Wednesday, May 27, 2009

School News from Around Kentucky

"We are not trying to play games here by doing this.
A cut is a cut and a raise is a raise,
but I think this is something we need to do.
--Sonny Fentress

Mercer avoids state-mandated raises: Mercer County Board of Education approved a tentative budget Thursday and used a unique tactic to avoid spending money on staff raises in hopes of balancing the budget and saving jobs. The board of education accepted Superintendent Sonny Fentress' recommendation that will essentially hold salaries flat by lowering them and then raising them again. The state legislature mandated that all employees receive a 1 percent raise for the upcoming budget year. Fentress urged the board to reduce 2008-2009 salaries by 1 percent on June 30, the end of the fiscal year, and then increase them by 1 percent at the beginning of the next fiscal year beginning July 1. (Advocate Messenger)

KDE recognizes 23 Kentucky public schools that have made significant progress to close achievement gaps between students of different genders, ethnic groups, income levels and special needs. (KDE)

Madison Central HS reports case of swine flu: A Madison Central High School student is Madison County’s latest case of H1N1 virus infection, also known as swine flu, according to the health department. A news release from the school district Monday said the student has been home “recovering and doing well since symptoms” appeared.County schools were in session Monday, and MCHS Principal Gina Lakes informed parents of the situation in a voicemail message at 3:30 p.m.Upon learning that a student had developed swine flu symptoms, Lakes said the school’s custodial staff immediately began disinfecting its buildings – including door knobs and drinking fountains. (Richmond Register)

Ohio school official apologizes for meeting: Ohio County Board of Education Chairman Barry Geary apologized for meeting with Superintendent Soretta Ralph and making an offer on behalf of the board to buy her remaining retirement eligibility years, but he denied reaching a consensus with two other board members before talking to Ralph.Geary's statements came at a special school board meeting Friday evening at the central office that was called to discuss Kentucky's open meetings law and to hold a closed session to discuss probable litigation against the board."I didn't intend to break the open meetings law," he said. "If a mistake was made, I didn't intend to."Geary said he met with Ralph "out of respect for her" because she said she didn't like surprises. Notes taken at the May 12 meeting that the Messenger-Inquirer received tell a different story -- with Geary saying that board members Brad Beatty and Dwight Raymond sent him to make the offer.The minutes show that Geary tells Ralph "they have the votes" to ensure that she doesn't get another contract. And he asks her to step down.At one point in Friday night's meeting, vice chairman Will Eddins asked Geary if he had considered stepping down as chairman."No, not unless these two guys want me to," he said, indicating Beatty and Raymond.Eddins said after the meeting he thought if Geary gave up the chairman's post, it would diffuse the situation. (Messenger-Inquirer by way of KSBA)

School drug testing proposal shifts: Members of a committee charged with developing a drug testing policy for students in the Caldwell County School District are shifting their focus toward a new group of students. ...Initially, the committee had focused on developing a random drug testing policy for students involved in extracurricular activities, such as athletics, band and school clubs. Of late, though, the committee has suspended that angle. “Essentially, we felt that policy would not bring the ends that we were looking for,” said Brown. ...As an alternative, Brown said, the committee is exploring a more focused, “suspicion-based” testing program.
The focus will now be on “fringe” students perceived to be in danger. Brown said that assessment would be backed up by certain statutory criteria, such as attendance and discipline records. (Times Leader)

Madison Graduation rates above state average: All four of Madison County’s high schools’ graduation rates above the state average in 2008, according to the latest data from the Kentucky Department of Education.Across the state, 84.52 percent of Kentucky high school students graduated in 2008, an increase of .8 percent over 2007.In Madison County, Model Laboratory High School had the highest graduation rate at 98.08 percent, with Madison Southern next at 91.74 percent. Berea Community High School was third with a 91.03 percent rate, while Madison Central High School graduated 88.08 percent of students last school year. (Richmond Register)

Arrested West Jessamine band director is out for rest of school year: A West Jessamine County High School band director who was cited Wednesday for loitering for the purpose of prostitution will not return for the remainder of the school year, according to a statement released by the district. The statement released by Jessamine County Superintendent Lu Young also said the district has launched an internal investigation in response to the allegations against Rex Payton, who has been band director at the high school for about three years. Young said they hope to have the investigation wrapped up within 10 school days. "In the meantime, Mr. Payton will not be returning to his position at West High for the remainder of the school year," the release says. "We are currently working with school administrators and band parents to successfully complete the year." (Herald-Leader)

Lawyer in texting case asks judge to seal files: Madison Circuit Judge William G. Clouse denied a request Thursday from the attorney of a former Madison Middle School volunteer to seal the case file because of media coverage.Attorney Wes Browne also sought more specific information about the charge against his client, Brandon Clay Rousey, 23, who is accused of attempted first-degree unlawful transaction with a minor for allegedly sending sexually explicit text messages to a 13-year-old student while he was an AmeriCorps volunteer and assistant coach at the school. (Richmond Register)

Legislator says Special session likely: State lawmakers could be headed back to Frankfort in mid-June for a special legislative session to deal with a projected budget shortfall and other issues. Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, sent an e-mail Thursday telling members of the Jefferson County delegation that a special session is likely to begin June 15 and that two major pieces of legislation are likely to be discussed: video lottery terminals at the state's racetracks and legislation that would help the state fund mega projects, such as new bridges in Louisville and Henderson. (H-L)

Op Ed - A shared duty: Legislators should approve plan to eliminate the shortfall: While the Consensus Forecasting Group has yet to officially release its projection concerning the revenue shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1, that group’s chairman, Lawrence Lynch, has said that Gov. Steve Beshear’s warning that the budget shortfall could top $1 billion “seems plausible.”Facing a possible shortfall, that is more than double the $456 million shortfall for the current fiscal year that legislators grappled with earlier this year, already has some lawmakers calling for unspecified tax increases to avoid sharp budget cuts and Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo continuing to beat the drum in support of video gambling terminals at the state’s race tracks.Meanwhile, Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, continues to place most of the responsibility for making the cuts to balance the budget on the shoulders of Gov. Steve Beshear. (Daily Independent)

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