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Mon, Jul 24, 2017 09:38 PM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
Questions many, answers few in art class debate
PRESTONSBURG — A move is on at Prestonsburg High School to save some art programs, but school council members say the fate of those courses may not be known until just before the start of the 2003-2004 school year.

At a special council meeting Monday, parent Patricia Carty told council it was her understanding that there would be four art classes next year, but the council had cut that to just one class.

Carty, and others asking why the classes were eliminated, received few answers.

"Are you asking me or the council?" Principal Ron Hampton, who serves as chairman of the council, asked Carty.

"I'm asking why (the classes were cut)," Carty answered.

"You might want to ask some other council members," Hampton said.

"I'm really looking for why it was done," Carty said.

Hampton finally told Carty that budget cuts forced council to "cut somewhere" because "we couldn't keep what we had last year."

Floyd superintendent Paul Fanning disputed that statement Tuesday, saying that budget tightening in previous years allowed schools to receive the same funding allocation this year as last.

"We didn't have the cuts this year as last year," Fanning said. "The board gave the allocations by the first of March, including Prestonsburg High School. Principals are aware of what was recommended to the board. It was the same as last year and we didn't really cut any more. The allocation recommended was the same as last year. Local school councils decide how to use the allocations."

In previous school board meetings Fanning and finance director Matt Wireman announced that cuts in spending for the past few years actually allowed schools to receive more money this year.

Carty said at Monday's site-based council meeting that there had been enough students pre-register to fill four art classes in the coming school year and she asked again that council explain why those classes have apparently been eliminated.

"I can't answer that," Hampton said.

Council member and teacher Russell Shepherd said the council decided to try to increase reading scores of the students. He said council looked at where students scored low on state CATS tests and wanted to try to increase those scores by replacing art with other classes.

Carty, who has a daughter coming in as a freshman next year, said research has indicated that students who do well in the arts increase their reading abilities and do well on national SAT scores.

Hampton said that not many students at the high school took SAT tests. He added that "it could be yes, it could be no" that those art classes will be part of the curriculum and that "it could be worked out over the summer."

Ruth Patterson, who teaches special education, asked why a position was previously created at the school to have a part-time English and arts teacher, when there was a certified, tenured arts teacher already at the school. She emphasized that "reading is the most important thing to teach a child" and it went hand-in-hand with the arts.

Hampton apologized for not really answering the question and said the final master schedule would not be complete until "about two weeks before school starts."

Superintendent Fanning said he couldn't comment specifically on Hampton's statements but that most principals have an idea of their schedules in early summer, and that usually some fine tuning must be done prior to Sept. 15, the last day teacher transfers can be made.

At Monday's meeting, art teacher Ellen Trimble said her students had excelled and received awards for the past three years and she, too, wanted to know why a half-time English and arts position had been created, rather than having a full-time "certified person teach in that area."

Trimble also made reference to the decision to utilize a part-time English, part-time art teacher, apparently in reference to an earlier council decision to assign more duties to Mary Fannin, wife of Prestonsburg Mayor Jerry Fannin. Before that decision was made, Mary Fannin was listed as an English instructor at the high school, but she apparently only taught a journalism class.

Hampton said there were at least "four or five" other positions cut at the school and that there were other tenured people "not coming back."

Trimble said the superintendent says he will "take into consideration" hiring teachers with seniority and tenure rights if a cut position has been reinstated.

Hampton again asked, "Do you want me to answer that, or council?"

"Anyone," Trimble said.

Council member Tim Blankenship said he would "consider" that and added, "anything is possible."

Patterson and teacher Carolyn Ford said that under state and federal law, special education students can't be refused an art class and most of those students excelled in that area.

"Mine better be in (art class), the law says they have first choice," Patterson said.

Patterson later apologized for "being so blunt," but said those students have "so few things they do to feel good about themselves" and parents of freshmen are "gonna have to fight" for any art classes cut.

Ford said one art teacher had refused to accept special needs students this year, but she did not identify who that was.

Hampton said the board of education had promised to have a special meeting to discuss an additional allocation for the school and said that maybe another position could be funded if the board grants that request.

Superintendent Fanning said the school's request had been referred to the district's budget committee and the board might address the matter later.

Hampton repeatedly said he was sorry Carty's and others' questions could not be answered.

The group appeared frustrated that they received no definite answers.

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