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With recent columns and letters to the editor in The Sentinel-News regarding Shelby County Public Schools, I wanted to provide my perspective having not been directly involved with SCPS for the past eight years after serving as superintendent for 16 years from 1988 until 2004.
The school system has experience rapid growth. When I arrived in 1988, the district had about 4,200 students enrolled, and now the current count is well above 7,000. Additionally, the number of English language learners has skyrocketed from being a very small percent of the total student population to well more than 12 percent ,and the number of students on free and reduced lunches has climbed as well, particularly during the recent years of economic downturn.
After being one of the first districts to implement full-day kindergarten, which research indicates is a very cost effective way to help students, SCPS has added many other programs to identify and help students not performing on grade level. Programs have been strengthened and preschool expanded, which is another cost effective way to improve achievement.
Plans include a current construction project to build a facility for preschool that will relieve potential overcrowding in the elementary schools. The implementation of Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) to identify students who need assistance as a low cost way to deliver educational assistance is another example. MAP is also used to measure progress of students as a tool to identify instruction that is working and suggest elimination of programs that are not.
In dealing with these and other issues, I believe that SCPS has adopted budgetary strategies that are neither extreme nor lavish. The current rate of taxation is in the middle 50 percent of all 174 Kentucky school districts, and the tax increases have been in line with or less than the vast majority of districts.
This year, while more than half of the school districts in Kentucky took the full 4 percent allowable increase in the property tax rate, SCPS did not. Additionally, our local school system does not have an occupational tax, as do some other districts, including several of the rapidly growing districts like us.
SCPS is essential to our economic health and growth, because strong schools attract businesses, jobs and residential growth. In addition, SCPS is vital to the social health of our community because crime falls when schools are strong. After all, the schools are preparing our students to be college and career ready for the future.
The Shelby County School system is a good investment. During that past several years I believe that investments have been wisely made and have paid off.
I strongly support the efforts of the current administration and board of education of SCPS in improving achievement and educational opportunities for the students and citizens of our community and doing so in a financially responsible manner.
Leon Mooneyhan lives in Shelbyville.