Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Webster students to get business program at ATC

Board approves free meal program for 
all students at Providence and Sebree

J-E News Editor
Webster County Area Technology Center (ATC) principal Larry Garrity appeared before the school board on Monday to officially present the tech school’s newest program. Starting in the fall of 2014 Webster County students will be able to pursue college credits and certifications in business.

“We’ve spent several years looking at fields of study and decided to go with business,” Garrity told the board, pointing out that the district has not had a business program in almost a decade. “That’s a huge void for our students. We’d really like to fill that void.”
ATC will team with Madisonville Community and Technical College to bring college level courses to students on the Webster County High School campus. These will include Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy, Advanced Computer and Technology Applications and a Business Elective.
Garrity told the board that he wants to see the district’s inactive Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter started back up.
ATC will be getting some help getting the program up and running. Garrity told the board that Webster County Economic Development had pledged up to $42,000 to help purchase equipment and supplies needed for the program.
“That is a huge commitment to the community and to our students,” he said.
Parents of students at Providence and Sebree Elementary Schools will be getting a big break starting with the 2014-2015 school year. On Monday school board members approved a program that will make all students at those schools eligible for free meals.
Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows schools that predominantly serve low-income children to offer free, nutritious school meals to all students through the FDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Both Sebree and Providence schools qualified for CEP.
Under CEP, Food Services at the schools are reimbursed the cost of meals in the same way they are currently paid by the Free and Reduced Meal program, which provide meals only to low-income students. The catch is, students must get the meals in order for the district to qualify for reimbursement.
In general, the Food Services department in the district has always generated enough money to pay for itself through reimbursements and the cash price of meals. With CEP the only income will come from reimbursements.
District Treasurer Brandi Burnett introduced the second draft of the district’s budget. Currently Webster County Schools is looking at a $19,188,073.10 balanced budget for the upcoming school year. $10,376,245.25 of that will go to salaries.
“This is not the final budget,” Burnett told board members, pointing out that she is required to present three drafts of the budget to them before it must be approved in September. “There will be more changes, especially in the salary codes as decisions are made.”
She also cautioned board members to watch their spending. “We’ve done a lot of restructuring and we look better for it financially. But we are a work in progress. We need to be very careful as we move forward.”
The board then looked at  a suggestion from Superintendent Pete Galloway to consider changing their ‘insurance agent of record’. Currently the district buys their workers comp insurance from Curneal & Hignite in Elizabethtown, but they get their liability coverage from Mike Hazelwood in Henderson. Curneal & Hignite is the district’s agent of record, meaning that the district must keep coverage with them.
Due to several large worker’s comp claims in recent years, the district’s workers comp insurance has gone from $70,000 per year to $107,000.
“Both of these agencies have become very interested in us since we started discussing looking around,” Galloway said. “$107,000 is not a huge account, but it’s also not one that they want to lose.”
Mike Hazelwood approached the board last year to suggest several possibly money saving steps the district could take. However, at that time, the board was not allowed to consider changing agents of record.
“I think having someone local who can help orchestrate a loss control program would be an advantage,” said board chairman Jeff Pettit. “Someone from Henderson could be in and out more often than someone from Elizabethtown.”
Board member Tim McCormick pointed out that the only advantage of making the change would be convenience. For the time being, at least, the board would receive the same quote from either provider.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of making the change. McCormick was on the lone negative vote.
In other business, the board voted to approve pay raises for Webster County employees. Certified and classified employees will see a one percent increase in the upcoming school year. Extracurricular salary schedules will also increase, with head coaches making an additional $500.
“We’re still not where we need to be as compared to nearby school districts,” said Superintendent Galloway. “We expect our students to be able to compete with surrounding districts. We need to pay those people who help that happen.”