By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
MADISON COUNTY —
As anticipated, the Madison County School Board voted 5-0 to approve the implementation of full-day kindergarten starting in the 2014-15 school year at Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting.
“I’m very excited to be on the board that will make this happen,” said member Becky Coyle before she offered the motion. Coyle is completing her fourth four-year term representing the second district and is the board’s longest serving member.
“Somebody shout ‘Amen,’” board chair Mona Isaacs said after the vote.
Former school board members told her they were excited about this decision, she said.
In early September, the board voted 4-1 to increase property taxes to fund full-day kindergarten.
Madison County is one of eight Kentucky school districts that currently offers only half-day kindergarten.
The other 161 districts, including Berea Independent, offer full-day classes, and five offer either option, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.
Board sends resolution to General Assembly
State budget cuts have decreased education funding back to 2007 levels, Superintendent Elmer Thomas told the board.
State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday recently approached the state board with a proposal to ask that the legislature restore funding to at least 2009 levels, Thomas said.
Several districts already have approved a resolution similar to one the Madison County board adopted 5-0 Thursday.
The resolution states, “mandates of Unbridled Learning continue to increase, putting additional stress and responsibilities on teachers and administrators...” while “...the Kentucky Legislature has broken their pledge to Kentucky’s students, failing to fund the mandates of Unbridled Learning.”
The resolution said “failure of the legislature” has caused districts to make “significant cuts to their budgets and to personnel, compelling school boards to increase property taxes in order that districts might continue to operate and serve the students.”
District to purchase ten new buses
To keep up the district’s bus fleet, at least 10 new buses should be purchased each year, Thomas said. The district’s 180 buses run around 141 routes for a total of 10,000 miles every day and 1.7 million miles annually, not including field trips, he said. Each bus has a life of around 14 years.
There are several buses that sit in lots near the schools, but those are funded by the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) and are only used in the case of an emergency.
The board approved the purchase 10 new buses: five 72-capacity buses at around $88,000 each; three 78-capacity buses at $105,000 each; and two 66-capacity buses at around $94,000 each, with certain add-ons for special needs students.
Around 50 to 60 percent of the cost is eventually reimbursed through the state, Thomas said.
However, at the suggestion of board member John Lackey, the motion was amended to say the purchase price was “to not exceed” a total of $981,523.
This amendment will give the district flexibility to call other manufacturers who may be able to give the district a better deal on the 10 buses.
Chief Operations Officer Kevin Hub said the quote was based on a state Education Department’s bid contract.
Hub said he and transportation director Skip Benton also consider which type of buses are the most reliable, the easiest to service and have the most affordable replacement parts.
“I just don’t have real confidence in the Kentucky Department of Education cutting us the best bargain,” Lackey said. “I’ve felt all along … that there’s been a real reluctance to enter into the kind of negotiations that you would do if you went out and bought your own vehicle.”
Thomas and Hub said they would call a few more manufacturers to see if a better deal can be reached.
“All they can do is say ‘no,’ right?” said board member Mary Renfro.
At the end of Thursday’s meeting, board members went into an executive session to discuss “the potential real property acquisition (or sale) for which publicity at present stage might/would be likely to affect the value.”
Look in Sunday’s Register for a second story about Thursday’s school board meeting.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.