By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
Schools all over America are updating their safety procedures and taking precautions in the wake of recent shootings, such as the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., last month.
Corbin Independent Schools are no exception, as they presented their plans at Thursday night’s board meeting.
Before the safety update was presented, Superintendent Ed McNeel reminded those present that even with improvements in place, things can happen — a thought shared by other superintendents nationwide.
Administrative Assistant Darrell Tremaine told board members safety meetings with staff and faculty had been held at all of the district’s schools to review all the plans and make adjustments as they’re needed. That included updating some of the buildings with new security equipment, plus working with the Corbin Police Department and providing teachers with one-on-one safety instructions.
One concern was the response time in the event an incident occurred.
“The biggest concern discussed was how quick the response is from the time we call the police. Once the police get there, the shooting stops,” Tremaine said at the session, held at the District Office on Roy Kidd Avenue.
To address concerns about safety, the district has already installed additional surveillance cameras, while direct phone lines to the police will be added in the office of each school, and lockdown drills will take place more frequently. He mentioned that viewing windows have also been installed on entrance kitchen doors, so the staff can identify delivery personnel. In addition, all exterior doors at all the district’s schools, except Corbin Middle School, have been locked.
Tremaine said intercoms and cameras are being installed on the gym doors at the middle school to improve security there, with more safety improvements coming.
He added both the Corbin Police and retired Army Col. Rick McClure, who formerly taught the school’s JROTC program, have made major contributions to the safety effort. As a result, police have completed walk-through visits at all the schools to get familiar with each school’s building. They made suggestions on safety with those suggestions being discussed and implemented, and police have agreed to monitor practice lockdown drills to make sure the district is achieving its safety goals. In addition, McClure has already visited some of the classrooms to instruct teachers on how to make their rooms as safe as possible, and will continue to visit each classroom in the district.
Concerns on another front — insurance on school districts — were also brought up. According to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) this week, the Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust, or KISBIT, has notified Corbin Independent and other districts that they’ll be assessed to make up for a growing deficit in the Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurance and/or Property and Liability pools.
The total assessment is estimated to be more than $50 million.
State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said in Frankfort he was aware KISBIT is facing a deficit, with the deficit having the potential to affect all the state’s public school districts.
According to a letter from KISBIT shared by the KDE, current members such as Corbin Independent will continue to have uninterrupted coverage through June 30.
State law requires school districts to carry insurance for school property, boilers, auto liability, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation. KISBIT covers school districts in the state for risks.
Stephen Vaughn, of the Insurance Service Center in Corbin, discussed the situation with the board, saying that in the event of problems with the KISBIT coverage, his agency can write insurance for the district through Ohio Casualty and Wright Specialty Insurance.
“To my knowledge, we are the only agency in this area that has access to Wright, and we have school access to Ohio Casualty,” said Vaughn.
“We would like to have this insurance on a local level,” said the district’s board chair, Kim Croley, who suggested Vaughn set up a meeting with board treasurer Alicia Logan in the days ahead.
Croley also said she, McNeel and administrators from the Whitley County and Williamsburg school districts would meet Tuesday with Whitley County Health Department Director Gail Timperio on the school health nurse services for 2013-14.
The meeting involves funding for school nurses. County health departments were linked to the Medicaid program, which paid the health departments until Nov. 1, 2011, when managed care programs took over in Kentucky.
Croley said managed care is not paying for health department programs.
“The decisions the schools make on school nursing services do not come from us. They come from the state. They, the managed care programs, have not paid the school nurses one dime since they took over from Medicare. We’re going to meet and tell Frankfort to step up to the plate and tell these managed care people, ‘you are breaking the law,’” she said.
The district’s draft budget for 2013-14 was released. It showed the estimated beginning balance (end-of-year carryover in the General Fund) budgeted at $1.28 million, which is the same as in the current year’s beginning balance. State SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) is budgeted at $11.45 million, which comes from the state Department of Education in their SEEK forecast. The motor vehicle tax was slightly increased, with other General Fund revenues at or near the same amounts as in the current budget. Salary budgets did not include any salary increases, but the budget did include funds for the required increase for rank and years experience for certified and classified staff. Meanwhile, the General Fund maintenance projects are below desired amounts and will need to be increased as funds become available.
The draft budget also showed the purchase of one bus has been removed from the budget and will need to be placed back into the budget as funds become available. Bond payments for 2013-14 come to a total of $1.93 million, with all payments paid from the Building Fund’s restricted dollars. And the draft budget’s contingency is at $865,316, which is approximately 4.4 percent of the total budget. Last year in the draft budget, the contingency was at 4.6 percent.
Among actions taken at Thursday’s meeting, board members approved BG-4 (final Buildings and Grounds) forms on 49 bid packages on the Corbin High School Phase 1 Addition and Renovation Project, along with the BG-4 for the boiler project at Corbin Elementary School. Both actions are pending KDE approval. Approval was also given Certificates of Substantial Completion on 16 contracts for the Corbin High School Phase 2 project. They also approved the purchase of one 84-passenger Thomas Built school bus from Whayne Supply Company at a total cost of $121,741.
In addition, the district’s contract with the City of Corbin to continue operations of the Corbin Center for Technology and Community Activities was approved, with the terms of the contract the same as last year. And approval was given to create and approve an extra service position for an assistant swim coach at Corbin High School, with a salary of $400 a year.
The session began with election of board members. They approved Croley to serve again as board chairwoman, with board member Lisa Cleary as board vice-chairwoman and Superintendent McNeel as secretary to the board.
At the end of the meeting, those attending were reminded the date for this year’s Corbin High School Graduation will be Friday, May 17.