Education

Appeal Filed Against Henderson County Schools' Nickel Tax

Jan 19, 2016

A complaint has been filed against the Henderson County Board of Education alleging the school system's "nickel tax" is fraudulent and was applied retroactively.

The Gleaner of Henderson reports plaintiffs Robert Pruitt and Dean Spooner filed the complaint in Henderson Circuit Court last month.

The school board approved passing a recallable nickel tax, which generates revenue exclusively for construction or renovation projects, in April. A court-verified public petition placed the issue before the public vote. Voters narrowly approved the tax.

Among the plaintiff's allegations is that the 2015 property tax bills reflect a tax of .059 cents on each $100 valuation, not like the nickel stated in the public question that was voted on.

Superintendent Marganna Stanley denies the allegations in the complaint, saying the school system follows state guidelines.

WKU

Western Kentucky University is filming a video aimed at helping students and employees handle active shooter situations.

The video will include scenes of university police entering a building as if a shooting had taken place inside. Filming will begin Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Mass Media and Technology Hall.

The video is based on a training program created by the city of Houston called, Run, Fight, Hide.

"The basic premise is, in a situation like that, is if you can run and put distance between you and the shooter--safely do so, “said WKU Media Relations Director Bob Skipper. “If you can't, you hide and barricade yourself in. And if all else fails, then you take a stand and try to fight."

Skipper says WKU students and workers have asked for more information on how to handle violent encounters following several high-profile mass shootings in the U.S.

University of Louisville

Gov. Matt Bevin on Thursday withdrew a motion from former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear that would have dismissed a lawsuit accusing Beshear of breaking state law when he did not appoint a single African-American to the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees last year.

Bevin filed pleadings Thursday with the Franklin Circuit Court “expressing his agreement” with the group that filed the lawsuit, according to his office.

Last summer, the West Louisville-based Justice Resource Center asked then-Attorney General Jack Conway to weigh in on whether U of L was out of compliance with the racial minority requirement state law, which requires the board to have a proportional representation of minorities.

Activists said Conway ducked the issue when he released an opinion requiring that Beshear appoint at least one racial minority to the board. The governor appoints 17 of the 20 U of L trustees; by appointing one African-American, Beshear would have brought the total to two.

J. Tyler Franklin/WFPL News)

Two members of the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees publicly withdrew their support for U of L President James Ramsey during the board’s regular meeting today.

In September, all 20 trustees signed a letter affirming their support for Ramsey as the state auditor’s office began an investigation into the relationship between the school and its $1.1 billion nonprofit foundation. Ramsey is the head of both entities, and he is a voting member of the foundation’s board of directors.

Alluding to the numerous scandals that have emerged at the university over the past few months, trustee Steve Campbell interjected early in the meeting to announce he was withdrawing his support for Ramsey.

“Ever since [September], there have been material issues with the university. I’m not going to list them, you all are aware of them,” said Campbell, an adviser at financial firm Lazard Freres & Co. “And as a result, I feel that the circumstances have changed. I am happy to stand alone, and I do so with all due respect.”

WKU

Kentucky state universities have endured regular budget cuts for years, and they’ve offset the losses in part with tuition increases.

A Republican state senator wants to stop the latter.

State Sen. Dan Seum, a Louisville Republican, is proposing a freeze on state universities’ tuition rates. He said state universities have increased their tuition at a rate that outstrips cuts to higher education.

“We cut their budget by $165 million, they increased it on the backs of these kids to the tune of $582 million,” Seum said. “I think the universities have seen these kids as nothing more than a cash cow.”

According to a 2015 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Kentucky has cut higher education spending per-student at the highest rate in the U.S.

At the same time, tuition has increased at Kentucky’s public universities at a clip higher than 45 other states’ higher education systems.

Tuition increases must be approved by the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education. Last year, the board approved a 3 percent hike for the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville. Both schools were granted a 5 percent tuition increase the previous year.

Tuition is only allowed to increase by 8 percent every two years.

Kentucky ranks in the top 10 nationally for its high school graduation rate.

The state's 2013-14 graduation rate of 87.5 percent ranks Kentucky ninth overall and beats the national graduation rate of 82.3 percent.

The figures come from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt says a culture has taken hold that a high school diploma is "absolutely necessary" to achieve success.

The statistics show there are gaps in graduation rates among various student groups.

But for the most part, the gaps in Kentucky are smaller than in many states and in the nation as a whole. State education officials say the gaps narrowed and improvement occurred in graduation rates among black and Hispanic students and those who qualify for free/reduced-priced meals.

University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto has decided to cover a campus mural from 1934 that shows scenes from state history, including black workers in a tobacco field and a Native American with a tomahawk.

Capilouto wrote on the school's website Monday that he met with a group of students recently and understood their frustrations over the mural.

Capilouto says he'll have the Memorial Hall fresco shrouded until a more permanent solution is found. The mural was painted directly into the plaster, making its removal difficult. He says an explanation of the cover will be placed nearby.

In 2006, senators of the University of Kentucky's student government passed a resolution to remove the mural, but then-President Lee Todd said he thought the artwork was an important historical and artistic artifact.

Kentucky lawmakers will be asked to restore cuts to higher education when they write a new, two-year state budget next legislative session. 

The state has cut campus budgets seven times in the last eight years.  In a budget recommendation approved Friday, the Council on Postsecondary Education is seeking more than $86 million for the state’s eight public universities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.   

CPE President Bob Kings says education leaders realize only partial restoration of the cuts is realistic.

"We understand the state is facing some other extraordinary challenges in the pension systems and the growth of the Medicaid budget, but we also know that Kentucky is one of a handful of states that has not re-invested in higher education," King told WKU Public Radio.

Lawmakers will also be asked to tie higher education funding to certain performance standards at each school.  State money would be awarded to campuses based on metrics like closing achievement gaps and increasing retention and graduation rates.

WKU

WKU is taking steps to boost the number of non-traditional students at its four campuses.  The school’s overall enrollment has been hurt by a drop in part-time adult learners.

A promotional campaign is using postcards, email, and social media in hopes of reaching 45,000 non-traditional students who want to finish their bachelor’s degree or start a master’s degree. 

Dr. Brad Kissell, director of Adult and Regional Campus Enrollment, says this particular segment has different challenges than the traditional college student, including work and family obligations.

"How do we provide courses in the evening, services they can connect with?  It's those kinds of things that we as a university need to wrestle with to help our adult learners," Kissell told WKU Public Radio.

The decline of non-traditional students isn’t the only factor behind WKU’s enrollment drop that began in 2012. Higher admission standards and an improving economy have also played a role.

The university is hosting informational sessions for prospective students this week in Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Glasgow, and Owensboro.  A list of locations and times is available here.

Drone Helping to Map Pulaski County Cemetery

Nov 12, 2015
Somerset Community College

Somerset Community College is using a drone to help map a local cemetery. Professor Eric Wooldridge is helping the Pulaski County Historical Society take aerial images of Short Creek Cemetery.  ​He's using an 18-inch drone, also called an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV.​ 

“Our primary objective with the UAV will be to fly it over top, sort of center it into quadrants, and take a good quality picture looking straight down,” said Wooldridge.

T​he idea​ is to preserve headstone locations and other historical information that could be worn away by weather and time.

“You’re dealing with markers and stones that are made of sandstone and deteriorating, so there’s no real way to keep that information unless it’s recorded in some type of legitimate format,” said Wooldridge. 

The drone will fly 20-to-40 feet over the cemetery and take images that will be used to map the property. The data recorded by the drone will be compared with notes about each headstone taken ​by a historical society volunteer.

Philip Parsons

Celebrating Veteran’s Day is a way to honor the service of all those who have served our country, including 335,000 military veterans in Kentucky. 

Some have enrolled in higher education to further their civilian careers, including 400 veterans currently enrolled at Western Kentucky University.

One of those students is 36-year-old Army veteran Philip Parsons of Morgantown. He served in the infantry for 13 years as a rifleman and machine gunner, and rose to the rank of staff sergeant.

Parsons served in Iraq, suffered through PTSD, depression and divorce, and at one point, attempted suicide.

Parsons says the difficulties don’t end when you leave the military. He spoke with WKU Public Radio's Rhonda Miller about his mission now to help other veterans through some of those challenging times.

Miller: So now you’re at Western Kentucky University. How did you manage to get to school? What was that transition?

Parsons: It was very difficult. It was intimidating. I was drawing unemployment and that was coming to its end. I was down at the unemployment office here in Bowling Green and I saw a pamphlet for Veterans Upward Bound. I’d always wanted to go to college.

Miller: What attracted you about that brochure? Was there a phrase or anything that attracted you?

Parsons: Yes, it was something about education and preparing veterans for college. And I was like, “Oh, maybe they can show me the way.” As a soldier that’s really one of our biggest challenges I find outside. We don’t have enough people to show us the way. Because that’s how we’re trained. We’re trained to follow or lead. But even if you lead, because you already know, ‘cause you’ve already been trained or taught. But not when you get out, there’s nothing. There’s nobody. You’re just by yourself. Some of that transition, if you don’t have somebody there to kind of lead you along or tell you, it becomes very difficult.

Miller: What are you studying and how did you determine what your studies should be?

Parsons: I’m studying social work. The idea is so I can become a therapist and work with other veterans.  

Why?  Really, because of my story and my experiences of just needing help. I just didn’t know what to do. There’s still a lot of that soldier inside of me and I need to still continue to look back for my other fellow brothers and sisters who are struggling.

Miller: You’ve been in college quite a while now.

Parsons: Yes, I’m a senior now.

Miller: What are the challenges you faced, being a student among 20,000 young students, who may have just come from high school and haven’t faced the kind of things you’ve faced?

Parsons: So being here with this large group, sometimes with the amount of people, at times, there was a little bit of anxiety.

Miller: What makes you anxious, when you’re on campus or in school?

Parsons: The strangest stuff. In the military, you’re just trained to look for something wrong. You come out here and you don’t really stop it. You’re so alert and so aware of things that look out of place, and there are so many things here that look out of place, coming from such a structured military. environment.

Miller: What would look out of place, for instance?

Parsons: OK, so just walking to class and you notice people up on the roof, fixing the roof. Or a car that’s parked where it’s not supposed to be parked. We have a lot of that here.

Miller: So these are things that would be an alert, like a red flag, if you’re in combat?

Parsons: They would definitely heighten your awareness.

Miller: Well, you’ve gone a long way through the military and through college now, and just kind of looking at everything now, what’s your vision of your life, what you want to do?

Parsons: My graduation is going to be in spring and then hopefully, in the fall, I’ll start my master’s program here at Western.  And after that, either to continue in school and get my doctorate or to go right to work with the VA helping veterans. No matter what I do from here on out, it’s going to be helping people.

Miller: Well, Philip Parsons, thank you so much for talking with us. It’s been just very wonderful speaking with you and thank you for sharing all that with us.

Parsons: You’re welcome, Rhonda.

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Note: You can see a televised interview featuring Philip Parsons on our sister station WKU-PBS on the weekly public affairs program OUTLOOK, airing Saturday, Nov.14 at 7:30 p.m. Central time and Sunday, Nov.15 at 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Central. The interview will be available on the wkuetv You Tube Channel Tuesday, Nov. 17.   

School officials will be offered special training following several threats that have shut down or caused evacuations at public schools in Kentucky.

Director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety Jon Akers tells media outlets that he estimates there have been at least 17 such threats this school year.

Akers says in the past two months, "it's risen to the level where there's immediate concern."

Akers says he'll offer workshops to school district officials in December and January in four regions of the state.

Akers says he expects to bring in a retired captain from the state police and a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives official to help with the training.

Lincoln County Schools were canceled Monday after a graffiti threat was found over the weekend.

Beshear Reveals Anti-Bullying Recommendations

Oct 20, 2015

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says the state should define bullying and pay for mental health counselors in public schools to help address it.

The recommendations are the result of a yearlong study by Beshear's Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force. The 26-member committee released its final report on Tuesday.

Kentucky already has 15 laws that address bullying, but none of them defines what bullying is. Beshear said that makes it difficult for school officials to identify bullying and report statistics. In 2013, a survey of by the Kentucky Department of Education found 15,512 incidents of bullying in the 2012-13 school year.

The task force included 11-year-old Morgan Guess of Paducah. Guess started an anti-bullying foundation after she was bullied at school so much that a doctor prescribed her antidepressants.

Nine semifinalists for the 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Award have been named.

The Kentucky Department of Education and Ashland Inc. made the announcement Monday.

Elementary school semifinalists are Joshua DeWar of Engelhard Elementary in Jefferson County, Sarah Lockard of A.C. Glasscock Elementary in Marion County and Michele McCloughan of Bowling Green Independent's T.C. Cherry Elementary.

Middle school semifinalists are Karen Mallonee of College View Middle in Daviess County, Rick Rafferty of Fort Thomas Independent's Highlands Middle and Carmen Thompson of Elkhorn Middle in Franklin County.

High school semifinalists are Lee E. Campbell of Knox County Central, Ashley Lamb-Sinclair of North Oldham County and Tracy Lambert of Lexington Lafayette.

The Kentucky School Boards Association has adopted a resolution that would keep the school start date a local decision. 

Two state lawmakers plan to file a bill in the 2016 General Assembly that would move the start of the school year to  late August. 

Spokesman Brad Hughes says the KSBA believes a one-size-fits-all school calendar won’t work.

"The things that affect a calendar differ from a small district in one part of the state to a large district in another part of the state," Hughes told WKU Public Radio.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, one of the sponsors of the bill, says it would allow a waiver for districts that have a lot of snow days. 

Thayer argues a later start date would save on energy costs since temperatures are typically highest in August and result in more recreational spending.

"There are no high school kids to work at our state parks, marinas, swimming pools,amusement parks and there's no one to attend either because they're all back in school," claims Thayer.

The School Boards Association plans to send the resolution to all state lawmakers ahead of next session.

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