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Bill shaking up school councils 'takes away ownership,' advocate says

A bill that would shift school curriculum and principal hiring decisions away from school-based councils – made up of teachers and parents – to district superintendents has been introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly.

Senate Bill 1, introduced by Republican state Sen. John Schickel of Union, would largely turn the parent and teacher councils into advisory groups rather than decision-makers, according to the text of the legislation released Tuesday.

Ronda Harmon, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Councils, has served as both a parent and teacher for the councils. She said the bill would swing the pendulum too widely away from parent and teacher engagement in critical school decisions.

If passed in its current form, Harmon said, SB 1 would represent a departure from the idea that schools should not be “one size fits all” and that it “takes away ownership that the parents and teachers and principals have.”

The text of the bill released Tuesday also includes a new provision.

When selecting a new school principal, the school councils would be consulted by the superintendent making the hiring decision – but only after each council member signs a nondisclosure agreement that bars publicly sharing information or discussions that took place during the consultation.

The provision also said members who violate that agreement “may be subject to removal from the school council by the Kentucky Board of Education.”

Speaking with the Daily News in November about his plans to file the bill, Schickel said parents “really don’t have a say at all through the site-based council because they are a minority.”

Under current law, the councils are made up of two parents, three teachers and the principal or administrator of the school.

As a consequence, Schickel said, frustrated parents often show up at school board meetings with questions or concerns about their school’s curriculum, but those decisions are currently outside of board members’ control.

Instead, his legislation would require school councils to set school policy in line with the district school board’s policy and goals, and the local superintendent – not the council – “shall determine which curriculum, textbooks, instructional materials and student support services shall be provided in the school,” according to SB 1.

Schickel’s legislation would place those decisions in the hands of the school district’s superintendent, and by extension, its local board of education, he said.

Harmon contends the measure would exacerbate the problem it sets out to fix: disenfranchising parents from curriculum and instruction-related decisions.

She specifically took issue with the element of the bill that would give superintendents the final say about which curriculum, textbooks, instructional materials and student support services the school provides.

No superintendent – no matter how qualified – has the capacity to adequately and single-handedly vet the thousands of school curricula currently on the market, she said. That would also subvert the collaborative process educators undergo when they choose an appropriate curriculum for their school, Harmon said.

Under the current system, “everybody has a role,” Harmon said, adding that the requirement that schools mirror school board policy would take away agency from individual parents and teachers.

She also pushed back on the notion that the relationship between parent and teacher school council members is inherently adversarial.

“We just don’t find that the teachers and parents are pitted against each other,” she said. “It just doesn’t happen that way.”

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.


News
City crews prepare for winter storm

Road workers spent Wednesday preparing for a winter storm projected to bring 1 to 4 inches of snow to the area Thursday.

City of Bowling Green Operations Manager David Delp said with the system forecast to bring mainly snow, his employees concentrated on pre-treating largely traveled roads with salt brine.

“If the weather comes in and starts off as snow, and that’s what this (system) is supposed to do, then brine will be effective,” Delp said. “It (brine) helps the snow not stick right away. If a system comes in as more rain at first, then it wouldn’t be as effective because it washes away the brine before the snow hits.”

Delp said several of the 13 trucks he had on hand were pre-treating roads Wednesday, and he said all of them would be ready to go Thursday depending on the snow accumulation.

One new factor Delp and city workers will have to take into consideration is the amount of debris still left over from last month’s deadly tornadoes.

Delp said areas hit hardest by the Dec. 11 and Jan. 1 twisters will have to be cleared carefully if snowfall totals are on the higher end of projections.

“Depending on how much snow we get, we might not have to put the plows down,” he said. “If we do get enough snow to where we have to put the plows down, then that’s when we are going to have to be more cautious going through those tornado debris areas. We might have to do some dodging around. ... We are going to have to be mindful in some areas.”

Delp said the city’s priority for clearing snow will be A and B “priority” routes used commonly by police and emergency vehicles. He said C and D routes will be cleared afterward, if necessary.

WxOrNot contributor Jacob Disinger said there is “very high confidence” that snow will hit the city, but there was disagreement Wednesday between models on how much will accumulate.

“Weather models right now are going back and forth between a slight snowfall and a full winter weather storm warning,” Disinger said. “Two to 3 or 1 to 3 inches is the best safe bet without getting people’s hopes up. I think 4 or 5 inches is going to be hard to hit. It’s possible, but not very likely.”

Disinger said the timing of the storm would be much easier to predict, and that snow can be expected to begin falling around mid-morning before ending in the early afternoon hours.

“It will be out of here by late (Thursday) evening,” he said. “Right around noon going into the afternoon will be the most dangerous time to drive. If we start to get up in those higher totals, that will make the roads more dangerous as well. That should be considered. No matter what totals we get, there will be a travel impact and it could be dangerous.”


News
DuBose, Llontop file to run for magistrate seats

Rick DuBose

A longtime Western Kentucky University administrator and a former WKU athlete are the latest to file to run for seats on Warren Fiscal Court.

Rick DuBose, who capped off a 19-year career at WKU by serving as executive director of the university’s alumni association for three years before his retirement in 2016, has filed to run as a Democrat for the third district magistrate seat that opened up when incumbent Democrat Tony Payne announced he will not be running this year.

In the first district, with current Magistrate Doug Gorman opting to run for county judge-executive, former WKU soccer standout and current Greenwood High School boys’ soccer coach Luis Llontop said Tuesday he plans to file for that seat.

DuBose and Llontop add to what are becoming crowded fields in those two magisterial districts, although DuBose becomes the first Democrat to run in the third district, where three Republicans have filed.

DuBose, who worked in broadcasting and for chambers of commerce in Bowling Green and Hopkinsville before his stint at WKU, said his knowledge of the area would be an asset on fiscal court.

“I have a vested interest in this community,” DuBose said. “I wasn’t born here, but my family moved here when I was 6 years old.”

DuBose, 72, said his experience at WKU and his chamber of commerce jobs are good preparation for serving on fiscal court.

“As alumni director, I had to meet a budget,” he said. “I’ve served on a lot of boards, so I think I have a pretty solid handle on the budget aspect.”

This isn’t the first foray into politics for DuBose, who ran for the 20th District seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives in 2018. He tallied the second-highest number of votes in the five-person Democratic primary, losing to current state Rep. Patti Minter.

“I learned a lot from that experience,” he said. “I enjoyed running and talking to people.”

DuBose said he would like to play a role in deciding how federal funds will be utilized to help the county recover from the December tornadoes. He has no quarrel with how fiscal court business has been conducted during the 28-year tenure of current Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon, who is not running for reelection.

“I’ve been impressed with what Buchanon and others on fiscal court have done over the years,” he said. “They’ve been responsible, but they’ve stepped out and taken some risks at times.”

DuBose is joined in running for third district magistrate by Republicans Rick Williams, Scott Bledsoe and Bryan Franklin.

Like DuBose, Llontop has plenty of company in running for magistrate. The first district seat that is being vacated by Gorman has attracted some interest, with Llontop being the third Republican to file for the office.

Former Bowling Green Mayor Sandy Jones Boussard and WKU political science professor Scott Lasley have filed to run on the GOP side, and local restaurateur Josh Poling has filed as a Democrat.

Llontop, a native of Peru who came to Bowling Green in 1986 on a WKU soccer scholarship, has worked in banking, investments and insurance during his career. He has been Greenwood’s head soccer coach for six years.

“I want to give back to this community,” Llontop said. “To me, this is the best place to live in the world.”

Llontop, who has degrees in finance and business administration, said his business background and his familiarity with the experiences of Bowling Green’s immigrant population would be assets on fiscal court.

“I’m for family values and being responsible,” Llontop said. “I want to see responsible growth in the county, and I want to do what’s best for my district and the county.”

The current deadline to file for office is Friday, but the Kentucky General Assembly is considering a bill that would extend that deadline to Jan. 25.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.


News
City adding seasonal workers to aid in recovery

Bowling Green city commissioners took a first step Tuesday toward adding seasonal workers to deal with the aftermath of the Dec. 11 tornadoes.

In a first reading, commissioners approved temporarily hiring five people to help coordinate relief efforts – a task that has largely fallen to volunteers.

City Manager Jeff Meisel noted that “people can’t volunteer forever.”

The positions, which would need final approval at the Jan. 18 city commission meeting, would pay $17.75 an hour and last for 90 days.

Having dedicated workers “will give us some continuity” in relief efforts, Meisel said.

The city and county have set up a consolidated relief and recovery center at the old Sears location at Greenwood Mall.

Commissioners also approved reaching out to the Open Society Foundation for a possible $200,000 grant to aid with the resettlement of Afghan refugees in the city.

City International Communities Liaison Leyda Becker said about 200 Afghan refugees have already come to the community – including some entire families, but also many individuals who worked with the U.S. military.

Becker said the funding could be used for efforts such as teaching the refugees English, helping them navigate the city or to hire a coordinator to oversee the efforts. Up to 350 Afghan refugees are expected to come to the city through the International Center of Kentucky, with the remaining refugees expected to arrive soon, she said.

Commissioner Dana Beasley-Brown said she has seen some of the new Afghan refugees already step in to help with tornado relief efforts in their adopted hometown.

“It was a beautiful thing to witness,” she said.

Commissioners also accepted a $1.3 million bid from Creative Bus Sales of College Park, Ga., for six buses to be used for GO bg Transit.

Mesiel said the city has received some federal funding to update the transit fleet. It’s unknown when the buses may arrive and be added to the fleet.

During the public comment portion at the end of the commission meeting, Joan Allen said she was “confused” about a text her husband received from a volunteer, who said she was working with Beasley-Brown and Commissioner Carlos Bailey, offering help with storm recovery.

Beasley-Brown said volunteers used a database of numbers to reach out to members of the public who were likely to have been in the storm’s path.

“We wanted to make sure people got the help they need,” Bailey said.

In the days after the tornadoes, various elected officials reached out offering storm assistance, such as a social media post from Warren County government listing phone numbers for each county magistrate.

“Every single one of us has set aside our differences,” Beasley-Brown said.

Bailey said in the tornadoes’ aftermath he was out unloading donation trucks rather than posing for pictures.

“I’m not trying to take advantage of anyone’s worst day,” he said.

– Follow Managing Editor Wes Swietek on Twitter @WesSwietek or visit bgdaily news.com.


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