The Dawson Springs Independent Schools Board of Education had a full table at its meeting Monday night. All five school board members, including newly sworn-in Kent Dillingham, were in attendance. And with January being School Board Recognition Month, cards and notes of thanks were spread out and stacked up on the table in front of the board.
In January, the school board often gets a glimpse at the calendar for the next school year. The calendar is usually approved the following month. The calendars for this year and next year were up for discussion at Monday night's meeting.
School was canceled on Thursday, Jan. 24, and Friday, Jan. 25, for concerns about black ice on the roads and because widespread flu caused low attendance in the district. To make up those days, Dawson Springs schools will be in session on Feb. 15 and March 15. Those days had been slated as potential make-up days. The board approved the decision. Board members are Dillingham, Chair Vicki Allen, Vice Chair Tracy Overby, Lindsey Morgan and Wes Ausenbaugh. The board will have to discuss yet another make-up day as school was canceled on Wednesday for winter weather conditions. Snow fell overnight Tuesday and below-zero temperatures Wednesday morning led officials to call off
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school around 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Also, the board had the first reading of the 2019-20 school calendar. Staff development days will be Aug. 8, 9 and 12. Opening day is scheduled as Aug. 13. The next day, Aug. 14, will be the first day for students. In September, students will be out on Sept. 2 for Labor Day. Oct. 7-11 is fall break. Nov. 27-29 is Thanksgiving break. Christmas break will be from Dec. 20-Jan. 3. There will be no school on Jan. 20 in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. No school on Feb. 17 and March 20. Spring break will be April 6-10. The last day of school and graduation is scheduled for May 22. Closing day for teachers is May 26. Dec. 20, Feb. 17 and March 20 are designated as potential make-up days. Any additional make-up days after that will be added to the end of the school year.
The board will meet again in regular session at 6 p.m. Feb. 18.
In other business, the board:
• acknowledged the swearing-in of its board members. Allen, Overby and Ausenbaugh were sworn in late December at a community-wide ceremony. Their four-year terms expire Dec. 31, 2022. Dillingham was sworn in on Wednesday, Jan. 9. He replaced Steve Morse, who resigned in September after accepting a job in Louisville. Dillingham will file for office and run in November to fill Morse's remaining term, which is through Dec. 31, 2020, according to Superintendent Lenny Whalen. The board also expressed thanks to the city for recognizing the school board during the month of January for School Board Recognition Month.
• recognized two staff members for their work. Heath Burden was honored for his daily efforts as head custodian in the district and for also making sure those who were in Panther Gym during a tornado warning on Dec. 31 were safe. Tamara Rice was honored for her work getting credentials for dual credit and giving an extra effort in helping students with math.
• heard from Dwight Salsbury with Ross, Sinclaire and Associates. Salsburg spoke to the board about the district's bonding potential and funding for construction projects. The district is working on its facilities plan with the local planning committee. Whalen said the district's needs come up to about $15 million, but only about $2 million is available to the district. Some needs include the renovation of the first and second floors of the elementary school and HVAC, doors, hardware and safety replacements in the high school.
• received an update from the principals, Jennifer Ward with the elementary school and Todd Marshall with the jr./sr. high school.
Ward said the school is already seeing significant growth in reading and math through the iReady program as the percentage of at-risk students has decreased in those subject areas. The CERT testing data also shows growth, but Ward said there is still much room for more improvement. "Math is still a concern," she said. Ward discussed how "walk-abouts" -- in which Ward visits the classrooms -- are focused on the students and their engagement instead of performance of the teachers. She added that they are working on testing and issuing writing prompts that are similar to the format of the KPREP test. Ward said this may better prepare the students to test in that environment. She thanked the board for its service and also for flowers sent following the death of Ward's father. The school board's kindness makes Ward "proud to be a Panther," she said.
Marshall also provided evidence of growth. CERT data shows growth in each subject area and there are no students listed as "in need" in seventh or eighth grade in English. He also discussed advanced placement testing. Nearly 50 students took AP exams and 9 students passed. Marshall wants to work on that number and mentioned that many students are also enrolled in dual credit classes.
• listened as Director of Pupil Personnel Kent Workman gave the enrollment and attendance report. The data he spoke about spans from Aug. 15 through Jan. 17 and does not include attendance reports from the flu issues. On average for the first 5 months of school, the district sits at 95.76 percent, which is barely up from last year. Enrollment has fallen just below 600 with the loss of 8 students since last month.
• was given a rundown of the technology report for the second quarter by Karen Wallace, the district technology coordinator. The district has 657 instructional devices, 31 projectors and more than 100 printers. "A lot of things we take care of," she said. The ratio of student to device is 1:1.07 and she is working on improving that. The goal is to have a Chromebook cart in each classroom, and the high school is sorely lacking, she said. The district also needs more cameras and a new phone system.
• heard Whalen's views on what he is seeing in the schools. He said it is "impressive" what is going on in the elementary school, especially when it comes to reading. He has noticed that students have vigor for learning and although there is much left to be done, he sees good things happening. Whalen expressed interest in using "internal resident experts" and giving them resources to move the schools forward at every grade level. He used the high school's excellent writing on demand scores as an example. The students performed well because they had the background given to them from each grade below, he said. Using that approach might be a huge benefit for the district, he added.
• got a recap of the treasurer's report from the Finance Director Amanda Workman. The balance at the close of December was about $1.9 million. Also, the general fund is up nearly $35,000 from this time last year and the rest of the fiscal year looks good, she said. "We're on track." The board approved the report.
• approved board meeting dates for 2019 and the first one of 2020. The board typically meets at 6 p.m. on the third Monday of the month, with a couple of exceptions. The meeting dates are Feb. 18, March 18, April 15, May 20, June 20, July 15, Aug. 19, Sept. 16, Oct. 21, Nov. 18, Dec. 16 and then Jan. 27, 2020.
• approved the 2019-20 draft budget. Workman said the draft budget is just a rollover from last year and will be changed. As of right now, the budget is about $5.3 million with 12 percent contingency. The staff allocations, SEEK funds and the SBDM money hasn't been set yet. A tentative budget will be coming in May.
• approved the 2019-20 staffing policies as carried over with changing verbage.
• approved to entertain sealed bids based on weekly quotes for campus law mowing, trimming and landscape maintenance to start March 2019 and include the 2019-20 school year.
• approved to accept KETS 2019 second offer of assistance to escrow $4,022 up to three years.
• acknowledged personnel actions. Beth Dillingham was hired as a substitute teacher and Heath Burden was hired as softball coach.
• acknowledged Ausenbaugh to continue working with the Dawson Springs Education Foundation.