Madison County Schools will be approaching high school graduations in two different ways: a virtual ceremony with speeches and an in-person graduation to come later.

"We still want to celebrate," Superintendent David Gilliam said during Thursday's virtual Board of Education meeting.

He said it's hard to accept the reality that schools can't do end-of-the-year ceremonies like normal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"It’s frustrating for us, because graduation is a culminating event not just for the graduate but for everyone who’s played a part in that student’s accomplishments," Gilliam said.

So after taking account of what seniors want, Gilliam said, the plan is to have a celebratory video released next week that includes speeches from class officers.

As far as the in-person event, Gilliam hopes it will happen later during summer, but the date will be announced later.

Math coaches

As the school year is wrapping up, board members heard from Judy Winkler and Sarah Shaffer, two of five math coaches who work with area schools on math improvement throughout the district.

Three years ago when the two presented to the board for the first time, they were representing two schools and about 15 teachers, Winkler said.

“Starting this school year … the five coaches were serving six schools and eight principals," Winkler explained. "Starting out in the fall, we’re going to be serving … eight schools and 11 principals. When we started out in the school year we were serving Kirksville, Madison Middle, Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, Foley and Silver Creek. We’re adding to the implementation Clark Moores Middle School and Waco Elementary."

At the beginning of this school year, the math coaches were working with 70 teachers, which Winkler estimated impacts 2,605 students. During the next school year, they anticipate working with 110 teachers, and about 3,700 students should be impacted by the work.

Shaffer and Winkler played a video they captured before learning was completely at-home of two teachers talking about how the math coaches have improved their instruction in the classroom.

Shaffer added the coaches feel fortunate to work with the teachers in the school district, whom she said were quick to adjust to working from home and having online meetings to meet the needs of students.

“As coaches, just like you all, we are inspired by our Madison County teachers," Shaffer told the board. "Our team meetings have continued on through virtual Zoom and Google Meet sessions. We’ve not slowed down, and that’s been something very special to the work. … We’re very empowered by these teachers," she continued.

"They inspire us to want to do better and to be better, but we still do everything we do for our students, and we want to keep them in the forefront of the work that we do with our teachers in the schools that we have the privilege of being in."

The two also told the board that starting this fall, math coaches will work with district leaders "to help facilitate unit-planning work in all elementary schools."

That means the math coaches will take "a deeper look into newly revised Kentucky academic standards for math," at all elementary schools in the district, Shaffer explained.

In the future, they hope to branch out to all schools.

Winkler also announced she will be retiring effective June 1.

Financial reports

Mark Woods, chief financial officer for the schools, brought forth several financial reports to the board, all of which the board approved. That included booster events, fundraisers, setting penal sum bonds, the bond of depository with bank accounts, indirect cross rates, site-based allocations and school activity fund budgets.

Before the board approved the penal sum bonds, which were set at $2 million for the CFO and director of financial services and $800,000 for anyone else "who has their hand in financials," Woods said, board member Lori Cobb asked if those numbers were total or for each person.

Woods said the amounts are per person.

He explained the numbers he suggested have been set at those amounts for the past five years to protect the district.

Board member Samantha Burford added that these actions are taken every year by the board, and that's why there weren't many questions being asked.

Woods also informed the school board that the school district is on budget for the year and has received 92.6% of its property taxes. He expects to be at 97% soon as another check came in before the board meeting that had not been calculated.

"I would not expect too much more to come in at this point," he said, but added, "We are trending very well with our budget numbers."

Other business

• The board approved the 2020-2021 Certified Evaluation Plan. Dustin Brumbaugh, HR director, reported there weren't many changes compared to the previous one, but that new standards are being used for education leaders, including district certified personnel such as principals and assistant principal.

• The board heard and approved the disposal of a shed on the old agriculture building on the Madison Central High School campus that Gilliam said was beyond repair.

• Tony Thomas informed the board that design and development for the Berea technology center, as well as the plans for the Richmond center, have been approved through design and development by the Kentucky Department of Education. He plans to present the final plans and specifications for the facilities on May 28.

• Gilliam discussed the upcoming school year and said there are two teams to help with preparations to re-open: a return-to-school advisory team and a return-to-school transition team. He said the state will give the schools in Kentucky guidelines about re-opening, but the calendar is still under the board's purview and was approved in December. At this time, no changes are being made to the calendar, but the teams are brainstorming ideas to give feedback about conditional accommodations and putting together plans for transportation, food service, masks, handwashing policies, restroom availability and how many students can be in the schools at any given time.

Reach Sara Kuhl at 624-6626; follow her on Twitter @saraekuhl.

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