By Josh Shepherd, News writer
The Harrison County School Board has joined with several dozen school districts across Kentucky in passing a resolution accusing the Kentucky State Legislature of breaking its promise to fully fund the mandates of the Unbridled Learning bill of 2009.
The resolution is a call to action to state legislators to follow through on its pledge to provide all of Kentucky’s school districts with adequate funding for their academic programs.
“Every school district can document ways in which we have been forced to cut budgets and academic programs since these mandates were passed,” Superintendent Andy Dotson said in his request that the school board adopt the resolution.
The Kentucky Department of Education rightfully expects every school district to provide an education to all its students in the core curriculum, Dotson said. It has also adopted a complex accountability model on all school systems to ensure that all students are becoming college or career ready when they graduate, he continued.
However, every year since the Unbridled Learning mandate has been passed, “school systems like Harrison County have been asked to do more with less,” Dotson argued. “It has also forced school boards to increase property taxes to keep up with these mandates.”
According to the Kentucky School Board Association, over half of the school systems in Kentucky have adopted a resolution requesting the legislature to restore education funding to pre-recession levels.
The resolution the Harrison County School Board passed unanimously claims that “the Kentucky Legislature has broken its pledge to Kentucky students, failing to fund the mandates of Unbridled Learning...
“...the failure of the legislature has caused Harrison County School District and districts across the Commonwealth to make significant cuts to their budgets and personnel, compelling school boards to increase property taxes in order that districts might continue to operate and serve students, who are the future of the Commonwealth.”
In addition to this action, the Harrison County School Board approved a modest contribution to help fund an independent statewide study which would demonstrate how the state legislature has cut education funding.
Despite the board’s concerns about the lack of adequate state funding, the school board did get to express its appreciation to the dozens upon dozens of high school students in the advanced placement programs that received incentive awards.
It was standing room only in the Harrison County School’s administration building as principal Amy Coleman and school counselor Donelle Judy presented each student with an incentive check.
Annual school audit report
Artie White, an accountant with White and Associates, PSC, gave a glowing report concerning Harrison County School’s financial management.
He expressed compliments to Julie Asher, school finance director, for keeping excellent track of the school budget.
He also advised that despite the school board’s concerns about budget cuts, the schools that are going to move forward are those that have the vision to plan five years ahead, anticipating a direction in which to go in the wake of potential shortfalls.
In terms of planning, the school board was also presented with an overview of the school’s comprehensive improvement plan for 2014 by Jenny Lynn Hatter, supervisor of instruction.
In a demonstration of just how complex improvement plans have become, Hatter said that her first improvement plan was approximately 20-pages long.
The improvement plan for 2014, on the other hand, is as thick as a Russian novel and defied an easy summary. Hatter said the plan covered the five required goals as mandated by the Unbridled Learning legislation. She is now working with each school to help them accomplish those goals.
In other business, the school board:
•Conducted the oath of office to new school board member Gary Dearborn.
•Watched a slideshow of the Harrison County Middle School’s Wetland Construction Project. Several middle school students presented different segments of their report.
•Approved fundraiser requests for all schools.
•Approved student fees for the high school choir’s field trip to Walt Disney World due to a fundraiser shortfall. The board also approved student fees for students invited to participate in the All-State Choir to be held this February in Louisville.
Regarding the fee charges, Dearborn expressed some concerns about the fairness of these costs. High school students who perform well enough to be invited to sing in an All-State Choir shouldn’t have to pay to participate, he thought.
Board members agreed, but offered little in the way of an answer to the problem.
•Approved Harrison County Schools Christmas Angel Program to partner with Wal-Mart of Cynthiana in its “Stuff a Bus” program.
•Approved the use of the Adaptive System of School Improvement Support Tools (ASSIST) in the evaluation of the superintendent.
•Approved paying membership dues of $1,750 to the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.
•Approved the emergency declaration for a Social Studies/English teaching position and an Anatomy/Physiology teaching position.
•Approved the scheduling of the next school board meeting for Dec. 17.