By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
A change in the monthly meeting day for the Williamsburg Independent Board of Education did not deter several people from attending and addressing board members Tuesday.
Once the meeting was called to order, the agenda listed setting the final agenda, student recognition and staff recognition — all of which took approximately 10 minutes.
Then it was time for public matters.
The agenda states, “Each person wishing to address the Board of Education may do so at this point. The person who speaks should stand, give his/her name, address, and the group he/she represents, and then address his/her comments directly to the Board of Education Chairperson.”
The first person to speak, Carrie Mattingly, was the only one who followed most of these directions.
Mattingly, the parent of a sixth-grader, stood and asked about an annual trip, known as the Challenger trip, and why it was cancelled.
It was learned during the meeting the trip is to the Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky at the Hazard Community & Technical College, and it’s been an annual event for 15 years.
“I’m upset about this trip being cancelled,” Mattingly said, adding that when she contacted Principal Gary Peters, he explained it was a resource issue, not a funding issue.
She felt parents of the students involved with the program should have been notified sooner that the trip was cancelled.
Superintendent Denny Byrd told her he “hoped” she read the paper and saw what federal and state funding cuts the school could anticipate. “We’re all in the same boat,” Byrd said, adding that schools across the state were facing similar cuts.
Peters agreed with Byrd, adding that school buses need to be back on campus by 2:30 p.m.
Peters explained the heavy spring sports schedule requires use of the buses, and added that the school system’s bus drivers also serve as maintenance personnel.
Peters added the teachers involved in that Challenger trip decided to not go this year. But Mattingly and another woman agreed their children had spent several weeks preparing for this annual trip.
“We all have to tighten our belts and realize these cuts are going on,” Byrd said. “(And) it’s not looking better (for) next year.”
And then several people took turns speaking their minds concerning bussing, scheduling and canceling trips. Very little was spoken by board members, who spent their time mostly listening to the various comments.
Board member Kim White did ask whether it was a bus shortage or a driver shortage. Peters explained it was a driver shortage, adding that teachers have been encouraged to obtain their CDL license to drive and operate school buses.
Mattingly still felt the cancellation was not right. White agreed. “(This) last-minute notice is unacceptable,” White said.
Byrd again added there was a “limit on funds.”
“(We’ll) try to do a better job communicating,” Byrd said.
Other trips were also discussed, including the annual senior trip to New York, which the students attending raise money to cover expenses.
More discussion about trips ensued, and several different people offered opinions, complaints and suggestions in relation to this subject.
Then a student, Dalton Sizemore, addressed the board concerning a technology ban in effect at the schools.
He explained that the technology ban hurts student achievement, and suggested the administration look at 3G blockers.
Sizemore was told the school had already been looking into that type of technology, and then he was asked to share what information he researched.
In 2000, Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires K-12 schools and libraries use internet filters and other measures to ensure children are protected when on the internet.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website, CIPA addresses concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. CIPA imposes certain requirements on schools or libraries that receive discounts for Internet access or internal connections through the E-rate program – a program that makes certain communications services and products more affordable for eligible schools and libraries. In early 2001, the FCC issued rules implementing CIPA and provided updates to those rules in 2011.
Peters said that the largest portion of the disciplinary problems faced at the school concern comments made on social networking websites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
As the meeting continued, more people began speaking.
Erica Harris, a member of the Williamsburg City Council, addressed the board concerning parent/teacher conferences. “It was poorly attended,” she said, and then asked how those meetings were advertised.
Several suggestions were offered on how to improve attendance at those meetings, including having teachers and administrators make more of an effort to be more personal about these conferences.
Then a representative from the WEA, Meg Judd, a math specialist with the school, stood to speak.
Her voice carried throughout the room, and she had several things to say.
She discussed the annual program review.
According to the state Department of Education website, a program review is a systematic method of analyzing components of an instructional program, including instructional practices, aligned and enacted curriculum, student work samples, formative and summative assessments, professional development and support services, and administrative support and monitoring.
Program reviews have been written for three areas — arts and humanities, writing, and practical living and career studies. They will serve a number of purposes, which include improving the quality teaching and learning for all students in all programs; allowing equal access to all students the skills that will assist them in being productive citizens; allowing student demonstration of understanding beyond a paper-and-pencil test; and, ensuring a school-wide natural integration of the program skills across all contents, beyond the program areas.
The review of a program should be an on-going, year-round, reflective process. Through review schools will be able to identify strengths, which can be shared with other programs within the building. A review also allows for the identification of weaknesses and areas of growth. It is to a school’s advantage to communicate the program review process and documents to all staff. As staff members identify their roles in supporting school programs, they can contribute to the process of evidence identification and program improvement.
Judd, however, felt there was not ample time to do this review, saying they only had 27 days before completion.
She then expressed her concern that Williamsburg Independent Schools were not listed on the state’s TELL Survey. According to the state’s DOE 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 our buildings, in our school districts and at the state level.
Judd said she asked a woman at the state level why Williamsburg Independent was not on the state list. She said she was told “there’s no record of us.”
“This is unacceptable to me — this is unacceptable to my grandson,” Judd said. “I’m sorry — that’s not good enough.
“We expected better.”
She also addressed an “uphill” battle which gets fought at the school. “We’re professionals,” Judd said, adding that as professionals, no one should “come around and bully” teachers.
“We’ve lost it at this school,” she said.
Cleanliness at the school was another topic Judd brought up. She said she approached Peters about the school’s nature trail being “nasty” with litter and such, and said she was told “I know, I’ll get to it” by Peters.
Judd paused, and that’s when Byrd spoke up. “You don’t get it,” he said. “(We) do the best we can do.”
“There’s a lot of things involved with this,” Byrd continued. “(We) only have so much time and money — you don’t need to attack me about it.”
It was also mentioned that teachers could lend a hand, but often don’t. Judd said she sweeps her classroom every day.
Byrd said that Tuesday’s meeting was “not (the) time to attack.”
Judd said she did go to Byrd’s office to address various cleaning issues. “No you haven’t, Meg,” Byrd said.
Judd then reminded Byrd of a previous conversation in his office, and Byrd said he would have “to start taping (in the) office when people get in.”
Peters agreed with Byrd about teacher involvement in cleaning the school. He said the faculty works as a team. “Some are (team members) and some aren’t,” Peters said.
The tense discussion continued, then another audience member spoke.
Stacy Moses, a Whitley County resident, sat up in her seat to be heard.
She explained that “she debated for three months” about sending her preschool child to Williamsburg Independent.
She described the “family atmosphere” that impressed her at the school.
“(But) we lost that, especially today,” Moses said. “What happened? And what can we do to fix it?”
She added that after the volatile meeting Tuesday, she was beginning to question her decision to send her child to the school. She said all she had heard during the meeting was complaints and excuses. “I want to be a part of this school,” Moses said. “But I’m more disappointed in the meeting tonight.”
Moses said she felt like Byrd was being attacked, and Byrd said “I do feel attacked a little.”
Both Peters and Byrd said they subscribe to the open-door policy for their offices.
It was suggested by Board Chair Dr. John Jeffries the faculty meet once a month to help address some of the various school issues.
The regular meetings of the board of education are scheduled for the third Tuesday of the month. The next board meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 at the school’s auditorium.