By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
The principals of Estill County schools presented their own report card to the Board of Education on Thursday night.
They shared data and named reasons to celebrate, as well as areas that need improvement.
Lisa Reece, from Central Office, began the presentation by explaining how the Kentucky Department of Education is moving away from scoring schools and districts and is focusing more on individual scores of learners.
Andrea Williams, new interim principal at the middle school, said she was “extremely excited” about the novice reduction rate in comparison to KPREP scores from last year. She attributed improvements in part to a program called Reading Plus, as well as a culture change at the school. Writing scores were not as impressive, but Williams said the school is revising a school-wide writing plan.
Williams has stepped into the role of principal following the move of former principal Tim Burkhart to Director of Transportation/Instructional Supervisor.
Stephen Willis, principal of the preschool center at South Irvine, expressed pride in the increase in the number of preschool students who tested kindergarten ready, per the Brigance Kindergarten Readiness evaluation. Last year, 71.5 of preschoolers were said to be kindergarten ready, the largest in the region, in comparison to 48.1 the year before.
Jessica Mullins, principal at Estill Springs Elementary, said her school does not have KPREP scores, but she is seeing progress, particularly in math. Charlotte Arvin, principal at West Irvine, said the number of students enrolling at West Irvine keeps growing, and parent volunteers are in the building on a daily basis.
“We are building steam at West Irvine,” said Arvin.
High school principal Chris Winkler defied the trends and did some ranking of his own. He said the ECHS overall accountability score of 73.8 put them as the top 30 high school in the state. He also noted that the graduation rate is 19th in the state.
“Our kids like to come to school,” Winkler said. The high school has an attendance rate of 94.7, which he hopes will improve, although ECHS is the highest among other schools in the 16th region.
Board member L.W. Beckley said an internet search of the Estill County District could turn up some rankings that reveal “we are still behind.”
He reminded school leaders that board members are aware of that, and said, “Let’s don’t get lax,…while celebrating our gains, know we still have gains to make.”
All board members stated that they receive frequent complaints about the appearance of school grounds.
Rhonda Hardy asked if it would be feasible to contract some of the work, and Saylor said that they already do contract some of it. Beckley said he would be willing to volunteer to help pick up trash, paint, etc.
Staff and community Mountain Movers were recognized during the meeting. Debbie Rison was recognized as a community partner for her work with Helping Hands Ministry, which helps fill backpacks with food for students and also helped organize a summer feeding program.
Nettie Marcum was recognized for her 30 years of work at the high school, and said she cannot imagine not going there every day.
Donald Norton was not present, but was recognized as the certified staff Mountain Mover. He is a middle school math teacher but was attending open house and couldn’t be there.
Sondra Hall and Lauren Rader, with Gear Up, spoke of the benefits of that program to the high school community, from providing ACT workshops, to parent workshops, to college and job site visits.
In other business, Superintendent Jeff Saylor said that architects are currently evaluating three sites for the new career and technology center. He said a site selection could be made by next week. The board also approved a request for proposals for construction management services. They agreed to table a discussion on the needed Estill Springs HVAC project and the middle school roof replacement.
Consent items approved include a list of surplus items, and contracts with Kentucky Counseling Center and Parsons Counseling. Superintendent Saylor said Parsons is willing to come to Irvine, which would save parents money who currently drive to Richmond for counseling services.
The board also approved a trip to Molena, GA, in November for the JROTC to attend a national championship.
Also, a trip to Washington, DC was approved for middle and high school students to attend the National Association of Student Councils Annual LEAD Conference.
Personnel actions taken include the hiring of Tim Burkhart as Transportation Director/Instructional Supervisor; Andrea Williams as interim principal at the middle school; Rebecca Ernest as a substitute teacher, Christopher Johnson and Starr Young as substitute bus assistants, and Angel Phillips as a substitute teacher/para-educator.
Resignation/term limits were accepted from James Ellet, substitute bus assistant, Margaret Ellet, substitute bus assistant, Kara Singleton,, asst. cheerleading coach at the high school, Cheryl Stepp, substitute bus assistant, and Elizabeth Wright, bus assistant.
Superintendent Saylor ended the meeting with a comment that what Governor Bevin has proposed with the teacher retirement pension plan “will destroy public education.”
He urged teachers and staff to be patient and “remember what we are here for-we are here for the kids.”
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the school board is November 16, at 6 p.m.