Petition May Block Tax Increase for Muhlenberg Schools

Mar 10, 2015

A group that opposes a new utility tax meant to help the cash-strapped Muhlenberg County school district has filed a petition to block the measure from going into place.

The Messenger-Inquirer reports a petition with 3,200 signatures was turned in on Monday to the Muhlenberg County Clerk's office. Clerk Gaylan Spurlin says if at least 1,394 signatures are certified as being registered voters, the issue will go on the ballot in November.

The county school board voted in January to add a 3 percent utility tax, hoping it would bring in $1.5 million annually.

The board faces a nearly $5.5 million deficit this fiscal year. In addition to approving the tax, the board also voted to cut teacher salaries by 8 percent and lay off 51 teachers.

The state Senate recently approve a bill that would tie higher education funding to Kentucky universities’ ability to produce more and better graduates.

Critics of the present funding model say that schools are funded with an outdated system that doesn’t account for adjustments in enrollment numbers and graduation rates.

“The university system has to be responsive and we can’t keep graduating people, young men and women, that can’t be employed,” said Senate President Robert Stivers during a debate on Wednesday.

A national study finds Kentucky has the second-highest per-capita rate in the country of inappropriate behavior between school employees and students.

The research was conducted by Terry Abbott, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education. His firm, Drive West Communications, examined media reports in every state daily in 2014. He tracked 22 cases in Kentucky last year.

Just as it is nationwide, Abbott found the problem of is mostly among male school employees. Abbott says the men were an average age of 41.

"Some people assume a lot of the teachers involved in these cases are kids right out of college almost the same age as the students they're teaching and they don't know any better.  That's simple not true," Abbott told WKU Public Radio.  "For the most part, these are educators who have a decade or more of experience in the classroom."

Abbott’s study also revealed that private messages through social media and text messaging were involved in 36 percent of the cases in Kentucky. 

Flickr Creative Commons

A voluntary survey that Kentucky teachers take every two years is now available online.

It’s known as the Kentucky TELL survey and its meant to measure what teachers think of their schools, resources, leadership and community support. If a majority of teachers at a particular school take the survey, then that school can use the data as part of its ongoing improvement plan.

Nearly 90 percent of teachers across the state took the survey in 2013. If found that many teachers thought poorly of their schools access to technology. Also, half of respondents wanted more professional development on the new standards known as common core. 

The education department says legislators and policymakers may also use the information to develop and implement changes.

The voluntary and anonymous survey is open until March 31.

Reading, Writing and CPR In Kentucky High Schools?

Feb 27, 2015

Kentucky's public high schools would be expected to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation training to students under a bill that has passed the state House.

The measure would require that the CPR training be included in health education curriculum.

The bill cleared the House on a 94-1 vote Thursday and now goes to the Senate.

Democratic Rep. Jeff Greer of Brandenburg says training more people in CPR will save lives.

Schools don't like to use the V-word anymore — "vocational," as in "vocational education." Administrators say the word is outdated, along with the idea of offering job-training courses only to students who are going straight into the workforce.

Nashville, Tenn., is trying a new approach. The public school system there is encouraging every high school student, regardless of college plans, to take three career-training classes before they graduate.


Update at 4:12 p.m.:

A series of weekend events hosted by Kentucky churches aimed at connecting minority students with higher education information is being postponed because of the weather.

Kentucky Community and Technical College System and churches throughout the state were scheduled to host “Super Sunday” events, targeting African-American and Latino students. Events in Bardstown, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Henderson, Leitchfield, Owensboro, Somerset and several other cities  are being postponed to later dates.

You can see which Super Sunday events are impacted by the postponements here.

Original post:

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is making a special effort this weekend to reach out to prospective minority students. 

The fifth annual “Super Sunday” will be held at churches across the state.  KCTCS President Jay Box says the recruitment initiative targets African-American and Latino students.

WKU is mourning the loss of a man who spent nearly five decades teaching economics at the school.

Dick Cantrell passed away this week after a battle with cancer. He was a WKU Professor Emeritus of Economics and taught 47 years.

Arrangements for Mr. Cantrell are pending.

Technology Boosts Library Usage in Kentucky

Feb 19, 2015

Libraries are surging across Kentucky thanks, in large part, to technology.

Kentucky residents checked out more than 30.7 million items in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to a news release last week from the state Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

That is 2 percent more items checked out than last year, according to the release.

The number of residents with library cards is also climbing, according to the release. Nearly 60 percent of the state’s population now have one.

And for the first time, the number of e-books checked out from public libraries in the state surpassed the number of items checked out from bookmobiles, according to the release.

Lisa Autry

A dormitory on the WKU campus remains without power after a high voltage cable failed Tuesday, initially impacting four buildings. 

Students living in Pearce-Ford Tower remain displaced with some of them setting up camp at the Downing Student Union.  Freshman Ashley Hilgore says her preparations for the winter storm were made in vain.

"The worst thing is that we all went out and bought all this food preparing for the snow storm and now it's all spoiled because there's no power," Hilgore tells WKU Public Radio.

As temperatures over the next couple of days plummet below zero, Thompson says she’s just thankful for a warm place to stay.   She has a blanket spread on the floor with a few essentials like her textbooks, laptop and phone.  Like Hilgore, Freshman Courtney Thompson traveled lightly.

"The elevators are still out at PFT and I live on the 14th floor.  Everything we wanted to bring had to be carried up and down the stairs," says Thompson.  "I've just been sleeping with a blanket and pillow on the floor."

Repair work to PFT is expected to be complete by late Thursday.  Meanwhile, 24-hour visitation is in place for all residence halls to allow students to stay with friends on campus.

Upset that retired Kentucky Community and Technical College System President Michael McCall is taking a $324,000 consulting fee when the system has been running in the red, its professors and staff members are asking him to decline the money.


WKU is receiving praise for the number of Fulbright Scholars it produced last year.

The six grants awarded to WKU students ranks third in the nation among schools offering Master’s degrees, according to a list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education. WKU’s six current Fulbright Scholars are teaching English and conducting research in five countries: Costa Rica, England, Germany, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Melinda Grimsley-Smith, with the school’s Office of Scholar Development, says a growing number of students are seeing the value of scholarships that offer an international component “where they’re taking a year off, or a year in between here and grad school, or between here and a job to go out into the world for a year and live in another culture and be a cultural ambassador for the United States.”

She also believes part of the school’s recent success stems from its efforts at convincing more students that they have a shot at landing prestigious grants, like the Fulbright.

“Students are more and more willing to take the risk of applying, I think. They’re more willing to think of themselves as compelling and competitive candidates for national scholarships.”

WKU’s 2014-15 Fulbright Award recipients are:

Five Kentucky school districts have created the state’s first regional career and technical academy, where high school students will learn advanced manufacturing and technology skills.

The goal of the I-Lead Academy is for students to earn a work certificate or dual credit for college, and possibly an associate’s degree, while in high school, said Alicia Sells with the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, which helped develop the school.

The school will be located in Carrollton and will offer up to 30 spots a year to freshman students from Carroll, Gallatin, Henry, Owen and Trimble counties beginning next fall.

In four years, the school will have an attendance of around 120 students, said Sells. They’ll attend the Jefferson Community and Technical College campus in Carrollton full time as juniors and seniors.

To create the school, OVEC researched which jobs are in demand in the region, she said.

Credit Jessica Dockery, Lead Reporter for the The Madisonville Messenger newspaper

The fight for transgender rights continues at Madisonville-North Hopkins High School. Fifteen to 20 students and community members rallied Saturday on the old courthouse lawn in downtown Madisonville. 

Organizers currently have more than 300 signatures on a petition circulating the school. The petition requests teachers call students by their preferred pronouns and to allow students to use bathrooms for the gender of their choosing.  Currently transgender students are asked to use handicap/unisex restrooms. The Madisonville Messenger’s Lead Reporter Jessica Dockery covered the weekend rally.

“The students did have a lot of support it seemed by folks driving by, honking their horns hollering positive things outside of the windows,” said Dockery.  “I didn’t really see any negative reactions from the community while I was there. “

Dockery says the protestors weren’t just from MNHHS. Students from Hopkins County Central High School and some home-schooled students also attended the Saturday rally.

Dockery said the organizers of the rally are trying to promote awareness.

As the dropout age increases to 18 for most Kentucky public schools next academic year, the state education department will be closely monitoring its data.

Among the indicators that will be watched is the number of students who opt out for homeschooling.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says currently, less than 1 percent of the public school population is opting out each year.

He says the education department will use that number to measure against future data.

“We want to carefully monitor and make sure that we don’t see a significant spike in home school," added Holliday.

Holliday says the agency will primarily monitor students age 16 and above, who will soon be required to stay in public school.

Holliday says the department will also monitor grade retention, alternative and career and technical school participation and student behaviors.