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Mid-year state of the school district address

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Making the Grade

By Keith Davis

What a school year it has already been and it is only half complete.

I think that it is a good time to bring our community up to date on a few of the successes, opportunities, and challenges that have presented and will present themselves to us.

New School and Redistricting

As the 7th largest school district in Kentucky, and one that is experiencing steady growth (12,871 currently enrolled), we must occasionally shift our attendance zones to avoid overcrowding situations and to make adjustmentsfor new schools.

It is certainly not pleasant; it is emotional and complicated.

In my opinion though, the high level of communication, public input, and usage of internal and external expertise by the people charged with facilitating the redistricting was very successful.

The Board was provided good information and public input and made the best decisions possible for the overall good of the school system.

The process was open and honest and politics played no role in it. The reality is that we will have to redistrict again, but hopefully it will be several years from now.

The new school behind Mount Washington Middle School, now officially named Crossroads Elementary, is progressing nicely and will be open next school year.

Kim Sego has been selected as principal of the new school and is fully engaged in planning the newest Bullitt County educational tradition.

The six other major construction projects (Brooks, Hebron, Lebanon Junction, Cedar Grove, Nichols, and Energy Performance Contracting) are also on schedule and going very well.

Once completed, our school facilities will be in solid condition and infused with modern technology.

This is a credit and an asset to our community.

College

The temporary Bullitt County Campus of Jefferson Community and Technical College has already brought a great deal of new energy to our county.

Our school district has established close ties with JCTC.

It is our view that whatever we can do to provide opportunities for our students to advance in their education is what we should do.

We have implemented a range of dual-credit options, school based college counseling centers, and we are intent on expanding these opportunities for both our academically gifted and our vocational/entrepreneurial focused young people.

Education for the 21st Century will not only be delivered during the day and within the walls of a high school and we are prepared to remake ourselves to serve our students (rather than the other way around).

We have formed a group of business, government, and education leaders called the Bullitt County Education Council to help advance the next big stage of community growth: the construction of a permanent local college campus.

A small delegation of this group met with the president of the Kentucky Community College System and will meet with the Governor in January to make our case that this large, growing, vibrant, and underserved county deserves its own campus and that the first and highly urgent step is to allocate the $1.733 million in planning money that sets the stage for construction in the very near future.

We need to show wide community support.

Please write, call, or e-mail your state representative, state senator, and governor to express your support.

This is a very big deal for the future economic and cultural success of our home county. Please take a minute to help.

Race to the Top

Kentucky’s new Education Commissioner, Terry Holliday, is a hard-charging, visionary individual.

The last legislature passed a very good reform called Senate Bill 1 that brings some common sense reform to our testing program, which should make it more meaningful to students, more understandable for parents, and more useful for teachers.

Unfortunately, a lot of the things in SB 1 cost money for the state to implement and money is in very short supply right now.

The US Secretary of Education has issued huge federal grant proposal called Race to the Top, which coincidentally addresses many of the reforms in SB 1.

The Bullitt County Board of Education and the BCEA (local teachers’ union) have both approved our district’s participation in these reform efforts in support of Kentucky’s grant application.

This is important to the state because our district is one of five districts in the state with a collectively bargained teacher contract, and having the partnership of districts like ours gives more “points” to the application.

If Kentucky does get the grant, it can mean a much faster development of a more reasonable set of academic standards, a much more robust way to analyze and respond to testing data, more flexibility for superintendents to intervene strongly in schools who are failing their students.

Locally, it means between $200,0000 and $800,000 that can provide our schools with programs and equipment to serve our students.

Budget

Everyone sees the same news.

The state budget is in terrible condition.

All the easy cuts have been made.

Contrary to reports, education has not been spared from cuts (around $2 million less in state funding that the formulas indicate for us), and it is quite possible that it will get worse.

I understand about belt-tightening, but everyone needs to understand that we are not like a business in that shutting down production and laying off employees is an option.

We have at least the same number of students and the same educational expectations regardless of the economy.

If we lay off, that means that means fewer teachers and assistants to provide education to the kids who are our future.

We will make do; our district is already nearly the lowest funded in the state and our staff is used to finding creative solutions while continuing progress.

But, don’t be deluded into thinking that we can have our cake and eat it too.

Fewer resources equal fewer services and instructional materials and our kids only get one chance at their education.

The fact is that the percentage of the budget devoted to K-12th grade education has fallen from about 57 percent of the state budget to less than 50 percent, and the budget is a reflection of the whole state’s priorities.

Every report seems to show that states that have maintained their investment in education have reaped economic benefits far greater than the investment.

We say it is “about the children”, and this is true, but it is also about being economically competitive in a very unforgiving global economy.

In conclusion, let me bring the focus back to the basic level.

Every day, our school district is getting better. There is an understanding among us all (almost, and we are working hard on the hold-outs) that it is our job to make sure that every child is learning and that we are required to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Our schools and teachers are being very innovative in using student data to adjust instruction and regroup kids to make sure that they are learning.

I hope you are pleased with the progress we are making.

As I’ve written to you before, we are pleased, but certainly not satisfied.

We will never be satisfied with what we are doing because there will always be something we can do better.

Good is the enemy of great, and it is our policy that good just doesn’t cut it for our kids.