By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
They met. They voted. They applied. And now they wait.
During its regular meeting Tuesday, Williamsburg Independent Board of Education unanimously agreed in a show-of-hands vote to raise the high school dropout age to 18 beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.
With that approval, the board was then eligible to apply for a $10,000 grant from the Kentucky Board of Education — and immediately after Tuesday’s meeting, school officials headed for the office to send in the application.
On April 10, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday offered the grant to the first 57 school districts which raised their dropout age to 18. He made the announcement during a state Board of Education meeting in Frankfort, after board members unanimously adopted a resolution urging the state’s 174 public school districts to raise the dropout age as soon as possible.
The state Senate bill, allowing the dropout age to be raised, was passed March 11 and went into effect Tuesday. Districts were not permitted to apply for the grant until today.
Kentucky Department of Education spokesperson Nancy Rodriguez said they advised districts not to change their policies before Tuesday because it could have opened districts to legal challenges as the law was not yet in effect.
“For those districts that went ahead and changed their policies before June 25, KDE has advised them to ratify the new policies on or after June 25 to avoid possible challenges,” Rodriguez said.
Districts will not begin receiving notice of grant approval until after July 1.
In other board of education business:
— Michele Myers came before the board on behalf of parents to learn what the school board plans to do with no school nurse returning in the fall. “I’m thankful we’ve had (a nurse) as long as we have,” Myers said. “But I wonder what preparations are being made because of having no nurse.”
Superintendent Denny Byrd said they have already met with a doctor and a medical facility director as well as spoken with the Whitley County Health Department. “We are working close to come up with a solution,” Byrd said. “I’m trying to get all our ducks in a row for a nurse or a medical person (to be on hand).”
Myers asked whether a solution would be found by the time school began in the fall. “Oh, yes,” Byrd said. “We’ll try to have something ready by the time school starts.”
No board action was required.
— Board members discussed the recent results of the state’s TELL survey.
According to the state’s Department of Education website, the Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning Working Conditions Survey, known as TELL Kentucky, captures the perceptions of all school-based certified educators about teaching and learning working conditions through an anonymous process.
By documenting and analyzing how educators view critical teaching and learning conditions, this initiative focuses on providing each Kentucky school with its own data that can become a part of the ongoing improvement planning processes in the buildings, in the school districts and at the state level.
“We did not have a good response compared to other districts,” Byrd said, adding that he and teacher Bill Conn have discussed getting a survey prepared “in-house.”
He explained that if the school performs its own survey, it would come closer to helping meet the needs “that we have in our own district.”
And while the state’s TELL survey only received a 69.8 percent response rate for the school system’s teachers, Byrd said this survey will be required by the WIS staff.
Board member Kim Williams asked Byrd if using an in-house survey versus the TELL survey would cause a compliance issue, noting the TELL survey was to be used to guide the school toward improvements.
However, Byrd said the schools would be compliant with the state.
Conn explained that a committee would be established in September, and that the survey could be ready to complete as early as October.
— The board agreed to set a closed session meeting for July 10 for the superintendent’s annual evaluation.
The next regular meeting of the Board of Education is slated for July 16.