By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Data driven instruction, performing arts, vocational training, and communication between parents, teachers, and the community were headlining topics at the Education Summit held Thursday at the London Community Center.
Many attendees outlined concerns about how Laurel County’s students can be prepared for an uncertain future.
Doug Bennett, incoming Laurel County Public School District superintendent, said the reputation and quality of the local school system is vital to the continued growth of any community.
“One of the first questions asked is about the schools,” he said. “The answer should be any Laurel County school. Quality standards are not anything we can compromise.”
But how to get better communication between teachers, parents and the community is a problem that one parent described as “a black hole.”
P. J. Bowman, parent member of Johnson Elementary’s site-based decision-making council, said receiving memos from teachers regarding school activities and student progress was easier in the elementary grade levels.
“Once they start middle school, there’s some kind of black hole between leaving school and getting home,” she said.
Bowman praised the One Call Now program that sends automated messages to parents regarding school activities. Most often used when school is dismissed for inclement weather, the One Call Now system has also been used this summer to contact parents about upcoming sports camps.
Test scores and achieving goals was another area of concern. Kathryn Hardman, director of the Laurel County Adult Education, said she is seeing increased cases in which reading and math skills are below level. With reports of high school graduates having to take remedial courses at the college level, Hardman said the educational process needs to focus more on the “basics” of education.
“I’ve had people come in and say they’ve never seen a multiplication or division problem,” she said. “Reading and grammar skills like punctuation and capitalization are not taught any more.”
Laurel County Board of Education member Joe Schenkenfelder said the recent land purchase for a vocational school would serve those students interested in entering the labor force rather than going to college.
“We welcome business/industry/trade into our schools,” Schenkenfelder said.
After school tutoring was another venue addressed, with the suggestion the school provide busing for students whose parents cannot pick up their child. However, an educator described how some parents were willing to drive out of town for sporting events but were “reluctant to stay a half an hour after school.”
Providing online tutorials was suggested by Jane Winkler Dyche, attorney and board member of the Laurel County Public Library. Dyche said the library has 30 computers that can be used by students who do not have computers at home.
Performing arts was another area discussed, with Summit facilitator Dr. Lorraine Garkovich saying she once reviewed applicants for the Singletary Scholarship at Lexington’s University of Kentucky where “nearly every applicant had had some form of performing arts.”
The Education Summit was a direct result of the Vision 2020 Summit held in November that addressed four areas of focus — including education — for the future progress of the city and county.