During a meeting of the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Harlan County Schools Superintendent Tim Saylor was recognized and presented with a framed certification of appreciation. Chamber Chairman Mark Bell said members wanted to show their appreciation for the work Saylor has done for the children of Harlan County.
“Mr. Saylor has decided to retire after giving 12 good years as superintendent in the county school system,” said Bell. “He has made great progress in facilities and academic achievement and the chamber wanted to thank him for his work.”
Saylor was appreciative of the award and said he had a great deal of gratitude to the Harlan County Board of Education for giving him the opportunity to serve as their superintendent for the past 12 years.
“It has been very rewarding. It’s been difficult. It’s been challenging, but it put me in a situation where I could help the kids and people in general of this county,” said Saylor. “That gratifies me. I go out with a lot of good memories. This was solely my decision to retire.”
Saylor said he took the job of superintendent at “an interesting time in the county school system’s history.”
“We had a staggering decline in enrollment,” said Saylor. “I don’t know if people know this or not, I’ve talked about it over the years, but in 1934-35 through 1939, we spiked out with a county school enrollment of about 17,000 students. You can see how it has dropped through the years and we are down now to only about 4,000 kids in the county school system. In my tenure alone, starting in 2000 through this year, we’ve lost 1,234 students.
Saylor said not only has there been declining enrollment, but there were aging and unclean facilities which were struggling. He said there was a shrinking workforce and poor test scores.
“We had three high schools in the county and they were at the bottom of the rankings in test scores,” said Saylor. “Consolidation was looming and I knew that. I’m here to tell you right now I didn’t want to get involved in that, but the challenge and opportunity was there to help our kids, so I made a choice to tackle that.”
Saylor said to make things work and get the county school system “moving up on the educational ladder, three important things had to happen in his opinion.”
“They were I had to surround myself with good people — people that could do the job they were called to do,” said Saylor. “The second thing, and biggest challenge I had as superintendent, was I had to get everybody on the same page working together, and you wouldn’t believe what an uphill task that was. Finally, we have such good communication between all our principals, central office and teachers and this has turned us around. The third thing that had to happen was the board had to give me ample time to get things done.”
Saylor said the bottom line is “hopefully, he had a part in helping children have the opportunity to get a quality education.”
“If a student wants the opportunity to receive an excellent education they have it now,” said Saylor. “All our elementary schools are flourishing now, as far as test scores, and our high school is doing really well. I think we’re on the right track.”
Saylor ended by saying he felt southeastern Kentucky is being left out or “cut off’” from the rest of the state as far as roads, industry and education are concerned.
“I think they’re trying to push southeastern Kentucky right off the map,” said Saylor. “We have a great challenge here. The only way we can overcome that challenge in Harlan County, and this is something we have struggled with over the years, is to come together. Until we do that — until Harlan County unites, we will continue to struggle with the things we’re seeing now. I think people are beginning to see this and, hopefully, things will change.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org