By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
The Carter County school system is just four weeks out from their first week of the 2022/2023 school year. But before the year starts in earnest, superintendent of schools Dr. Paul Green needed to address some rumors that have blown up recently on social media regarding the district’s participation in the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Equity Initiative.
Because of misunderstanding surrounding the word “equity,” Green said, some people on social media have been spreading misinformation about the program, claiming the district will be incorporating “critical race theory” into classroom curriculum. However, Green said, that isn’t what this program is about at all.
“Equity has turned almost into a bad word,” Green lamented. But, he said, this program has nothing to do with curriculum. Instead, it’s training for administration on how to use data to make better decisions for all students.
“This is not CRT (critical race theory),” Green said. “We follow Kentucky standards, and CRT is not a part of that.”
The program, which was actually implemented before the pandemic, but stalled during at-home instruction, focuses on a number of different elements to help teachers understand how they can best serve all of their students.
Green emphasized there have been no changes to curriculum or standards, and that critical race theory was “not part of the standards, the Equity Playbook, or any part of KDE’s work with equity.”
Critical race theory, he noted, is not taught in Kentucky schools and therefore will not be taught in Carter County.
He further noted, “equity is not solely about race.”
He noted that Carter County faced equity and diversity issues surrounding race, like any district, but also around socioeconomic issues, family situations, learning needs, and other factors. For families, he said, this might relate to foster care, homelessness, or other economic hardships. For learning needs it might relate to special education students, children with autism, or even children in gifted and talented programs.
The equity initiative, he said, simply gives educators another way of looking at data related to how the school’s policies impact this wide range of students, and how the district can use their resources to improve the educational experience for those and other students.
In other business, the district took action to approve school resource officer (SRO) agreements with the Olive Hill and Grayson police departments. That agreement includes funding the officers at an increased rate.
Green said he had engaged in discussions with Grayson mayor George Steele, and Olive Hill police chief Bruce Palmer, and both departments were still willing to serve the school district, but like everyone else, their costs have gone up and school reimbursements haven’t kept pace. After those discussions, he said, they’ve agreed to the costs presented by both, though the school board didn’t reveal the total amount of those costs.
“They’re willing to serve the schools as they’ve done in the past,” Green said. “The issue is, just like with everything else, costs are going up.”
“Right now, we get about 75 percent of an officer’s time, and we haven’t been paying that full 75 percent,” Green said.
Instead, “we’ve probably been paying about 50 percent.”
He said there is a requirement from the state for high schools to have SROs at all campuses, “pending funding, or available funding.”
While they’ve always partially funded two SROs, he noted “there has been no additional funding” that could be used to assign an officer to each location. Instead, he said, the district will continue to have an SRO at each high school. That officer can then respond or plan time at each other location near them as necessary.
While they’d like officers at more locations, until more funding is provided for SRO salaries Green said this is where the district is keeping things.
While Olive Hill had been considering not offering an SRO officer, because of the costs associated with maintaining salary and benefits during the summer months, Palmer said the district’s decision to fund the officers at a higher rate meant the city would shoulder the costs not covered by the school district.
“I know this is a lot of money,” board chair Lisa Ramey Easterling said. “I’ll be honest with you, when I was told about this my first thought was ‘no way.’ But then after thinking about it… and looking at where we are as a district, and taking into consideration what happened in Texas (during the school shootings in Uvalde), this is nothing.”
No amount of money, she said, was worth compromising on the safety of our children.
Green said the current agreement was admittedly more fair, too, even if it cost the district a little more.
“We were paying about half (their salary and retirement costs), but we were getting them 75 percent of the time,” Green said. “So, we actually were getting a little better bang for our buck.”
He said the new agreement more closely matches the costs for the services the district receives.
Acting on his recommendation the board moved to accept the proposal “as presented” voting unanimously to do so.
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