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Board reviews advances in nutrition, safety, wellness; OKs bus purchase

Members of the Nelson County Board of Education prepare for Thursday afternoon’s school board meeting. Board member Jeff Dickerson joined the meeting by video conference from his workplace.

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018 — The December meeting of the Nelson County Board of Education began with recognition for a student who is completing her studies at the Academy at Horizons.

Victoria Watson was recognized by Scott Rouse, the Academy at Horizons principal, for her dedication to her education as an Academy student.

“She has taken her classes head-on and has done a remarkable job,” Rouse told the board. “She’s a leader and one of the judges in the Christmas parade. I’m proud and excited to recognize her for all of her accomplishments.”

Watson told the board that she benefitted from the one-on-one instruction she received at the Academy. Fewer distractions at the school allowed her to better focus on her studies. She told the board she will begin classes at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College in January and wants to pursue a degree in special education.

BOARD MEETING CALENDAR. The board spent time discussing at length its own meeting schedule for the 2019 calendar year, and in particular, the number of working sessions the board should schedule.

Working sessions are called before the normal “decision” school board meetings,, and as the name implies, the sessions offer the board more time to discuss board business in greater detail prior to being asked to make a final decision.

Central Office staff normally attend working sessions so they are available to discuss with the board the details of programs, changes in programs or new initiatives the board will be asked to approve. Central Office staff also share their expertise and knowledge with the board about issues the board discusses.

The board work sessions tend to be informal and offer board members a chance to better understand what they will be asked to consider at an upcoming meeting.

Superintendent Wes Bradley noted that there five work session schedule options presented for the board to consider; Option A was to schedule 11 meetings, with the other options setting fewer meetings down to the final option of no work sessions at all.

Board Chair Damon Jackey spoke in favor of scheduling working sessions most months as had been done in years past. Last year’s meeting schedule reduced the number of work sessions down to seven.

Additional meetings can be called when needed Jackey noted, however, those meetings are by law considered “special meetings.” Special-called meetings by law are restricted to discussions only about items on the meeting agenda. Unlike regular meetings or work sessions, nothing can be added to a special meeting agenda within 24 hours of the meeting without trigger the requirement to send out public notice at least 24 hours prior to the meeting time. It doesn’t matter what important issue may arise prior to a special meeting, if the issue is not on the meeting agenda, the board is unable to discuss it during a special meeting.

Board member Rebecca McGuire-Dye said she felt work sessions were too often a waste of time when the meetings are mostly previews of the issues and topics the board will discuss or vote on at its next regular “decision making” board meeting. She said work sessions were often a waste of time also for the Central Office staff members who have to prepare for the meetings.

Board member Diane Berry said she supported conducting working sessions so the board can stay informed on what’s going on in the district. The board’s newest member, Jeff Dickerson, said he also supported scheduling more working sessions so he can become a better board member. He also noted that the district is in a major transition period under the leadership of the new superintendent, and he felt the board needed to remain engaged as the district moves forward.

The board agreed in the end to schedule 11 working sessions for calendar 2019 with the knowledge that if any particular work session appeared to be unnecessary, the board would take action to cancel it.

McGuire-Dye cast the sole vote against the plan in the board’s 4-1 vote.

QUARTERLY IGNITE REPORT. Robin McCoy, the district’s director of community health & engagement, reviewed the work she has been doing in the areas of health and engagement within the district, which she described as basically caretaking systems to address student’s needs and inspire staff and students to care for themselves and each other.

Those caretaking systems include school nutrition, school safety, physical health and wellness, social and emotional health, early learning and literacy and non-traditional learning.

SCHOOL SAFETY. The district is working to develop a district school safety strategic plan that is due for presentation to the school board by June 2019. Developing the plan will include input from a variety of partners in the district and in the community.

WELLNESS. McCoy told the board that in the past three months, the nine school nurses are seeing an average of 15 students a day. The nurse practitioners provided through the district’s agreement with Cumberland Family Medical have seen 547 sick kids in the last 90 days. The result is fewer students absent from classes.

NUTRITION. Jessica Hogue, the district’s food services director, told the board that their plans for the future include creating “community-centered cafes” at the schools that will use more fresh vegetables and fresh ingredients in school recipes.

The district will seek a Farm-to-School grant next school year, and Hogue said she is researching possibly creating student operated school gardens from which school kitchens could gather fresh produce for use in meals.

In the near term, Hogue said the school district will unveil soon online menus that will offer complete nutritional information on school lunches, including ingredients. Parents will know what school dishes contain possible allergens, and can make plans for their child to substitute a menu item for another.

FISCAL YEAR 2018 AUDIT. Jason Strange, with Stiles, Carter and Associates, reviewed the district’s 2018 financial audit with the board. Strange said the completed audit gives the district “a clean, unqualified opinion,” which means that the audit revealed that the district’s financial records it reviewed were free of errors and misrepresentations.

BUSES PURCHASED. The board approved the purchase of six new International 72-passenger buses at $90,319 per bus for a total of $541,914. The purchase will allow the district to surplus the district’s oldest buses it owns.

Due to a lack of funds, the district did not purchase any buses last school year. The purchase this year doesn’t bring the district back to its original bus replacement schedule, but will allow the district to retire its oldest buses.

In other business, the board of education:

— approved reciprocal contracts with 15 school districts in Central Kentucky. The list did not include the Bardstown Independent School District because the county school district inked an agreement that limits and reduces each year the number of county school district students who can attend the city school district.

— approved snow make-up day for two days recently missed on Nov. 15 and Dec. 5, 2018. The make-up days are Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, and Monday, Feb. 18, 2019.

— approved a request to apply for a WHAS grant that will help purchase accessible playground equipment for the Foster Heights Elementary School playground.

— declared a Dodge pickup truck surplus property and approved its sale to the only bidder for $500. The bid was submitted by the individual who drove the truck for the district before he retired.

— approved an addendum to its existing contract with Communicare to expand the services it provides to district students. The additional services will be provided at no cost to the district.

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