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School board says teachers will keep their jobs

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By John Shindlebower

Despite a stagnant economy and concerns for the immediate future, the Spencer County School Board voted unanimously Monday night to approve staffing allocations that reflect little change from the current year.

While revenues could fall short of this year’s levels, Superintendent Chuck Adams said during the meeting that his recommendation was following many discussions with principals, various staffs and board members. While he acknowledged that keeping the staffing levels where they currently are could jeopardize the district’s already dwindling contingency fund, Adams said the most important thing he and the board can do for the students is provide them with enough qualified teachers.

“The best resource we can place in front of students is a qualified human body,” said Adams, noting that the district will really have to tighten its belt when it comes to other spending from the general fund.

States require that districts maintain a contingency fund of at least 2 percent of their general fund, and Adams said keeping the staffing allocation at its current levels will drop the local district’s contingency fund to 3.6 in a worst-case scenario. Of course, that could mean the district could be one financial emergency away from falling below the state minimum.

He said there are possible funding options that might become available with various grants and with the federal stimulus package. If some of those funds can be redirected to help offset the general fund expenditures, the contingency fund may not fall to that low level.

Adams said he wants the district to maintain current teaching staffing. With student enrollment falling by an expected 70 at the middle school next year, he said they will take one position from there and possibly add one or 1.5 positions to the high school to make up for an expectant 200 plus enrollment boost there. Staffing at the elementary schools are expected to be unchanged.

Board members expressed concerns about the lower contingency fund, but were quick to agree with Adams’ rationale of keeping teachers in the classroom.

“The word on the street will be that you’re either really brave or really crazy,” said board member Mary Ann Cardin in response to Adams’ recommendation, but she quickly voiced her agreement that it was the right decision because it did not slash teaching positions.

In other action at Monday’s meeting, the board:

- Heard from Myron Thompson, Director of Risk Management for the Kentucky School Board Association, who detailed for board members and district athletic coaches and extracurricular sponsors areas of liability and concern.

In the wake of some highly publicized incidents where student athletes have been seriously injured or even died as a result of incidents at school, the district invited Thompson to review some of those concerns. Thompson, who is a graduate of Spencer County High School from over two decades ago, said he knows the district has come a long way in the last 20 years, and presented a powerpoint presentation designed to remind school officials and coaches of important issues, which included topics such as heat injuries, transportation issues, staff infections, summer workouts, physical exams, hazing and bullying, facility standards, emergency preparedness and Title IX requirements.

Thompson talked about some high-profile cases from Kentucky and other states in which districts and even individuals have been sued as a result of accidents, injuries and deaths involving students. He said it’s best for school districts and coaches to review this information now instead of after a tragic incident.

Board members said they would like the district to develop a plan to inspect local sports facilities to make sure they’re in compliance, as well as possibly develop a coach’s handbook detailing policies and procedures that must be followed.

- Heard a request from board member Scott Travis that the district have a plan by next meeting detailing the costs and procedures of acquiring a PA system for Taylorsville Elementary School and some fencing for both Taylorsville and Spencer County elementary schools.

- Approved the amended 2008/09 school calendar to reflect the need to make up days missed because of winter weather. The school year will now be extended to May 29th, with the last day for students that day.

- Heard a request from Travis that a special meeting be scheduled for the sole purpose of discussing the district’s transportation system. Travis said the early route times in the morning and late route times in the afternoon might be interfering with students home and rest time.

“I feel our current transportation system is hindering our academic excellence,” said Travis, who also noted that the tight schedules have also resulted in shorter field trips, visits to career fairs and other extracurricular opportunities during the school day.