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The Taylor County School Board voted unanimously to raise the dropout age from 16 to 18 at its regular meeting last Tuesday.
"To be honest with you," Superintendent Roger Cook said, "It's a no-brainer and not an issue for us because we never have dropouts anyway. I won't let them drop out."
Cook said he disagrees with superintendents who call raising the dropout age an unfunded mandate.
An unfunded mandate is a statute or regulation that requires local governments or organizations to perform certain actions, yet provides no money for fulfilling the requirements.
Because the Virtual Charter School is also used by students taking college courses, Cook said, they would have the academy regardless of whether it was used for students who wanted to drop out of school.
"Where districts think it's a non-funded mandate is when they keep large numbers of students and they have to put them in an in-school suspension room or a special place. I don't have those," Cook said. "We don't stigmatize kids. We don't put them in a misbehaving room, we don't allow them to misbehave and we don't allow them to drop out."
Cook said he believes allowing students to drop out of school would cost the district money in the short-term from loss of attendance funds.
"Not only immediately in [average daily attendance] funds, but in the economy, in the future jobs and amount of money they can earn as an adult with a high school diploma," Cook said. "We'll find a niche for them, we'll find them something to do, but we won't let them drop out.
Cook said several people have reminded him that even if it was against the district's policy to drop out, state law allows students to drop out at age 16.
But with Gov. Steve Beshear, State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, and State Rep. Bam Carney, R-Campbellsville, all supporting legislation to raise the dropout age to 18, Cook said he wants to set the stage.
"Well they're working on that right now, but yes, I guess if someone wanted to push it push it push it, they could probably do it anyway," Cook said. "But I want to set the attitude that we're not going to have dropouts and we're not allowing dropouts. W'll find something for them."
Also at the Meeting:
• Kevin Talentino, director of Business Development at Education for InFocus, was presented a plaque for donating more $1 million in technology and equipment to be used in the district's three schools.
Among the items donated was a wireless student response system, a sensory cart to be used for therapy in students with autism, interactive white boards and educational software. A video of students benefiting from use of the sensory cart was shown. Exceptional education teachers said they have already noticed a difference in the students' behavior and communication skills.
• Taylor County Elementary School Principal Donna Williams said the hiring of Taylor County Sheriff's Deputy Bobby Gribbins as resource officer has helped make everyone at the school feel safer and she has received many positive comments from parents.
• Taylor County High School Principal Charles Higdon Jr. recognized the Lady Cardinals bowling team for winning the state championship in Louisville earlier this month. They are the first athletic team in TCHS history to win a state championship.
• The board gave approval to start a Taylor County Middle School wrestling team beginning during the 2013-2014 school year. About $3,000 has already been raised toward the purchase of wrestling mats. There will be $4,000 in startup costs, which will be used to purchase uniforms and map maintenance supplies. It was decided that the head coach will receive a $2,000 stipend and the assistant coach will be paid $1,000.
• The board voted to accept Kentucky Education Technology System's offer of $26,421 and district match for assistance for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
• The board approved the 2013-2014 school calendar.
• Principal Tony Jewell reported that Taylor County Middle School has received a Play 60 grant that will fund a "second-chance" breakfast cart and entry fees to a 5K run.
• Williams announced TCES will host a family literacy night on Thursday, March 7, at 5:30 p.m. There will be training for parents and books will be given away.
• The TCHS Winter Color Guard was granted permission to travel out of state on March 30 to compete in the Tri-State Circuit Championships in St. Leon, Ind.
• The TCHS senior class was given approval to travel to King's Island for their senior trip.
• TCMS student Shawn Park played a piano piece for the board. Cook said he believes Park will play at Carnegie Hall one day.
• New Hires - Melvin Mills, custodian; Katie Milby, attendance secretary; Michael Woodrum and Allen Bottoms, substitute bus drivers; Randy Durham, TCHS head custodian; Megan Peake and Mark Speer, TCHS assistant softball coaches.
• Transfers - Tanya Benningfield, registrar and David Agee, TCHS technology/electronic technician.
• Medical Leave of Absence - Kelly Mattingly.