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Bridging The Gap
Henderson's top stories in education for 2016.
  Monday 01 January, 2018
Henderson\'s top stories in education for 2016.

Like in 2015, the Spottsville project and the nickel tax continued to dominate Henderson education headlines in 2016.

Construction finally began in earnest this fall on the new two-story elementary school to replace the existing Spottsville Elementary.

The new school is being built to the east of the existing school. It will have a traditional schoolhouse look, complete with a small cupola that is a nod to the history of the original Spottsville Elementary that was replaced in 1981 with the existing school.

The existing school was built on the edge of a flood plane and has experience significant water and moisture issues for years. Dehumidifiers have been placed throughout the school and ceiling tiles are changed out regularly to keep any problems with mold and mildew at bay.

The total project cost estimate for the new school is $16,999,705.05. It's expected to open in spring 2018.

The existing school also has a new principal on board. Sarah Estabrook, most recently an assistant principal at South Middle School, was named at Spottsville's principal Dec. 21.

Beth Watson took a leave of absence from that position in November and is retiring as of January. Retired educator Patty Sellers had been acting as a substitute principal.

Nickel tax

Henderson County residents voted to approve a "nickel tax" that generates revenue that is restricted for construction and renovation projects in November 2015.

Since then, newly elected Henderson City Commissioner Robert Pruitt and Dean Spooner have filed several legal complaints looking to overturn the tax. They have argued that the tax is fraudulent and was applied retroactively.

They filed complaints with Henderson Circuit Court, the Kentucky Attorney General's office and the Kentucky General Assembly's Office of Education Accountability. None of them have ruled in the plaintiff's favor.

The OEA said the school system did not violate the law as it campaigned for voters to approve a nickel tax. And Henderson Circuit Court Judge Karen Wilson ruled in a summary judgment this past summer that the tax wasn't applied retroactively.

Pruitt and Spooner have since filed a complaint with the Kentucky Court of Appeals, stating that Wilson has a conflict of interest since her husband is the president of Business Equipment Distributors. The business provides office supplies and student bookstore supplies to Henderson County Schools.

College budgets

Gov. Matt Bevin's proposed state budget called for most universities and college, including Henderson Community College, to cut 2 percent in state-appropriated funds

State legislators did not approve Bevin's budget and the matter went before the courts.

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate initially ruled in Bevin's favor, but the Kentucky Supreme Court released their ruling in September. The Supreme Court ruling stated that the governor's "reduction of the allotments of the universities in this case exceeded his statutory authority."

Bevin was ordered to release nearly $18 million to Kentucky's college and universities in October.

Due to state government budget cuts and declining enrollment, Kentucky community colleges cut 506 positions in the spring. HCC eliminated 13 positions, although 10 of those were through resignations or retirements.

HCC has also made other cuts to help pare the budget, such as moving to a four-day workweek through the summer to save on energy costs. The school’s fine arts center, which was renamed the Preston Arts Center in December, will close for a month in January 2017, as well.

Henderson County Schools has created a school of fine arts at Henderson County High School.

As of early December, the high school is accepting applications from freshmen and eighth-graders at Henderson's North and South middle schools and Holy Name School for students to join SOFA.

Plans to create the school within a school concept were publicly announced in March during a school board meeting. Auditions are expected to take place in the spring for the pathways of instrumental music, theater, visual arts and voice. They are also hoping to add dance for the 2017-18 school year.

Former Cairo Elementary Principal Buffy House was arrested on Feb. 8 on a first-degree wanton endangerment charge after she was accused of pointing a handgun at her boyfriend and attempting unsuccessfully to pull the trigger.

A Henderson County jury later acquitted House of the charge during a trial held in late summer.

House resigned from her principal position in March after less than two years on the job.

Brian Gardner was chosen to succeed house. In July, Gardner was hospitalized after exhibiting stroke-like symptoms while working out at the gym. Curriculum specialist Brooke Shappell has been acting as substitute principal while Gardner is on medical leave.

Every public school student in middle school now wears a school uniform.

North Middle School's site-based decision-making council approved a school uniform policy in March, about a year after South Middle's SBDM voted for school uniforms.

Students at North began wearing uniforms at the start of the 2016-17 school year. South's students began wearing them the year before. Holy Name, a private Catholic school, has had a school uniform policy since 1994.

While the Holy Name students must wear green polos, the public school students wear gray, black or maroon. Khakis and knee-length skirts or shorts are a staple at all of the schools, though South and North students can also wear solid black pants.


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