Commonwealth Journal

News Live

April 24, 2014

Pulaski Co. schools nixes Science Hill contract

Somerset — Pulaski County Schools officials remained steadfast in their decision to prevent students from leaving the district to attend class elsewhere by rejecting a contract proposal from Science Hill this week.

The Pulaski County School Board unanimously voted down the contract submitted by the Science Hill School District that would have allowed as many students from either’s territory to attend the other as  necessary.

“I agree wholeheartedly with our board of education,” said Steve Butcher, superintendent of Pulaski County Schools.

“I thought it was ridiculous that they (Science Hill) sent us something that would have hurt our district worse than what we had originally,” he added. “(The board) was not accepting of it in any form or fashion.”

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 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.

A school district gets close to $3,800 per student in SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) money per child from the state, meaning the more students a school has, the more money they have coming from state government coffers. More students going to the county district rather than the two smaller ones means more state money for the larger system, and less for the others.

Butcher has said that the county school system enrollment was going “flat,” and that the decision to restrict county territory students from going elsewhere was done to keep his school districts from losing more enrollment, and more SEEK money.

“Last year, we lost about 14 (students) over previous years,” said Butcher back in January. “We’ve been flat over the last three or four years. We’d previously been growing by about 50 or 60 kids per year, but recently, we have not.”

In February, the Science Hill Board of Education responded with a counter-proposal. The contract they sent to the Pulaski County school board that would allow “any and all” students currently living in Pulaski territory to attend Science Hill, and any and all from Science Hill to attend the county school system.

At the April school board meeting Tuesday, the Pulaski Board of Education rejected Science Hill’s response.

“That’s disappointing,” said Rick Walker, superintendent of Science Hill School. “I was hoping that after some of the Pulaski board members heard from their constituents that they would be open-minded about school choice.”

Walker stressed that the issue of school choice is a nationwide issue gaining more attention, not just one dealt with here locally.

“It’s a progressive movement,” he said. “I’m afraid their decision won’t look good in the future because many progressive thinkers know families want flexibility in their options. ... Different schools meet different children’s’ needs and families are the best ones to determine the best school for their child.

“The day we start looking at dollar signs rather than human beings is the day we need to get out of education,” he added.

Walker said he has communicated with Science Hill School’s attorney Winter Huff, who has instructed that district’s board to hold a special-called meeting to decide whether or not to appeal the contract status. The meeting will be held today, noted the superintendent.

It’s a move the Somerset Independent School System has undertaken already. Superintendent Boyd Randolph confirmed Thursday that Somerset has filed an appeal with the state education commissioner’s office to resolve their own contract issue with Pulaski County, and is currently awaiting specifics about hearing procedures.

“The case has been assigned to a hearing officer, who will hear the case on behalf of the commissioner,” said Randolph. “We’re waiting on the procedures to be finalized.”


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