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Cook says state could force major cuts for schools

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Board officially begins superintendent search process

By Zac Oakes

 

Taylor County Schools Superintendent Roger Cook has been outspoken about some of the potential cuts to education in the upcoming state budget.

He doubled down on those stances at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

With potential increases in costs coming for school transportation, employee insurance, retirement, and other areas, Cook told the board that the district could see as much as a $1.2 million increase in expenditures coming out of the school’s general fund.

Cook said that could mean major changes in the district, particularly in terms of transportation and the number of employees.

“When we are cut, then we have to make cuts,” Cook said.

What exactly do those cuts look like? It could mean a significant decrease in the number of bus routes.

“If they are going to cut our transportation funding down to 25 percent that they fund, then maybe we will only run 25 percent of the routes,” Cook said. “It’s like this, you can’t go out to the grocery store and buy $500 worth of groceries with a $100 bill… So if they’re going to cut us, the only thing that we can do to keep from going broke is to cut something.”

Cutting the number of bus routes could mean parents would need to transport their children to other areas to be picked up at a designated bus stop, Cook said, a move that he feels would be unpopular with many parents in the district but could end up being necessary.

“It might bring people out to our board meetings, but it might also bring them out to Frankfort,” he said.

Cook added, “I want to make it known to people here, we aren’t cutting you. Yeah, you may have to bring your kids from Mannsville to Elkhorn to get on a bus or from Bengal to Black Gnat to get on a bus.”

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget would call for a $138 million cut in state funding for school district transportation. Instead of the state funding 58 percent of each district’s transportation costs, the proposal would cut the state funding to 25 percent, leaving each school district to pay the remaining 75 percent of their transportation costs.

Cook told the board and those in attendance at the meeting that in terms of transportation alone, the potential increase would cost the district approximately an additional $503,700.

That funding, along with funding for increased insurance and retirement costs, would come from the school’s contingency fund.

With the proposed budget drawing $1.2 million from the school’s general fund, Cook said after the meeting that the school district would also likely have to cut its number of employees.

Asked how many employees could be released if the school district is faced with $1.2 million in added expenditures, Cook said it could mean as many as 30 employees losing their jobs, from the classroom to bus drivers to janitors and other areas.

“Hopefully the legislators will do something about it,” Cook said. “...We don’t think that is what will go through, at least we hope that isn’t what goes through, but that’s an idea of what we are looking at if it does go through.”

The search for a new superintendent begins

Cook is nearing retirement at the end of June, so the Taylor County Board of Education took its first steps in finding the district’s next superintendent at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The board approved a contract with the Kentucky School Boards Association to assist with the superintendent hiring process since none of the board members had been on long enough to have experience performing a superintendent search.

Tim Eaton of KSBA will be in charge of assisting the board through the process of hiring a new superintendent.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Eaton, along with members of the board, ironed out several details to begin the search, including creating a job posting that will be advertised through KSBA, setting future meeting dates for the screening committee, setting interview dates for prospective candidates, and ultimately setting forth the goal of having a new superintendent hired by June 1, giving the newly hired individual a month to work with Cook.

The board plans to begin advertising the opening by Friday, Feb. 16, with applications closing at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 19. A job posting for the superintendent position had been posted on the district’s website and had drawn two applicants already, and those applicants are being directed to KSBA. The screening committee will consist of six individuals. It will include a board representative that is appointed by board chair David Hall, a principal representative voted on by the district’s principals, two teachers that are voted on by the local teachers’ organization, one classified employee voted on by other classified employees, and one parent selected by the district’s PTA presidents.

The names of screening committee members will be kept confidential. Their primary goal will be to narrow down the candidate pool and present the 3-5 candidates they deem to be the best to the board for consideration, although Eaton told the board they are able to hire the person that they want, even if they are not one of the applicants recognized. The board ultimately makes the final decision on who is hired as the district’s next superintendent.

Personnel Report

Retirements

Robbie Rogers, TCMS head football coach

New Hires

Daniel Quinn, TCMS custodian; Travis Smith, TCMS paraeducator; Marlon Hoskins, TCMS head football coach; Kevin Jones, TCMS assistant baseball coach; Brad Vaughn, TCMS assistant baseball coach