The Nelson County School Board welcomed its newest members at Tuesday’s Ignite session at Central Office. David Norman, representing District 1, and Amanda Deaton, representing District 4, spoke to their motivation for being a part of the NCSB.
At the first of two meetings for the NCSB in January, the Ignite session gave new and returning members the opportunity to speak with the community. The 2023 NCSB also voted on a new Chairperson, giving the title to District 2 representative Diane Berry.
Two of the biggest topics for the new school board in its first session of the year revolved around their motivations for their role and the ongoing discussion concerning district facilities. Norman said he is concerned with giving all students across the county the same opportunities, while advocating for the students in New Haven’s District 1 area. Deaton’s “why” differed from her fellow new board member but emphasized her commitment to the students and community.
“I think (New Haven School) can really prosper,” Norman said. “I think they can. Those children down there are some great children, really good kids and great staff down there. We just gotta support them and get them the equipment they need.”
“I just see so much potential and we’re not realizing it, but we’ve got these parents and these teachers, and I just think that it can be better,” Deaton said. “I think I can be an instrument for that along with other members of the board. And that’s what made me want to be a part of that.”
Concerning facility planning, Superintendent Wes Bradley presented all in attendance with facility funding data that included projections of how the facility funds may grow over the next 20 years and previous projects the district is still paying for. Bradley passed out data that listed all the possible predictions for the facility fund growth based on various property assessment percentages (1.5% up to 6.1%).
Among projected numbers, with the highest listed property assessment growth of 6.1%, Nelson County School could acquire $270 million for facilities over the next 20 years. However, Bradley emphasized that the model presented is something the board cannot control as property values across the county are predicted to rise.
“Here’s why this model is a little bit broken,” Bradley said. “The board cannot control this currently. It’s uncontrollable. Next year, property values in Nelson County are supposed to go $270 million, according to estimates from KDE (Kentucky Department of Education). That’ll move us about $7.2 million, which is above 6.1% at one year, that may or may not happen. That’s the current projection. And again, that is the current legislative structure. Do we see this changing? We don’t. Who are the people that are behind much of this legislation to begin with? People that are thinking about the schools (and) construction. People that are thinking about the future. How do we build infrastructure in school? These offer opportunities to create sustainable public schools, but these are the methods that we use.”
Among other data presented related to district facilities was a list of nine projects from the last 20 years that the district is still paying for. The oldest of these projects was Bloomfield Elementary and Old Kentucky Home Middle School from 2003, which still has $944,847 of remaining payments.
Bradley ended this presentation with the proposed question, “What does the future demand of our schools as we think about facilities?” This question created a space for the new and returning board members to voice their thoughts on the current state of Nelson County Schools and how they hope for them to move forward.
Deaton and Berry echoed the sentiment that each decision made regarding facilities is a group conversation and done with the purpose to improve them for students. Deaton also was glad to see discussion among the board related to facilities, stating she had not seen that in the past.
“I’m just encouraged that we’re sitting here talking about it, because I’ve been coming to board meetings for longer than I wish I could say that I have been and we’ve not been talking about it,” Deaton said. “… I’m so glad you brought that up and whatever decisions we make regarding facilities, does it further education? Are our kids gonna be able to learn better? Because if not, what the heck are we doing?”
“We’ve got to do something, but it’s all of our responsibility — it’s just not one,” Berry said. “It’s just not our responsibility. Our responsibility, is to me, is to make sure that any money that’s generated is generated and put into the right formula to make it work. Cause to me that’s all we’ve got to give, is our time and our money to make sure that the right materials are getting to these kids too”
District 3’s Tracy Bowling said an essential part of moving forward with facilities is listening to the people in those facilities.
“I think talking to the people in the buildings is where you really find out where the needs are,” Bowling said. “… (B)ut just talking to the educators in the buildings and what’s going on. I can speculate from an outsider all day long. But until you talk to the people that are doing the work, that’s where the truth is.”
District 5 representative Damon Jackey urged the board into a central question of figuring about where the problems lie in the district.
“It’s obvious this is a very complicated conversation,” Jackey said. “And, you know, even though this discussion is good, there’s no answer that’s going to come out of this tonight. But it’s a good jumping point for us to continue to focus in on what are the challenges that have been identified that somehow we’ve got to do something.”
Deaton suggested redistricting, saying this would have a large effect on the middle schools, however she acknowledged that is an ongoing issue that has much to consider. She also began the discussion of unifying the high schools across the district, which has since garnered much attention across the county.
“And I do think the middle school conversation has to happen and it’s going to involve some sort of change,” Deaton said. “But that’s a conversation that there’s a lot of ways that could go and I think those are things we have to weigh. I think there’s an obvious solution to our high school problem. I think there’s an obvious one in terms of one high school.”
On Jan. 17, the board will meet for the second time this month at Old Kentucky Home Middle School, because of the anticipated large community turn out. On the agenda for the Tuesday meeting in the Next Strategic Planning section there are three items listed including Thomas Nelson Community Campus bids, New Haven Revised BG-1, BG-2 and BG-3 and high school and middle school organization, the latter of which will be a discussion.