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BOE discusses budget, test scores and flu shots

SALYERSVILLE – The Magoffin County School Board met in regular session on Tuesday, October 17, discussing flu shots, test scores and the budget.

In Tuesday night’s meeting, held at Salyersville Grade School, the board honored students Trista Arnett and Richard Craft, who had recently completed the program to receive their GEDs.

Representatives from Rite Aid presented the board with a proposal to provide flu shots to all students 9 years of age and above, with the hopes of preventing a flu outbreak this year, keep attendance rates up, and help parents by not having to take their children to get the flu shot. He said the shot is covered by all insurance and they would be able to work out a discounted rate for uninsured students. 

Superintendent Scott Helton urged the representatives with Rite Aide to talk with corporate to find out more about the uninsured students’ eligibility.

“Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great program, but I don’t want to exclude any student,” Helton said,

Lisa Collins, with Ameresco, an energy company, pitched a proposal to the board regarding bringing savings to them by finding ways within their own systems (i.e. LED light bulbs, reviewing electric bills for accuracy, more efficient controls, installing solar power) to save money that could be used for improving facilities. She said they would be able to save them enough money to cover the cost of the contract, though Helton reiterated that, with the recent budget cuts, the board must be cautious in entering into any contracts. 

He said he would make some phone calls and then get back with them about their proposal. Recently, Ameresco has worked with school districts in Bell, Bath, Wolfe and Franklin counties.

Finance Officer Kevin Owens explained to the board that they were recently notified that the mandatory 17 percent statewide budget cuts mean they will lose 50 percent of the funding already budgeted and allocated for the current school year for professional development, safe schools, textbooks, preschool and after school/ESS. 

He said in July they were funding at the state level for professional development and textbooks, but now they are told they will not receive 50 percent of that amount for the 2017-18 school year. 

The money for textbooks was allocated and spent prior to the beginning of the school year (in preparation for classes starting), which means they will have to make up the difference in spending for ESS and professional development, Owens said. The money coming out of the budget will be taken out of the last quarterly payment from the state, so he said they just have to plan for it now.

Director of Pupil Personnel Terry Watson updated the board on truancy diversion programs, explaining that two pre-complaint meetings (one for the high school and one for the middle school) were to be held on Wednesday this week with the judge and members of the court system. He said the goal is not to get students tied up in the court system, but emphasized that they do expect the students to be in school.

“If they’re not in school, court is a step in the process,” Watson said.

He said he has also met with the high school principal and athletic director to ensure that the truancy policy regarding participation in athletics is being upheld and he said at least one student has had to sit out games as a result of the rule, reporting they are in compliance with the policy.

Watson reported that they currently (on the day of the meeting) have 28 students on home hospital and 47 students home schooling. As far as enrollment numbers in the school system, he said there are 496 students at Herald Whitaker Middle School, 600 at the Magoffin County High School, 372 at North Magoffin Elementary, 380 at Salyersville Grade School and 158 at South Magoffin Elementary. 

To date, the attendance rate for the district is 93.83 percent (compared to 93.58 percent this time last year). In order highest to lowest, the schools have attendance rates of: 97.48 percent at Salyersville Grade School, 97.31 percent ta North Magoffin Elementary, 92.4 percent at Herald Whitaker Middle School, 91.91 percent at South Magoffin Elementary and 91.08 percent at the Magoffin County High School. 

Superintendent Helton updated the board on the released test scores, reiterating what he had said in a recent article in the Independent, that even though this is technically a transitional year, they cannot take a year off from pushing for growth. He said they saw improvements in most areas, though the areas of concern are language mechanics at the middle school and reading at the high school. 

Helton said HWMS Principal Garland Yates has already hired another person to help with improving language mechanics, and district wide they have purchased iReady, which is a program that focuses on reading and math. He said all students up the freshman level can use the program and it will help teachers to identify, monitor and find interventions for each individual students’ gaps. 

He thanked the administration, teachers, staff, students and parents for their hard work in testing last year and said they will have to keep looking for the gaps in order to help the kids become college and career ready. 

Helton said that pension plans are a concern for all state employees and that they should have a better understanding as legislators are to release a proposed plan later this week (hadn’t released it at the time of the meeting). He said he will also be meeting with superintendents on Friday, as well.

“My advice for everyone is to be cautious before making any decisions that could affect your livelihood,” Helton said, urging staff on the fence of retiring early to wait and see how it plays out before making a decision that could cost them more money.

He said the district’s cost for pensions is proposed to increase by $320,000 this year, but right now they just have to wait and see and try to save money everywhere they can.

Board members asked about signage for the new high school and Helton said they sent out pricing to Principal Chris Meadows to get a better idea for sizing. The board members agreed that they thought the lettering should be above the gym entrance.

The next regular Magoffin County School Board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, November 21 at 7 p.m. 

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