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Superintendents from region plead with legislators for more solutions

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Screenshot from KVEC's video posted on Facebook 

FRANKFORT – A group of Eastern Kentucky superintendents and the Kentucky Valley Education Cooperative presented a “call-to-action” position paper to legislators outlining the challenges of the region and identifying opportunities to leverage education to revitalize economies in Eastern Kentucky.

On Tuesday, February 12, nearly 400 students from the region showcased classroom innovations at the State Capitol, while more than 20 superintendents presented their research paper outlining their obstacles and asking for lawmakers to support changes that would positively influence the rural communities in Eastern Kentucky.

KVEC Board Chairman and Magoffin County Schools Superintendent Scott Helton told the group of educators and legislators gathered in the rotunda, “We’re not here to complain. We’re not here to make excuses. We’re here to work toward solutions for the challenges our schools and communities are facing.”

The group offered detailed data, highlighting the population decline in the region, poverty, unemployment rates, the drug epidemic, as well as positive figures showing students in Eastern Kentucky are excelling, despite the challenges.

Jenkins Independent Schools Superintendent Michael Genton told the crowd, “Our students in Eastern Kentucky have the highest graduation rate of any area in the state. The highest career and college readiness rate than any area in Kentucky. We do more with less. It is imperative we celebrate these young people and their educators. Adversity will continue to come, but we’ll continue to break records.”

The superintendents highlighted the teacher shortage in the area, as well as the lack of funding for professional development, teacher recruitment or retainment. 

Senator Johnny Ray Turner and Representative Angie Hatton also spoke to the crowd in support of education, as did Representative John Blanton.

“I’m a firm believer in public education,” Blanton said. “We have students not only graduating high school with diplomas, but also have many getting college credits and associates degrees before leaving high school…I pledge I will work to ensure we are properly funding our students and we will find a way to be successful.”

Paintsville Independent Schools Superintendent David Gibson concluded the presentation, stating, “We’re not standing here complaining. We’re here to tell you we’re succeeding, but imagine what we could do if we didn’t have a hand tied behind our back.”

He also noted, “This isn’t an Eastern Kentucky problem; this is about rural Kentucky poverty, and we have the worst of the worst. We’re fighting to save a region. We have doctors, lawyers, scientists – you name it, we’ve got it. Think what we could do if we didn’t have hand tied behind our back.” 

The full letter can be viewed at: https://www.theholler.org/position-paper/?fbclid=IwAR26mwmXwGj34LwN9KRxnPwgYyBil3VV2L01If1Ot5yZqKJjuGlWzXAuBMg
 

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Heather Oney