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Staying focused

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By The Staff

Last week, Sr. Kay Carlew, the chairwoman of the Marion County Board of Education, read a statement about a recent open meetings violation committed by members of that board. We appreciate that the board has acknowledged the error in procedure, both through a letter from its attorney and in a public statement.  We are confident that although this may have been unintentional, the board members will be more aware of their actions in the future. (Carlew's complete statement appears below.) At the same time, the board members and Superintendent Donald Smith have encouraged the Enterprise to keep its focus on the kids. We find that suggestion laughable, to say the least. In the past 12 months, the Enterprise has written numerous stories and editorialized on a variety of education issues - the recallable nickel, the ongoing efforts to renovate and update the Marion County Area Technology Center, the AdvanceKentucky programs, CATS scores and analysis, profiles of students and educators, information about how budget cuts would affect staffing district-wide, state legislation that affects how schools are evaluated, changes in graduation requirements at Marion County High School, and how the economy affects students entering the workforce or going to college. We also covered the process by which the school district and ultimately the school board narrowed down the list of applicants to become superintendent. We wrote about Mr. Smith's background and interviewed people who have worked with him after he was hired. We wrote about his speech introducing himself to the community, his first day on the job, his goals for the district and the new central office staff members he has hired. And yes, in our opinion pages, we were and remain critical of the decision to allow the superintendent to use district-owned vehicles for personal use. And we also think the board made the wrong decision in changing the superintendent's contract in such a way that, for all practical purposes, grants him carte blanche to use the district's vehicles and fuel whenever he wants. We've also written about increased enrollment, overcrowding at local schools (an issue that ties back to the recallable nickel), concerns about text-messaging during school, the latest round of ACT test results for our local high school students and this week we have another story on the AdvanceKentucky program. (This story would have run earlier, but high school officials advised us that AdvanceKentucky representatives would be in the county in person for last week's school board meeting.) In addition to that news coverage, this newspaper also includes a page (and more when possible) of items submitted by and on behalf of our local schools every week. And we will continue to report on our schools because it is important for our entire community to know how our next generation of leaders are being prepared. But it's also important to remember that the school district is a government entity, just like the Marion County Fiscal Court or the Lebanon City Council. The money they spend comes almost entirely from taxes - local, state and federal taxes - and therefore the public has an interest in how the school board authorizes that money to be used. In fact, the school district collects more in local taxes than any other governing body in the county, so it could be argued that the public has a greater interest in how the school district's money is spent. We will continue to report on events in our schools and issues that affect them, but we also intend to continue covering the actions and decisions of the public officials who oversee those schools.