HAZARD — The Perry County Board of Education held its first meeting of the new school year last Thursday. Superintendent Jonathan Jett said he felt like things had gotten off to a great start.
“I’ve never seen a more positive attitude throughout our district than we have right now,” he said.
The board was provided an update on Farm to School, an initiative that seeks to buy food from local farmers and distribute it to cafeterias in all of the district’s schools. Farm to School interns Karyn Knecht and Rachel Ackerman informed the board that the program would be applying for a $100,000 grant that would allow them to buy a refrigerated truck to transport the food and to create a Food Hub.
Knecht said the Food Hub would be either at Perry Central High School or East Perry Elementary School and would function as a place for local farmers to drop off their produce.
Knecht and Ackerman went on to invite the board members to attend a special Farm to School community dinner on Thursday, October 2, at 6 p.m. in the Perry County Central High School cafeteria.
The school board also voted to set tax rates for this year for property owners in the county school district. The board adopted the compensating rate of 53.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value in the district. The compensating rate was deemed preferable this year to the 4 percent option, which is designed to generate 4 percent more revenue than the previous year.
“We know our current economic status,” District Finance Officer Jody Maggard said. “Our property assessment went down 66 million dollars this past year. That’s terrible for us, financially.”
Maggard said this was the largest decrease he’d ever seen. The compensating rate would allow the district to maintain its current revenue, he said.
The motor vehicle tax was not changed from the previous year’s rates.
In other business, the board approved a contract agreement with New Beginnings Learning Center, an early childhood and elementary education program through the Hazard Perry County Community Ministries. The agreement, however, is pending based on student enrollment and from a legality standpoint, Jody Maggard said.
“We’ve got several schools that we don’t have preschool at, and sometimes, it’s due to just really low numbers,” Superintendent Jett said. “If we’re going to partner with this agency, we want to make sure they have the numbers that’s going to justify teachers.”
Jett said they would be looking at those enrollment numbers over the next two weeks.
Also during the meeting, Jett introduced the board to Michelle Ritchie, the new principal of Perry County Central High School. Ritchie updated the board on the plans she had for Perry Central, stating that she wanted to create new attitudes, a better culture, and a better perception of the school.
Ritchie said she was excited about the school’s dual credit classes, which allow juniors and seniors to take college courses for only $25 a year. Ritchie said it was similar to a scholarship, and Jett described how this program would provide an opportunity for students who struggle financially at Perry Central and Buckhorn High School to earn hours towards an associate’s degree.
Jett did not explain at the meeting why the former principal at the high school had stepped down from his position.
The board was also briefed by Jett and Kristie Collett, the director of College and Career Readiness at Perry County Schools, on the implementation of a new program involving a leadership team of 15 teachers who are tasked with developing the common assessments for exit criteria.
The assessments, which Miller says will measure whether or not students are meeting the skills in the exit criteria, will be given twice a year. Questions about exit criteria can be directed toward school principals, she said.
Jett ended the meeting with an announcement about a district-wide pep rally. This would be a back-to-school celebration, he said, with all students wearing their T-shirts from the “Tee for Ticket” program. According to Jett, the pep rally, while currently still in the planning stages, will take place on September 12 at around 12:30 p.m. at the East Perry football field.
Mindy Miller can be reached at 606-436-5771 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.