Education

Kevin Willis

A group of WKU students is spending the next two weeks in the Great Plains tracking severe storms and dangerous weather patterns.

WKU Meteorology Professor Josh Durkee is taking eight students to a part of the country that is often hit by tornados and other storms this time of the year. He says the class is an opportunity for participants to collect and analyze weather data that are used to predict where storms will next appear.

“The most common phrase I hear students say is, ‘I learned more in two weeks that I have in two years.’ That’s because it takes a lot of the stuff we have been learning about in the classroom and they get to see it in real-time, and they get to put their hands on it.”

Durkee says the students taking his annual Field Methods in Weather Analysis and Forecasting course are never in danger and stay at least five miles away from the storms they are tracking. The class travels throughout the Midwest and Great Plains regions to learn more about how to predict how and when severe weather will impact the area.

Metcalfe County native and graduating senior Tori Hampton has been looking forward to taking the class for years. She says experiencing a tornado at the age of five fueled a passion to learn more about storms.

KCTCS

Owensboro Community and Technical College didn’t go far in naming its new president. 

Dr. Scott Williams takes the helm after spending the past 15 years at the campus.  He is currently vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer, a position he has held since 2008. 

“Dr. Williams will be an excellent leader for OCTC,” said Dr. Jay Box, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. “We are fortunate he already has great knowledge and experience within our system and his vision and ideas will lead to the continued success of the college.”

Williams will begin his new appointment July 1.

Bowling Green High School principal Gary Fields has been chosen as the new superintendent of the Bowling Green city school district. The city’s board of education chose Fields last night from among four candidates to replace the retiring Joe Tinius. Fields starts July first.

Fields has been principal at Bowling Green High since 2002. Before that he was the principal of Potter Gray elementary school and a teacher at the high school.

He did his undergraduate work at Centre College, received his Master’s from U-K and his Rank One and Principal Certification from WKU.

The Board hopes to have a new principal at Bowling Green High by June 30th.

The Bowling Green Independent School District is close to naming its next superintendent.  The board of education is expected to make the announcement Monday night at its regularly scheduled monthly meeting. 

The hiring follows interviews with four finalists, including Allen Barber from Eagle Point, Oregon, Bowling Green High School Principal Gary Fields, Hart County Assistant Superintendent Wesley Waddle, and Mark Owens, Director of Personnel for Daviess County Public Schools. 

Current Superintendent Joe Tinius is retiring June 30.

The search for a new president of Owensboro Community and Technical College  is down to three finalists. 

They include Dr. Larry Ferguson who is the interim vice chancellor of academic affairs in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. 

Dr. William Rule comes from Chattahoochee Technical College in Marietta, Georgia where he serves as vice president of student affairs and technology advancement. 

Dr. Scott Williams serves as vice president of academic affairs for Owensboro Community and Technical College. 

The three finalists will be interviewed next week.  The new president of OCTC will start work on July 1.

University of Kentucky

Michael Lewis got fed up seeing his peers struggle with student debt—so he decided to do something about it.

Lewis, an 18-year-old from Louisville, and a small team of his fellow students at the University of Kentucky are preparing to launch a start-up that takes direct aim the nationwide issue of student debt.

The start-up, called FinanceU,will give prospective college students a platform to fund their own education through crowdsourcing.

“FinanceU (will be) available to any student who seeks to or is already trying affording higher education,” he said.

To use, FinanceU students will have to create an online profile, complete with hobbies, skills and interests. Then, the start-up will employ a three-tier crowdsourcing model.

Kentucky Department of Education

The Kentucky Board of Education is holding a special meeting to discuss hiring a new education commissioner.

The State Journal reports the board will meet Thursday morning in Louisville to discuss what characteristics they will seek as they begin a search to replace Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, who is retiring at the end of August. Holliday has served in the position since 2009.

After the board drafts a list of characteristics, the public will have the opportunity to give feedback before the list is finalized.

In addition to drafting the characteristics, the board also plans to decide which firm will help with search efforts.

Kevin Willis

The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Math and Science at WKU is preparing to undergo a transformation that will sharply increase its population.

The academy has been given a financial gift from businessman Bill Gatton to expand the residence hall that houses the academy’s students. The renovation is needed because the academy is expanding its class size from 120 to 200 students this fall.

The academy is home to some of the top high school juniors and seniors in the state who take college courses for two years at WKU, and has been repeatedly ranked as the top high school in the nation.

Speaking at a ceremony Wednesday at WKU announcing the gift from Gatton, Governor Steve Beshear said the academy is a point of pride for the state.

“The Gatton Academy is a shining example of how our educators are preparing the next generation of highly-trained graduates. I’m proud that my last budget will allow another 80 students the opportunity to study in the nation’s best high school.”

Some Henderson County teachers will not be returning to the classroom next school year. 

Faced with a $6.7 million shortfall, the school system is cutting 80 positions.  Layoff notices are going out this week to teachers at every school, but district spokeswoman Julie Wisher says students should expect the same level of education.

"Our student-teacher ratio isn't going to increase over the maximum size allowed," Wisher tells WKU Public Radio.  "We have dedicated and passionate teachers that will continue to work toward excellence."

The budget deficit is largely blamed on personnel costs.  About 85 percent of the budget is spent on personnel.  The school system’s goal is to get that amount closer to 75 percent. 

While teachers will bear the brunt of the budget reductions, a few positions from the central office are also being eliminated.

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell is expecting a list of recommendations from the school’s divisional leaders over how to reallocate $7.7 million.

The moves are needed for the school to pay its fixed costs and balance its budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. In an email to faculty and staff Monday, Ransdell said declining state funding for higher education and a drop in enrollment have forced the school to act.

Ransdell said WKU was facing increased expenditures of $9.6 million related employee benefits, contractual obligations, and maintenance for new and expanded facilities. While a 3 percent tuition increase will create $4.3 million for the school, the actual benefit is only $1.9 million when enrollment decreases are factored in.

Speaking to WKU Public Radio Tuesday, President Ransdell says the school’s vice-presidents have been given the ability to decide how to best handle the changes.

“I would say within the next month, all of those decisions will have been made about how each division will address its required reallocation.

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