes on the property, Muniz said. He said the unique terrain of the land provides a one-of-a-kind training environment for students in the Ready, Set, Run Club at Southside, while promoting family wellness in the community. The board voted to have the land appraised to determine its value last month.