Board Chairman John C. Combs made note of some “negative feedback” he has received from members of the community in regard to student textbooks. According to Combs, he has heard from parents that students are getting behind on homework because they are forced to share textbooks due to a shortage at some schools.
“I can’t go to a school without getting jumped on” about textbooks, remarked board member Debbie McIntosh, who was joined by board member Jerry Stacy who also noted a growing frustration in his district as well.
According to federal programs Coordinator Cindy Gabbard, state allocations for textbooks have declined in recent years and the purchasing cycle for school textbooks has been delayed as well. She said at present she isn’t sure when the district should receive an adequate allocation of funds for textbooks from the state.
District Finance Officer Jody Maggard noted that the state has allocated no funds for textbooks this year, and last year the district received an allocation of just $3,905 from the state.
“You know, $3,905, that would buy 39 textbooks for 4,100 students,” Maggard noted.
Maggard said the state has always fully funded textbook purchases for school districts, and KDE informed the district that they would originally be receiving about $140,000 by May of this year. But officials were later informed in March that the funding for those books had been dramatically slashed to just under $4,000.
“The only reason that our schools have not received that money is simply because of the state funding,” said Maggard.
The board hasn’t bought textbooks at the district level for some time, explained Superintendent John Paul Amis, but schools, and more specifically site based councils, receive funding allocations for textbooks. He noted that some schools have recently received additional funds based on enrollment that they could be spending on textbooks. He said central office administration can’t force the councils to purchase books even though the councils may receive funding.
“We can’t tell these principal and site based councils, ‘You have to spend that money on textbooks.’ That’s a council decision,” said Amis.
But Amis noted that some schools have sat on money as well.
“How can we force their hand on that?” asked Stacy.
“We can’t,” replied Amis. “It’s a site based decision.”
Amis hypothetically noted that the board could allocate $25,000 to each school in textbooks, but the ultimate decision to purchase the books would be left up to the individual councils.
“We need to make sure these parents understand who’s making the decisions,” Stacy remarked.
Currently, added Maggard, the district’s schools have over $80,000 to spend on textbooks that they have not yet spent.
“That’s even money for textbooks and they’re not spending it,” remarked Amis.
Maggard said a large part of the problem may lie with the fact that some indicators of what’s a “valuable resource” in the classroom may differ between parents, councils and teachers. He noted that some teachers may have the resources in the classroom they need to effectively teach a curriculum without a textbook.
Jonathan Jett, Chief Academic Officer, said he believes some schools may also be holding off on purchasing new textbooks until new curriculum standards are adopted at the state level.
“They want to make sure that when they commit this money, that whatever textbook they purchase is aligned with those new content standards with reading and math,” Jett said.
Amis added that those new standards are completely different than what is currently being taught, and indeed, the old textbooks may not line up with the new standards.
Board member Jerry Stacy said every student should have access to their own textbook, and students should not be getting behind because of a lack of books.
Ultimately, the board took no action, but Chairman Combs said he would like for Amis to tell principals at the next district principal meeting of the board’s concerns regarding textbooks.
In other business, the board also agreed to look into the issue of elementary school transfers within the Perry school district after board member James Ritchie made a motion to allow Perry County students to transfer to other elementary school districts within the county system, but disallow them from participating in athletics if they do.
The district already implemented a 10-day rule in which some students who transfer after 10 days following the beginning of the school year are barred from participating in athletics, but Ritchie said the issue needs to be reevaluated.
“I know we’ve got this 10-day rule in effect, but I think we need to go a little farther,” Ritchie said.
Superintendent Amis noted that there could be some possible obstacles if the board were to go ahead and approve Ritchie’s motion as it was made, such as grandfathering students who already attend school outside of their district or students whose parents teach at a school outside of their own district.
Board members said there have been some instances where elementary school student athletes may move from one school to another in Perry County to play sports, and it has created some disparity in competitiveness between county teams.
“It tips the balance of where your trying to keep you’re other team competitive, and all of the sudden you’ve got a team beating somebody 98 to 14 because most of your players are over there,” said Chairman John C. Combs.
Noting that the policy wouldn’t be implement until the next school year, Amis suggested that before the board approves a motion to the effect of disallowing some transfer students to play sports, the board could look into the matter and address any potential questions or issues that could arise.
“Do we want to put some thought into how we’re going regulate this before we actually approve it, especially since it’s not going into effect until the next school year?” he asked.
The board agreed to form a committee to look into the issue of elementary student transferring due to athletic reasons, and could take up the issue during the November board meeting
The board also heard from District Finance Officer Jody Maggard, who informed the board that the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has made an allocation for every public school district for what is essentially federal stimulus funds for education. Maggard explained that the money was approved by the federal government and passes through KDE. School districts can use this money to retain teachers and other faculty, and Perry County should be receiving just over $1 million.
The districts’ teachers will stand to benefit from these additional funds, explained Superintendent John Paul Amis, who noted that the money is very restricted in its use.
“For this 2011-2012 school year, if we’ve got some positions that we may have to eliminate due to our local budget issues, we can take this money and keep those people on board another year,” said Amis.
Amis noted that district officials had serious concerns about the next school year’s budget, but with these additional funds those concerns have been delayed.
“This will help us out with some personnel and being able to retain some people we may not have been able to retain,” he said.
Both Amis and Maggard said they now do not foresee any personnel issues with the next school year.
“Come July of next year, we shouldn’t have the personnel decisions to make like we have in the past,” Maggard said.
The board approved an amendment to the district’s working budget to reflect the additional $1 million to come from these federal funds.