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School board hears improvement plans

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By Stephen Lega

Marion County Public Schools has a goal for 74.4 percent of high school
students, 73.2 percent of middle school students and 74.6 percent of elementary students to achieve proficiency in reading and math by 2017.
That is one of the goals of the district improvement plan presented at the Dec. 12 Marion County Board of Education meeting.
Instructional Supervisor Tammy Newcome explained that the state gives the district and each school goals in six different areas. These include proficiency, proficiency gap goals, college and career readiness, graduation rate, principal professional growth and effectiveness, and teacher professional growth and effectiveness.
While the board heard the proposed plan last week, a special-called meeting was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon (after press time) for the board to consider approval of the plan.
Last week, board member Bernard Miles made it clear he wanted another goal included.
“I don’t see anything anywhere about zero percent novice,” he said.
Miles said that was something the board discussed during its retreat, and he wanted that to be included in the improvement plans.
Newcome said that could be added.
Miles continued to say that fewer novice students would also show up as improvements in the students’ overall proficiency scores.
“No one in this room would disagree,” Newcome said.

School board will look closer at activity funds
During the previous two academic years, only two of 117 special activities funds transfers of $500 or more at Marion County High School included the required signatures from the sponsors of those funds.
“That’s quite serious to me,” said Rev. DeLane Pinkston of the Marion County Board of Education after receiving the audit at a Dec. 10 board meeting.
That was just part of the special audit of activities funds throughout the district by White and Company, however.
The school board asked the firm to conduct the special audit earlier this year. White and Company were instructed to examine receipts and cash disbursements of $500 or more at Marion County High School and of $1,000 or more at all other schools in the district.
Roughly one in seven transactions did not follow “agreed-upon procedures,” according to the report. This included instances in which proper signatures could not be found, documentation could not be located, forms were not completed properly, and two instances where receipts and deposits differed ($126 in one case, $2 in another).
“In a nutshell, that’s the procedures that need to be improved on,” said Joe Montgomery of White and Company.
Montgomery added the auditors were serving more as educators than as police in the special audit.
District-wide, White and Company reviewed 1,573 transactions (which included receipts, disbursements and transfers) and found 223 instances in which “agreed-upon procedures” were not followed.
In all, 1,197 of the transactions reviewed and 154 of the instances in which the procedures were not followed involved Marion County High School.
Lisa Caldwell, the finance officer for Marion County Public Schools, said she had visited all but two of the schools in the district as of last week. She was meeting with the principals and the bookkeepers at each school to review what changes should be made.
She added that by January all bookkeepers and principals will have completed training the new requirements.
Superintendent Taylora Schlosser added that new state requirements regarding the activities funds were put in place in July, which was after the academic year’s included in the review.
After hearing the report, school board Chairman Michael Mullins said he wanted to look closer into the findings. He proposed forming a committee to take a more in-depth look into the findings of the audit.
The board unanimously approved Mullins recommendation. The committee will include Mullins, board member Butch Cecil, Schlosser, and a member of the public at-large.
“We’ll look into every single one of these,” Mullins said.
He added that his purpose in setting up the committee is not to conduct a witch hunt or to punish people.
“It’s to satisfy my curiosity about how the activity fund is handled,” Mullins said.
 
In other business:
- The Marion County School District Finance Corporation approved a resolution to approve refunding of Build America Bonds (issued in 2009) in an amount up to $6.4 million and to publish notice of bond sale in the Enterprise and The Courier-Journal.
This does not mean the bonds are being refunded yet, however. The board made the motion to allow the bonds to be refunded if market conditions change without a need for a special-called meeting.
- The school board recognized Lebanon Middle School teacher Jennifer Russell for receiving her National Board Teacher Certification.
The board also recognized the Leadership Now class within the district. This includes Haley Parman Evans, Laurie Followell, Sherbie King and Coury Osbourne of Marion County High School; Amy Mattingly of St. Charles Middle School; Matthew Thomas of Lebanon Middle School; Tammy Parman of Calvary Elementary School; Tammy May and Paula Walston of Lebanon Elementary School; and Greg Taylor of Glasscock Elementary School.
Superintendent Taylor Schlosser explained that each Leadership Now participant will be assigned to a principal who they will shadow for half a day.
“We’re excited about this opportunity because we believe it’s important to grow leaders in our district,” she said.
- Schlosser said the district has advertised for an industrial maintenance instructor at the Marion County Area Technology Center. She said that class should begin after the Christmas break.
Board member Bernard Miles said that is an important position since many industries want someone who can do industrial maintenance work in their factories.
“That’s crucial to have that position if you’re going to develop maintenance men of that caliber,” he said.
- The board approved an amended 2014-15 calendar, showing May 15, 2015 as the last day for students during that academic year.
- The board approved stipends of $1,621 for a bass fishing coach and $1,351 for an assistant tennis coach.
- The board approved a memorandum of understanding with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service to develop education opportunities to support the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program.
- The board also approved the 2013 school nutrition and activity report. The report showed that an average of 1,133 students per day participate in the school breakfast program. For lunch, 1,663 students are approved for free meals, 365 students are approved for reduced price meals, and 1,023 students are approved for paid meals.