November 19, 2013
After months of negotiation and delay, the school districts of Harlan County and Letcher County appear headed toward an agreement for their non-resident students.
During Monday’s regular meeting, the Harlan County Board of Education approved a recommendation by their attorney, Johnnie Turner, to grant their chairman, Gary Farmer, the authority to sign the agreement, which he expected would be approved by their counterparts in Letcher County and be in place by the end of the calendar year.
The details of the agreement, Turner said, would allow each district to retain the non-resident students currently enrolled and the state’s SEEK funding would follow them. Harlan County currently has 52 Letcher County residents enrolled, while Letcher County has 41 Harlan County residents in their school system, he noted.
Although negotiations for a multi-year agreement continue, this agreement will be for the current 2013-14 school year only, Turner added.
The board received an update from Jack Miniard, School Food Services director, regarding changes and improvements that have been made following criticisms by students and board members that garnered national attention during the late summer.
A committee had been formed — including students — to evaluate the quality and quantity of servings for school lunches and to explore options, he said.
Members of the committee have been attending “food shows” to see what vendors have to offer and to get an idea about costs. Early on the committee met weekly, Miniard noted, but they have moved to monthly meetings.
Where possible, serving sizes have been changed to still allow the district to remain within the nutritional guidelines set by the USDA. Special meal days are now included — such as a recent “Asian Day” — to introduce a broader variety to the monthly menus, he said.
More and different fruits have also been added to the daily cafeteria selections on the serving line.
One item of great concern has been the quality of the milk. Miniard told the board if the district switched to plastic bottles for the individual servings, the cost would increase by about $58,000 per year. After the Christmas break, school districts across the region will begin receiving a new brand, “Happy Cow,” which he said the committee and student groups across the state approved by taste test.
A chief student complaint with the milk choice has been flavor. It is now suspected that the current low-fat milk products have not been kept as cold as necessary until delivery to the serving line. Miniard said, unlike traditional milk products, these low-fat choices will not retain their satisfactory flavor if the schools do not keep them refrigerated until the time children receive them.
The board was also presented with its audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Artie White, CPA, of White and Associates in Richmond, told the board their school district “did an excellent job” in working through the auditing process with his team.
“You are a little slim on money,” White said, “but you are headed to greener pastures in the future.”
All major accounts were in good shape, he added. A continuing source of fiscal concern in all school districts are the “activity funds” that represent the cash transactions at schools. Because there is usually less oversight and control of those activities, there is more risk, he said.
“But I can’t see anything that would be embarrassing to the administration or the board,” he said, although he did recommend measures the school administration could take to improve oversight and accountability for those funds.
Superintendent Mike Howard was pleased to note the recent announcement that two students had been nominated for the Kentucky School Boards Association “First Degree Scholarship” Program. The students are Shannon Shackleford of Evarts, and Jacob Dixon of Cumberland.
In other action, the board: