Board to name music department for Jordan Smith

By Mark Bell - For the Enterprise

The Harlan County Board of Education will recognize the achievement of former student Jordan Smith by naming the performing arts wing of Harlan County High School in his honor.

The specifics of how and when that will occur, and exactly what it will be called, will be for a later time.

For the moment, all school officials want to do is find an appropriate means to signify their appreciation for the young man whose talent and character have justifiably added an uplifting chapter to the nation’s history about this particular nook of Appalachian character and lore.

“We could not be any more proud of him and what he’s accomplished,” Superintendent Mike Howard commented to the board during their regular meeting Thursday evening. “He’s put Harlan County’s name in a great light all across this nation.”

Chairman Gary Farmer wholeheartedly agreed. Farmer represents the part of the school district that includes Wallins, where the winner of this season’s competition on NBC’s The Voice attended elementary school.

“There’s not a greater example of a role model out there,” Farmer said. “He definitely never wavered on who he is and where he’s from.”

A committee appointed by the board’s staff will meet over the next few days and propose options so the board can proceed with their plan to rename the high school’s music department and, perhaps also the adjacent theater/auditorium.

In addition, the board members agreed to recommend Smith for an honorary membership in the Frank Brittain Hall of Fame, noting that he would have been eligible following his graduation but he apparently chose not to apply.

In another matter of honoraria, the board agreed to establish standards and a policy to cover the awarding of honorary diplomas to local residents following a request by the family of a 99-year-old citizen of Lynch.

State policy covers awarding such diplomas to veterans, but there is currently no guideline for handling requests for other purposes and the board members believed it was appropriate to set their own rules to accommodate this and future valid requests.

In addressing financial matters, the school district will need to cut a little over $76,000 from its current budget due to recent adjustments in SEEK funding handed down by the Kentucky Department of Education.

The district received notice on Monday, Howard said, regarding the amount they should expect to cut from their state allotment for the current year. Budgeting is always based on estimates, the superintendent added, and once the state has specific enrollment figures in, they inform districts how far off the early estimates were.

Howard shared the state’s information with the board regarding these adjustments for every school district in the state. All but two had similar amounts – adjusted by enrollment and other factors – to be cut from their budgets.

(The others, Lyon County in western Kentucky and Anchorage Independent Schools in Jefferson County, had zero adjustments, likely due to the unique nature of their tax bases, Howard thought.)

The board will take up the funding issues further when the draft of next year’s budget is presented at the January meeting, which will be held the 21st at 6:30 p.m. in the central office.

By Mark Bell

For the Enterprise

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