HAZARD – The Perry County Board of Education on Thursday approved a six-month contract for Jonathan Jett, who will officially take the reigns as interim superintendent for Perry County Schools Nov. 1.
Though Jett’s contract will carry the district through a period of six months, the board will have the option to approve an additional two months if a permanent superintendent is not selected by then. The contract allows for the same health insurance and benefits that Jett currently receives as the district’s maintenance and transportation director, as well as the same vehicle he currently uses for district business.
The board will reimburse Jett for any expenses he may incur while acting as superintendent, such as trips for training or functions in Frankfort, and he will be provided with a district computer for home use.
“He’ll have to have something at his home in order to be able to be on call 24 hours a day as a superintendent would,” noted Michael Schmitt, the board’s attorney.
The contract also provides Jett with cell phone expenses, but during the board’s regular meeting this week, he noted that he would maintain his personal mobile phone and pay those expenses himself.
“I’ve had a personal cell phone for years,” Jett told the board. “I do a lot of personal business, a lot of work with my church in the last year, and I’ll continue to keep my cell phone and pay my bill as well. That’s not an issue.”
As a tenured administrator with Perry County Schools, Jett’s contract as interim superintendent allows him to return to his current position in maintenance and transportation if he is ultimately not selected as the full time superintendent. He told the Herald earlier this month that he will seek the superintendent’s position once the board begins that search.
In other business, the board approved preliminary plans on how to spend more than half a million dollars in coal severance money currently allocated for Perry County Schools in 2013-14.
District Finance Officer Jody Maggard appeared before the Perry County Fiscal Court last month during a discussion about coal severance, and noted that the money allocated for 2013 is being set aside to install turf on a planned football field beside the future East Perry Elementary.
At the time, Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble noted that the court had received several complaints that needs at several of the county schools were going unmet, and proposed that the court evaluate those needs first and spend coal severance money there before any was spent on the football field. The court eventually decided that each of the magistrates would travel to the district’s schools and determine needs of those facilities.
Maggard told the school board this week, however, that he received an email from the Department for Local Government in Frankfort advising that while coal severance money goes through the county government, in this instance the funds were approved as a line item for Perry County Schools and the board will make the determination as to how they is used within the district.
“While it is going to go through the fiscal court, we will decide how the money is spent,” Maggard said.
According to the draft plan approved by the board this week, the first $275,000 will be used for the football field. The second half of the money will be used to construct a fieldhouse for the baseball and softball teams at Buckhorn School, while also purchasing instructional software for the district. That software includes programs aimed at improving student attainment and credit recovery among others.
Maggard noted that the board’s draft plan will be forwarded to the Department for Local Government and the fiscal court, but cautioned that projections for coal severance are on the decline, as is the region’s coal production. Funding set for 2014 is currently uncertain as a result.
“I don’t want to give the impression that we can go out tomorrow and buy this,” he said. “This is for fiscal year 2014. It (the money) may be there, and it may not be there.”
In other business, the board heard a presentation from Dr. Van Breeding with Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation (MCHC) in Letcher County. Dr. Breeding said MCHC, which also operates clinics in the Leatherwood and Buckhorn communities of Perry County, currently operates in several Letcher County schools, and proposed that MCHC could open similar school-based clinics in Perry County.
The clinics, he noted, would consist of a room within the school, and include a provider such as a physician or nurse practitioner to deliver primary care to students, faculty or even parents who may need it. The only cost to the district would be the space provided.
Chairman John C. Combs suggested that the district begin with a few schools near MCHC’s Leatherwood Blackey Clinic as a pilot program to see how it would work, but the board held off on approving the initiative until an agreement could be drawn up and evaluated.
Dr. Breeding claimed that schools where clinics are operating in Letcher County have seen a noticeable improvement in attendance, and he thinks the organization would be able to deliver the same type of service here.
“We know the need’s there, and we’d like to show you we are able to do this,” he said, adding that as a service that receives federal funds, MCHC would also benefit by increasing the number of people they serve.
The board also approved several pay applications for work ongoing at the site for the future East Perry Elementary along Highway 80 in Hazard. One request for the athletics complex totaled $306,096, while a request for the main school construction totaled $920,841. Melinda Joseph-Dezarn with the architectural firm Ross Tarrant noted that the project is moving forward smoothly.
The board also approved a measure to begin video recording all meetings for archival purposes. Jett described the move as another layer of accountability for the public in that anyone will be able to request the recordings and see what actions the board has taken.