The question of “what is fair” came up several times during a heated exchange between Harlan Independent Board of Education members Will Miller and Matt Nunez at a meeting on Thursday. Both disagreed on their ideas of fairness regarding the district’s Nonresident Student Enrollment guidelines for 2013-2014.
After reviewing the newly revised guidelines from last month’s meeting of the board, Superintendent David Johnson told board members after May 3, there will be two lists — a sibling list and a preschool list.
“Mrs. (Emily) Clem will go through that list and prioritize those kids by when they came in and registered,” said Johnson. “Then, we’ll go down the priorities and apply them. Sibling kids will come first, then preschool kids will come after that.”
Nunez questioned revisions to Priority 2, which states “2012-2013 employees’ children who have parent(s) laid off due to staff reduction will be given first available slot(s),” asking does this only apply to students who were registered as a student before their parent obtained a job and were taken off the list or does it apply to people who just started school because their parent got a job?”
“I think a student who was here before the parent got a job and they were moved over off the list should come before a student who just came,” said Nunez. “I believe if a child came just because their parents got a job here should not have precedence over others. I just don’t think that’s fair. The students here paying tuition should have priority over those who just registered. I don’t think these students who just came because their parent is hired and then laid off should come before preschool students, siblings or people who have paid tuition.”
Johnson agreed a change can be made in that priority.
Miller then questioned priority 6, which says, “$1,500 tuition paying students who enrolled second semester of 2012-2013. These students must have paid their tuition bill and be in good standing financially,” saying, “we have had students enrolled… and at the time they paid…, these were not the priorities given to them when they enrolled their children.”
Clem responded by saying since she has held her position she has “not promised anybody anything” when they enrolled.
“Priority 6 says if a student comes in based on our standing priorities, paid their money and enrolled their children — then we can change the rules on them,” said Miller.
Johnson followed up, saying the guidelines established “clearly” apply to one year only. He said the new priorities will be only for the 2013-2014 school year.
“I don’t think you can take this year’s rules and apply them to the following year,” Johnson said.
Miller said people think they know where they are on the list when they register their children and then the board changes the rules on them and he thinks “that is not fair.”
Nunez responded saying nothing is promised, but Miller disagreed again saying students enrolled under 2012-2013 priorities in Priority 6 say they are behind students not even enrolled at Sunshine Pre-School.
“I don’t think you can do this and I’m not for this,” said Miller.
Board Chairman Joe Meadors stressed the board has the right to change the guidelines every year and whenever they feel a need to do this.
Sunshine Pre-School Director Pat Bryson said she has been “very patient” with the idea a student may come in at the last minute and register to get ahead on the list.
“I cannot see how a person can come in in April could come before students who have been paying,” said Bryson.
Miller persisted in saying the board can’t change priorities on students who have already enrolled and are attending the school district.
After going back and forth, disagreeing on the board changing guidelines from year to year, Miller said, “You’ve got a parent who brings their child to school, they pay tuition and they know where they are in line. Sunshine Pre-School is not eligible based on our guidelines, then they come over and bump that student behind them and possibly knocking them off the list. We have a policy in place and then we change that policy after we have told that parent, that’s not fair.”
Johnson said he has notified parents by letter in the past saying their child’s enrollment is for one year only and it’s possible the following year it will be changed.
“I believe there is a policy in place protecting these parents from changes on a whim after the fact,” said Miller.
Nunez disagreed, saying no one is guaranteed a spot from year to year.
“If there is a policy I’d like to see it because there’s not,” said Nunez. “I believe time spent at Sunshine Pre-School should count as time spent in the district.”
After over an hour of bickering back and forth, everyone agreed to table the matter so that “everyone can have time to think about what had been said,” and return in a special called meeting set for April 22 at 5:30 p.m. to approve guidelines for 2013-2014.
Board member Cindy Allison recommended a disclaimer be included on enrollment paperwork that the guidelines are for a specific year only.
“It all comes down to parents have no school choice in this county,” said Allison.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, firstname.lastname@example.org