, Corbin, KY

April 24, 2013

Facilities projects discussed for Knox schools, Corbin, KY

CORBIN — By John L. Ross / Staff Writer

Several items were approved during the Knox County Board of Education meeting Tuesday concerning facilities projects at Dewitt, G.R. Hampton and Jesse D. Lay elementary schools.

Dewitt Elementary is in the process of getting a new wastewater treatment plant. G.R. Hampton is undergoing renovation work, and all three schools require asbestos removal.

It was learned during the meeting all three projects are estimated to be approximately $800,000 — $86,000 below what was budgeted.

Board member Charles Merida motioned to approve the design development of Dewitt’s wastewater treatment plant, and it was seconded by Board Vice-Chair Sam Watts. The board was unanimous in this decision.

Also on the agenda was approval of the final plans for the G.R. Hampton project and the Dewitt treatment plant. It was learned the Hampton project is at the state Department of Education for review, and that the hope is to get this project bid in May. Board Chair Carla Jordan motioned to approve the final plans, with a second from Watts. The board was unanimous with this decision.

Bids were also unanimously approved for the asbestos abatement project at the three elementary schools, but it was unclear at press time which company was approved the bid. Jordan made the motion for approval, with a second from Board member Merrill Smith.

In other board business:

— A new face was seen Tuesday at the Knox County Board of Education regular monthly meeting.

Those in attendance were introduced to Ashlee D. Smith — the new board attorney.

Former board attorney Charley Greene Dixon stepped down from the position earlier in the year. Superintendent Walter Hulett was asked in February if plans were in the works to replace Dixon.

He explained the board already had two attorneys, Johnny Turner and Larry Bryson. He said an attorney would not need to be present at all meetings, but when an attorney is required, Bryson would step in.

“We really don’t need more than two,” he said in February. It was unclear when Smith was hired.

— While it wasn’t listed on the evening’s agenda, Knox County Board of Education Chair Carla Jordan stood to present outgoing Superintendent of Schools Walter Hulett a plaque Tuesday during the regular monthly meeting.

During a special-called meeting of the Board of Education in March, Hulett made the surprise retirement announcement. It will be official May 1. He explained then that “he was at the end of what he could really do here.”

On Tuesday, Jordan explained that when she and fellow board member, now Vice-Chair Sam Watts, joined the board in 2007, Hulett had only been at the helm for six months.

“We’ve fought obstacles and climbed many mountains,” Jordan said, adding they faced “opposition” and “often had difficult times.”

She explained that before she was elected to the board, she had never attended a board meeting, and had never been sued. During her first four-year term, she and other board members faced eight lawsuits, she said.

“I trust those two men,” Jordan said, referring to Watts and Hulett. “We’ve gone through the fire together.”

Hulett thanked the board, with a special mention of Watts and Jordan. He added he “was richly blessed with a host of friends and colleagues” after his seven years in the position.

Tuesday was Hulett’s last regular board of education meeting. No word was given whether plans were in the works to hire a new superintendent for Knox County Schools.

— The bid was awarded for auditing services for the current school year. Board member Dexter Smith motioned to approve awarding the bid to Cloyd & Associates of Corbin, with a second from Board member Merrill Smith. The board was unanimous in this decision.

— A discussion or approval of the Knox County 2013-2014 Cooperative Membership Agreement was tabled Tuesday. Hulett said this membership does provide the board some benefits throughout the school year. Merrill Smith motioned to table the item, explaining he wanted some more information about the benefits of the agreement. A second to the motion came from Dexter Smith. The decision to table this issue was unanimous.

— Bank services for Knox County Schools were awarded to Forcht Bank. During the meeting, Finance Officer Gertrude Smith said they did solicit bids at the board’s request, and received two bids — one from Forcht Bank, the other from Commercial Bank.

She explained the school already uses Forcht Bank as its current financial institution, and “we’d like to continue if possible.” Watts motioned to approve Forcht Bank’s bid, with a second from Jordan. The board was unanimous in this decision.

— Staffing issues were discussed during the meeting Tuesday. Hulett explained there were vacancies with bussing and mowing positions.

Watts motioned to temporarily lift a set hiring freeze to fill the positions of mower and bus driver. Jordan seconded the motioned. Voting board members approved the temporary lift unanimously, with Board member Merrill Smith abstaining.

— Also briefly touched on during the meeting was the approval of the salary schedules for fiscal year 2014. Jordan, noting she didn’t want to vote on the measure, motioned to approve the salary schedule, with a second from Watts. The schedules are the same as the salary schedules dated July 1, 2012.

— Board members unanimously voted to change the current school calendar — now the last day of school for students is Thursday, May 23 — before the Memorial Day weekend holiday.

— Board members discussed the Knox Central Day Care facility. It was learned the facility regularly operates in a deficit of $15,000 to $16,000.

However, having the day care in place gets students in school who otherwise wouldn’t attend classes. Approximately a half dozen students in the school system use the facility, and others utilize the service as well. The facility expects to increase the student usage in the new year.

Dexter Smith motioned to keep the doors open, with a second from Board member Charles Merida.

The board was unanimous in its decision.

— On the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, the board had listed an executive session “for the purpose of conducting discussion related to pending litigation pursuant to KRS 61.810 (1) ( c ) (f).” When that item came up on the agenda, some discussion from Hulett began concerning “not having anything” for that session. Then Board member Dexter Smith mentioned an item to Jordan, who then announced they were going into executive session to “discuss a personnel matter.” The 15-minute session ended, and Hulett announced that “no final action was taken.”