Women’s Network hosts chairs of Boyle, Danville boards of education

Published 7:19 pm Monday, March 16, 2020


News release 

On March 10, Jennifer Newby, with the Boyle County School Board, and Steve Becker,  with the Danville school board, met with concerned citizens for a Conversation with local school district board chairs. Both have long experience serving on their school boards and chairing them.

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Newby and Becker’s opening remarks centered on the building and renovation projects that the school districts have undertaken to provide much improved environments for learning. Newby mentioned that Boyle’s new middle school should open in August. The old middle school building, originally designed as an elementary school, will be then renovated fully to replace Woodlawn Elementary.  

Becker commented on the renovations and expansions of Toliver Intermediate and Hogsett Elementary schools, now well equipping Danville to meet the needs of all its children. 

Both Newby and Becker shared concern for the ever increasing needs of our children living in poverty.  Over half of all school-age children throughout both districts qualify for free or reduced lunch. Food insecurity is a huge problem for our kids, so the breakfast and lunch they get at school is vitally important.  

In addition, both districts have recognized the need to increase their capacity to provide mental health services for our students and have taken impressive steps to address those needs. Danville has created opportunities for their students by contracting with Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Hospital and Danville Pediatrics to provide mental health and nursing services, while Boyle County has increased staffing of mental health professionals throughout the district. 

Funding for these services is not provided by the state so both districts have had to absorb the cost.

Community partnerships have also promoted progress for preschool programs. Half and full day programs have expanded.  A $100,000 Quality Improvement Fund grant from the Kentucky Governor’s Office of Early Childhood was obtained and shared equally between the districts through the help of Dr. Patten Mahler of Centre College.  The schools also were able to strengthen links with local childcare providers and do some family outreach. This all helps more 4-year olds locally become kindergarten ready. 

Several questions raised at the meeting pointed to the financial pressure on local school districts because the state legislature has long underfunded public education.  For example, there are no state funds now for textbooks, and transportation costs are disproportionately carried locally. SEEK funds may be increasing, but have not kept up with inflation.  

Discussion of how public schools meet the wide educational and social needs of children made for a serious evening session.  But a strong appreciation of the resilience and enthusiasm that children bring to our lives gave the forum an upbeat tone. This public meeting, sponsored by The Women’s Network, was arranged and moderated by Alane Mills.