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Shelby County School board: Student tells board about time as McConnell’s page

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By Todd Martin

The Shelby County Board of Education was treated to an unusual presentation at Thursday’s meeting.

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Along with hearing from teachers and administration on instructional work and opportunities, the board members also heard a presentation from Shawn Allen Jr., a junior at Shelby County High School, about his time as a page for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “But after I thought about it, I thought ‘Why not?’ this is something that can help me progress to my BIG Goal [a district term] to be in that position one day.”

Meeting senators, doing the “dirty work” of picking up dry cleaning and coffee, along with listening and learning reminded Allen of a teacher at Shelby County.

“He told me ‘Don’t say the sky’s the limit when there are footsteps on the moon,’” Allen said he recalled. “Networking was a big part of being there, and the people I met, the friends I made, will truly be the leaders of tomorrow. It was fascinating to be with 30 people just like you that want to do the same things.”

Allen said it’s things like the Kentucky United Nations Assembly, of which he is a member, and other school activities that led him down this path.

“The things you can accomplish if you just let yourself go out there and exactly what you want are amazing,” he said. “The senate is the most deliberate body in that it represents our freedom and the White House is home to the most powerful man in the world. It’s not that I’m power hungry, but those are the things that drive me.”

During one part of the presentation Allen admitted his goal.

“And yes, I want to be that guy speaking on the House floor. That guy right there,” he said as he pointed to a picture of President Barack Obama.

Arts interest

In his superintendent’s report James Neihof noted that he is planning to take a busload of parents to Oldham County to see that district’s arts center in Crestwood.

The center, supported by the Oldham County Board of Education, offers students a venue and outlet for performing and visual arts during the school year and summer. Last month, Neihof and board members Eddie Mathis and Doug Butler visited the center.

All three said they were impressed with what the center offers, and the trip with parents is to gauge interest for Shelby County.

“I can’t imagine them not liking what they see,” Butler said. “That kind of groundswell support is what we’ll need for something like this to grow.”

Summer school

The district requested and was approved for $281,000 in funding for the Summer Reading Academies, which will be for students below grade-level in reading in first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth grades. The money will be combined with $203,000 left over from Title I funding and EduJob$ grant. The district will spend the left over $203,000 first, and in the past two years of summer school has been able to return about 48 percent of the funding.

Affirmative Action report

The district approved its Affirmative Action report with no discussion.

The report showed that the district’s student population is 27 percent minority, but the certified [teachers, administrators, etc.] staff is only 6 percent minority and the classified staff [custodians, food staff, secretaries, bus drivers, maintenance, etc.] is 19 percent minority.

The highest percentage of minorities in certified positions were at West Middle (11 percent), Education Center @ Cropper (10 percent) and Southside Elementary (10 percent). The lowest percentages of minorities in certified positions are Wright Elementary (3 percent), East Middle (2 percent) and central office (0 percent of 26 employees).

Athletes and academics

Board members Sam Hinkle and Brenda Jackson asked for a report to be delivered soon on what the standards are for athletes and allowing them to play with poor grades.

“What’s the current policy, and maybe we should have a discussion if that’s the best policy?” Hinkle asked. “I think we both have a suspicion that it may not be enough.”

Jackson added: “If we’re allowing students to participate in athletics with a 1.9 [grade-point average], and our goal is college and career ready with a high ACT score, then something isn’t right.”

Neihof noted that a report like that should be fairly easy to compile, and he expected the administration could report back soon.

Also at the meeting, the board:

  • Recognized Heritage Elementary special education teacher Sarah Jump, SCHS custodian Bob Hundley and East and West middle talented and gifted teacher Teresa Walther with What Outstanding Work awards.
  • Heard a report on Collaborative Scoring, and how teachers and administration use it to make sure all students are being graded and assessed consistently.
  • Approved the board goals for the 2012-13 school year.
  • Approved a bid from Highland Roofing for $229,486 for the Wright Elementary Roof project. The cost required a change to the building plan, with an increased total cost, including contingency funds, of $260,925.
  • Approved allocating $170,000 for continued upgrades at SCHS.
  • Approved a bid of $29,394 for Final Floor to install a new synthetic gym floor at Simpsonville Elementary.
  • Approved a budget amendment $110,000 for an increase in diesel fuel cost and an increased travel schedule.
  • Approved the 2012-13 interagency agreement between the Department of Juvenile Justice and SCPS.
  • Awarded contracts for 2012-13 for portraits, high school senior portraits and yearbooks.
  • Approved the District Technology Report.
  • Approved the summer feeding program.