Commonwealth Journal

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May 15, 2014

Pulaski contract with Science Hill nixed again

Somerset — The latest attempt by the Science Hill school district to reach an agreement on non-resident pupils with Pulaski County Schools has met the same fate has the others — but garnered slightly more support.

The Pulaski County Board of Education during its Tuesday meeting voted not to approve the non-resident pupil contract submitted by Science Hill by a count of 4-1.

Dr. Michael Citak was the only board member to vote in favor of the contract, which addressed the ongoing controversy between all three local public school districts regarding non-resident student populations.

The contract would have had any and all students who live in the Science Hill area students to be able to attend class in the Pulaski County district if Pulaski would allow 114 students who live within the county district’s boundaries to attend at Science Hill.

It was a compromise after Science Hill’s last contract proposal, unanimously rejected by the county board, which would have allowed any and all students living in one district’s area to attend the other.

Science Hill drafted the new contract after first planning to address the ongoing conflict with the county school system by filing an appeal to the state education commissioner’s office.

Citak said that the reason he voted for this latest contract — after voting against Science Hill’s last attempt — was to potentially stave off the expenses that the appeal would present.

“Here’s the situation: If we don’t produce a viable contract between the parties, (the issue is) going to end up in mediation, which will cost time and money for both parties,” he said. “There will be hearings. There are already requests for documents on both sides. There will be attorneys involved representing people. That costs money too.”

Citak had spoken with Science Hill Superintendent Rick Walker before the contract was submitted, and discussed the terms that were eventually included in the document. Citak had suggested to Walker to come up with a specific number of students for Pulaski to allow to attend Science Hill, and the board of the small, one-facility district in the northern part of the county did just that.

“I thought (Science Hill) proposed a reasonable contract and I thought I would try to honor that and work with that rather than go through ... legal proceedings,” said Citak. “While I understand I have to represent the Pulaski County School District, I also have to work with the surrounding districts in a collaborative way. I thought they presented us with a reasonable option. I thought it was the best way to go.”

In mid-January, the Pulaski County School Board approved contracts that would disallow any students living within the boundaries of the county district to attend school at either Somerset Independent Schools or Science Hill, unless they were siblings with a student that was already enrolled at one of the other systems. This would be applicable for the upcoming 2014-15 school year.

Last year, Pulaski County enacted such a contract with Science Hill, after years of allowing 172 non-resident pupils to attend the northern Pulaski K-8 school. However, in prior years, Somerset has been allowed 240 county territory students, so this was a drastic change for the city school district.

The contract that Pulaski County drew up would allow any and all students from either the city or Science Hill to attend the county schools if they choose.

Pulaski County Superintendent Steve Butcher, who has previously said that the decision to limit student movement was done to prevent the county’s enrollment from stagnating, supported the board’s decision at this latest meeting.

“It just wasn’t the contract that we felt was good for our district,” he said. “That was kind of the consensus of the board. That’s why it was rejected.”

Somerset has already initiated appeal proceedings with Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday’s office.

Chris Harris is a staff writer for the Commonwealth Journal. You can reach him at charris@somerset-kentucky.com.

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