Mark Bell Contributing Writer
September 26, 2013
The Harlan County Board of Education may be closer to a resolution of its ongoing conflict with the Letcher County district regarding non-resident students.
During a recent special meeting, board attorney Johnnie Turner reported recent contact from his counterpart in the neighboring district requesting information for an agreement “similar in terms” to what exists between Harlan County and Harlan Independent.
Several months have gone by with no resolution to this issue and recent actions by both boards have directed the issue toward settlement by the Kentucky Commissioner of Education.
However, Turner said, as a result of issues that have been raised in the long-standing dispute between Corbin and Knox Central, school boards are required to have these issues go before a hearing officer before going on to the commissioner for a ruling.
Because the hearing officers mandate contending districts to submit “true and accurate data” on the residency status of students, the additional costs and time involved make a reciprocal agreement a more attractive option now, he said.
The board agreed to table any action on the issue until Turner can provide a draft of the agreement that has been worked out with the Letcher County board’s attorney.
Harlan County Schools will operate on a budget of just over $23 million this year, the details of which have been formally approved by the board.
Of that total, $16.9 million will come from state sources with the remainder coming from local taxes and revenue. The budget includes over $825,000 in contingency funding, which is mandated by the state to be no less than three percent of the total budget.
“A lot of the money in these figures is what they call ‘on behalf payments’ that are actually made by the state, but we have to account for them in our budget so it makes us look like we’re getting a lot more money in here than we actually do,” Superintendent Mike Howard noted.
Howard told the board he estimates the district will finish the year with a five to six percent margin, which should put them in a more hopeful situation than they faced when the current fiscal year began.
“It looks like we’re going to be in much better shape at the end of this year,” he said.
“I hope that’s true,” added Board Member Wallace Napier.
Napier again stressed the need for the district to look into implementing an “energy program” to take advantage of some incentive money the state and federal governments are offering to schools that improve their energy use.
He also repeated his prior request the schools look for more opportunities to give students more choices of activities, particularly at the middle school level, and he mentioned several athletic programs that should be expanded.
Napier expressed some concerns about reports that high school math classes were exceeding the size limits.
Board Member Myra Mosley asked about including an agriculture program to the high school curriculum. The superintendent reported that program was dropped during the development of the new consolidated high school facility because of a lack of funds to add a needed wing to the building.
There was also some concern expressed by the board that the previous agriculture program at James A. Cawood High School had not been used as it should have been.
Board members asked the issue of the old high school’s greenhouses be put back on the agenda for discussion at the next regular meeting. By request, the board had donated those greenhouses to county government for use in an agriculture and economic development project that apparently had never materialized.
While the panels had been removed from the old greenhouses, the frames remained in place, and the board would like to discuss the possibility of using them at the current high school in the future.
In other action, the board:
• Approved payment of claims totaling $511,465.08;
• Reluctantly approved, at the request of the Kentucky School Boards Association, a “clarification” to their policy for school-related trips to include an exception in case a special trip required a group to exceed the established 300-mile round-trip limit;
• Approved a medical leave of absence for a Harlan County High School teacher for three months;
• Approved acceptance of adjunct instructor certifications as needed for the 2013-2014 school year;
• Approved the monthly worker’s compensation report;
• Approved a medical leave of absence for an instructional aide at Green Hills Elementary School from Aug. 13, 2013 to Oct. 13, 2013;
• Approved a medical leave of absence for an instructional assistant at Cumberland Elementary School from Aug. 5, 2013 to Oct. 31, 2013;
• Designated the following positions as ARC chairpersons for the 2013-2014 school year: Principal, Assistant Principal, Counselor, Special Education Teacher (with prior approval);
• Approved a shortened school day for one special needs student at Harlan County High and two special needs student at Cumberland Elementary School;
• Approved a lease/purchase agreement with Johnco Inc. for a copier for James A. Cawood Elementary School;
• Approved to advertising for bids for food and supplies through June 30;
• Approved applying for the at-risk snacks and supper for all schools beginning Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014;
• Granted permission for Rosspoint Elementary School to apply for the Walmart Local Giving Program Grant;
• Declined a request for a Harlan County High School National Honor Society trip to Charleston, S.C., March 29 to April 1;
• Approved a Harlan County High School JROTC Leadership trip to Mt. LeConte, Sevierville, Tenn., Oct. 4-6;
• Approved a Harlan County High School First Priority Leadership to Cumberland Gap High School, Harrogate, Tenn.