Southgate Independent Schools Superintendent Jim Palm says the district used to be able to send students to Cincinnati – just up the road from the northern Kentucky district – more frequently for field trips to museums and the zoo. That practice has been cut back, which he says could affect the district’s assessment in program review areas. “It’s so much easier to learn something when you actually see it,” he said.
More importantly, perhaps, is another type of impact on the many low-income students in his district. “We know in today’s society that a lot of our students, if they do not have those experiences through school, they will not have those experiences, because parents are strapped at home just trying to put three meals a day on the table. They don’t have the funds to expose kids to the arts, the museum center, the zoo, all those things that enrich what they’ve learned in the classroom,” Palm said.
The federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Center program has been the salvation of Morgan County’s after-school program in two schools, but the program at the other schools “is very lean, very much scaled back,” Superintendent Deatrah Barnett said.
“In this time of trying to meet every individual child’s needs, we’re scaling back on the ESS (extended school services) we have to offer. Our summer program is getting more and more difficult to continue,” she said.
The 21st Century funding is all that’s shoring up the after-school programs in Todd County Schools, said Benningfield. “Extended School Services has been cut back to where we really don’t have any,” he said.
In Jackson Independent, the school board was forced to cut district funding to transport elementary, middle school and junior varsity students to sporting events, academic meets and other extracurricular trips for clubs. At the varsity level, each student group will be limited to eight trips during the school year.
“That’s just a luxury we can no longer do,” said Superintendent Lively, who describes his district as “needy but not feeble.”
“We want our kids to represent the school and I think it’s a sad day whenever we can’t make them feel good about that by transporting them there.”
The district is relying on parents and booster clubs to provide either funding for the district to provide the transportation or the transportation itself. The ability of students to participate in those activities is important on many levels, Lively said, including teaching students how to prioritize, building their college resumes and boosting them academically.
“A lot of kids, other than vocational and other career exploratory ideas, that’s the reason they’re here a lot of times – to be involved in those clubs and those activities,” he said.
Carter County Schools improved in almost every aspect of its most recent TELL (teaching, empowering, leading and learning) school climate survey except one: teacher support.
“We tried not to cut classroom teachers so anyone who was a support to a school we’ve pretty much had to do away with,” Dotson said, adding that has an effect on morale.
“We had instructional coaches that worked at schools. We had to do away with those positions. We had computer lab assistants that helped in computer lab. We had to do away with those positions. Gosh, there’s been so many I can’t even remember what all they have been – lots of different support positions for teachers,” he said.
Edmonson County schools, which also lost curriculum specialists, can expect less support from the central office, which also saw cuts. “When we’re making districtwide cuts, that puts more of an emphasis back on the principals to have to compensate for those areas as well,” Superintendent Waddell said.
State funds for professional development opportunities for teachers also have been slashed. “Teachers want to go to trainings and workshops and sometimes we just have to say no because we don’t have the funds for it,” Southgate’s Palm said. “Our teachers are not getting the latest and best practices to implement the new curriculum with our students.”
Morgan County Schools’ goal is to get as close to a one-to-one technology program as possible, but that is out of reach right now, Barnett said, especially after the district lost about $8 million in property value after a 2012 tornado.
Of her $75,000 technology budget this year, all but $20,000 will go toward licensing fees and maintenance. And the price tag for updating the district’s technology that is five-plus years old is $373,000. “We have more needs than we have money,” Barnett said.
In Todd County, a majority of teachers’ computers are more than seven years old and there’s not enough money to upgrade, said Benningfield.
“The state has spent a lot of money on infrastructure but the legislators have not been able to maintain funding for us to have computers at the other end of it,” he said.
The computers are so old and slow that loading and downloading within new software is difficult and glitch-prone, he said. Because of this, the district also has had a “sizeable issue,” he said, with teachers being able to use the new CIITS (Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System), which is a major source for multimedia instructional resources linked to the state’s new academic standards. Teachers also are expected to upload their lesson plans to the system.