Views differ on status of local schools: Allen

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2012 General Election

By Thomas Barr

      CEDAR GROVE - When Sammy Allen decided to run for the Bullitt County Public School Board over eight years ago, there was a definite reason.

     He didn't believe the youngsters in the school system were getting the education they needed or they deserved.

     Over the past eight years as a board member, Allen has learned much about the system and he is impressed with what is happening.

     With projects he still hopes to see accomplished and higher goals to be reached, Allen will run for his third term on Nov. 6.

     "I think we are going in the right direction," said Allen. "We're doing the right things to improve the education of our youngsters."

     Allen admitted that serving on the school board has definitely been a learning experience.

     Getting to see what was actually being done and then having a role in supporting new initiatives, Allen believes the district is certainly on the rise.

     "It is exciting to see school officials from all over the state coming in to see what Bullitt County schools are doing," said Allen. "That means we are doing something right."

     The most amazing thing is that while the district's per pupil revenue figures are among the lowest in Kentucky, test scores are continuing to rise in all areas.

     And the district is able to maintain teacher salaries which are in the top 10 in the state.

     "No one likes taxes and no one likes to raise taxes," said Allen. "But it is the right thing to do for our future."

     Allen said he initially recommended a lower tax rate but that motion died without a second. He then thought about voting against the increase. But, then he knew what the right decision should be.

     "We spend our money wisely," said Allen. "We've spent a lot of money on various programs which will improve the education of our children. We have the data to show that it is working."

     Allen would like to see all staff members receive pay raises but that is difficult. Bullitt County's school tax rate is among the lowest of comparable districts and that limits the revenue.

     State funding continues to decrease. There is no state funding for textbooks.

     "I am amazed we do what we do with the money available," said Allen.

     Of all the things he's tackled as a board member, getting a handle on the annual budget has been the most difficult. With so many of the funds collected being restricted to certain uses, Allen said the $100 million budget is very complicated.

     In all areas, Allen said he is proud of the accomplishments over the past eight years by the district.

     Just since 2007, Allen said the numbers have improved tremendously.

     In the area of test data, 85.9 percent of the third graders were reading on grade level in 2012. Just two years ago, that percentage was 54.5. And, in math, those at grade level in the third grade rose from 78.9 percent in 2011 to 89 percent in 2012.

     For non-test related figures, attendance reached a record 95 percent in 2011-12. The state ranking rose from 101st in 2007-08 to 76 last year.

     And in scholarships, graduates earned $9.39 million last spring, compared to $9.14 million the year before.

     "The data shows we are making improvements," said Allen. "Our students are getting a better education."

     He complimented the teachers and other staff members for making this happen. While he knows some feel the great amount of stress which is part of ever-increasing educational standards, Allen feels a majority are pleased with the district and with the leadership provided by the board and the administration.

     Over the next four years, Allen said he hopes the county's efforts in the college and career ready program and in the technical school will continue.

     He is concerned that college is not for every student and the district must prepare them for a future.

     Allen would like to see the technology center, which is operated by the state, grow to provide more programs that will suit the needs of tomorrow.

     His other goal is to continue the momentum which has been growing over the past few years.

     In talking with voters, Allen said the biggest reason he should receive their support is his experience.

     "Experience is the key," said Allen. "There is so much to learn about the job. We know we are on the right course and we need to continue that course."

     Allen said he is pleased with the working relationship between the board and superintendent Keith Davis.

     "I think everyone on the board is really excited about the progress and everyone is working together on making this a better school district for the students," said Allen. "We may disagree on some things but we all agree with our goal to make this the best school district in the state."