There is a major discussion in this campaign that has not been emphasized by any Board of Education candidate. The focus has been on spending, and rightly so. However, there are educational issues, that also involve spending, that need to be examined.
A history lesson appears necessary as a prerequisite to several much needed questions and answers.
I am a firm believer in comprehensive high schools where fine arts classes, career/technical classes, and academic classes are taught in the same building. In the early 1980s, the Fayette County Board of Education decided this plan was best for Fayette County. This idea was reaffirmed with the building of each new high school. A student could take classes in any of the three areas without traveling around the county from school to school.
Approximately 15 years later, in the mid 1990s, another board decided to utilize the old Fayette County High School as an education center, thus the name LaFayette Education Center (LEC). College classes for students and teachers, Community School classes, the alternative school, and night school recovery classes were offered at the site.
A single Advanced Placement class was added to the offerings and scheduled for 1st and 6th periods with alternate start/end times to afford students travel time. This was several years before dual enrollment classes were encouraged by state officials.
Eventually a superintendent decided that the district office space was overcrowded and started moving district office personnel to the LEC. In 2015, 2 years into his superintendency, Dr. Barrow moved the college classes and selected Career, Technical, Agricultural Education (CTAE) classes to an elementary school building that was vacant after combining Hood Avenue Elementary and Fayetteville Intermediate School.
The school system invested approximately $10 million in the renovation of the elementary school building. Dr. Barrow renamed the building the Center of Innovation (COI) and began deconstructing the comprehensive high school philosophy.
Now, it is my understanding that the COI is scheduled to move to the current Booth Middle School building; however, this time the renovation cost is $13 million, plus an additional $48 million to construct a replacement Booth.
What kind of planning is going on? I am not opposed to career/technical classes; my grandson took a class in home repairs in another state, a very practical class. The questions I pose are these:
• What kind of study was conducted to determine the classes students wanted or needed?
• By moving classes from students’ respective high schools, who is responsible for transporting students to the COI?
• Is the district incurring unneeded expenses to transport students?
• How does traveling to off-campus classes affect a student’s schedule?
• Isn’t travel time decreasing a student’s instructional time?
• How does this travel time affect other courses the student might wish to take?
• What is the financial burden to the taxpayers?
• How many students are attending the COI?
• Is the operation of a separate building the most cost effective method of teaching CTAE courses?
• Is the coursework offered at the COI the most productive means for teaching the CTAE classes?
• Is a stand-alone vocational school appropriate for a 21st century education?
• Doesn’t a high school benefit from CTAE course offerings at the home school?
Before wasting more taxpayer money, the taxpayers need some answers.
Additionally, the high school structure was required to change from a six-period class schedule to a seven-period class schedule in order to accommodate students taking classes at the COI. However, not all students are enrolled in 7 classes, as students traveling to the COI require travel time.
• Is the school system sacrificing state funding for the travel time?
• How has taking extra classes affected test scores and content mastery?
• Is the additional course creating a hardship on students, or adding stress to an already busy adolescent?
• Has a study been conducted to determine the effectiveness of the 7-period day?
• What is the effect of the decreased learning time in each class?
• Is a 50-minute class conducive to conducting labs and hands-on activities in courses?
• What studies have been done to show the effectiveness of the programs? What are the purposes of all new programs?
If the present board of education, led by one of my opponents, has even looked at these questions, their findings have not been made public.
Additionally, the present BOE has failed to address parental concerns about the needs of dyslexic children and a proposed new health/sex education curriculum. In the past the Fayette County School System was the best in the state. Has the system fallen from grace? Why is the current board not addressing the academic needs of all students?
My background as a parent, grandparent, educator, and former board member who helped the system weather the economic downturn of 2008, gives me the necessary experience to address educational issues as well as financial ones.
Voters have 3 choices in the Post 3 race for school board:
1. The incumbent — known for reckless spending.
2. the challenger — financial expertise, no teaching experience, no board experience.
3. Marion Key — teaching experience, board experience, board budgeting experience, grandchildren in Fayette County Schools, and is not a member of the “good ole boy” club.
I, Marion Key, would appreciate your vote for Post 3, Fayette County School Board, on June 9 or in early voting going on now. For more information, please see my Facebook page.