In the School Board’s letter of defense for prioritizing the construction of a new elementary school ahead of relieving the overcrowding at Scott County High School, the board quotes the cost of a new high school to range between $60 and $80 million (read the board's letter). While there take a peek at the high school’s college and career readiness score of 44% in the District’s Comprehensive Improvement Plan, a plan required because of the district’s repeated No Child Left Behind failures). We don’t doubt that this board can spend $60 to $80 million for a new high school, but school districts statewide are building ample high schools for $20 to $30 million. This can be verified at the Kentucky Department of Education’s facility plan web site. But what is most revealing at this site (which publishes school district’s legally required facility plans) are Scott County’s plans. There you will find the Scott County School Board’s Facility Plan for the new elementary school, cafeteria expansion AND A NEW HIGH SCHOOL! Yes, a NEW HIGH SCHOOL. The plan calls for a new high school to accommodate 1,250 students in 167,971 sq. ft. of space to be constructed “adjacent to Elkhorn Crossing School” at a cost of $36,029,780! WAIT A MINUTE! $36 MILLION is a far cry from the $60 to $80 million range the letter states and is much more in line with what other districts state wide are spending. And were the board not exhausting its entire bonding authority on the new elementary, we could soon have the $36 million needed for this already planned school. What is going on here?
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE
What IS going on here? Again, you won’t find out at a school board meeting. But what’s worse, neither will you find out in our local newspaper, the Georgetown News Graphic. Just read the paper’s belated article covering the SCHSTooBig campaign in the Saturday, January 28th edition. It’s all fluff with no substance. That article only came about in the paper’s least read edition (on a Saturday, which is traditionally viewed as the lowest readership day of the week by newspapers everywhere) because of the previous Thursday’s WKYT Channel 27 News coverage on the SCHSTooBig campaign. It would have been too obvious to continue ignoring SCHSTooBig.
Our Too Big To Succeed billboard was posted in full sight of the News Graphic’s offices on Tuesday morning, January 17th. Thursday’s edition came and went with no mention of the billboard or the grassroots campaign behind it. In the Saturday, January 21st edition, News Graphic publisher Mike Scogin wrote an inspirational commentary calling for the community to become involved in civic affairs, titled “Getting Involved In The Future” and closed with the line “Scott County can be great if you will get involved.” One wonders if he gazed out a window at our billboard for four days while drafting the commentary. Yet no mention again of SCHSTooBig in that edition of the paper, nor the next Tuesday’s edition, or the next Thursday’s edition. Finally after the WKYT 27 broadcast that Thursday evening, the News Graphic produced the hollow article in the Saturday, January 28th edition. After almost two weeks of seeing that billboard every time he pulled out from his office parking lot and more than a week after calling for community involvement, Mr. Scogin allowed an article. And we now get word from a source that a retaliatory article against our cause (under the guise that our anonymity discredits us) has been commissioned and will appear in an upcoming edition.
This continues an apparent trend of the News Graphic avoiding reporting negative news regarding the Scott County School district until being forced to do so by the Lexington market media. Besides the apparent non- reporting of news critical of the school district, there appears to be under reporting, as well as biased and slanted reporting. We began documenting this apparent agenda several years ago when it was pointed out by an individual close to the News Graphic. If time allows we will post some of the more egregious examples in a subsequent post.
SHOULD IT MATTER
You betcha! While ultimately we must hold our school boards of the last two decades responsible for the sad state of affairs at SCHS, their actions were effectively aided and abetted by our local newspaper. Many regard our local paper as irrelevant, but it is anything but.
You see, although a newspaper has no statuary obligation to hold its local government accountable, there has been an implicit expectation of such as long as the history of our nation itself. And the news Graphic seems to engage in holding city council and county fiscal court somewhat accountable. Why not the school district?
Some speculate it is nothing more nefarious than money. These are tough times for newspapers of all stripes, particularly community newspapers. There exists an arrangement between the school district and the News Graphic which is at best curious, and at worst a conflict of interest in the newspaper’s publication of the school district’s propaganda rag, the “School Review.” How much does the school pay for this unnecessary publication? Some also point to the publisher’s wife being employed by the school district as another possible conflict. Whatever it is, it is unhealthy for the community, which assumes all is well at the school district when all they read in their paper are positive headlines. A little investigative rigor would expose a lot at the school district.
Too Big To Succeed
Regardless of the accelerated pace of exhausting our bonding authority at the construction sites, the agenda of SCHSTooBig remains the same. We continue to believe our school district’s most urgent need is for our School Board to relieve the overcrowding at SCHS. We also continue to believe the expansion of the cafeteria at SCHS to be the most revealing of something wrong at the highest levels. We have yet to get an answer as to why those monies were not instead spent on a cafeteria at Elkhorn Crossing School, which according to the letter of defense’s numbers would relieve Scott County High’s cafeteria of serving 864 students.
We have not engaged in the one high school, sports dynasty debate. We thoroughly enjoy having winning sports programs, we just believe the schools should have higher academic expectations of participants. We do not come down on one side or the other of the “small” vs. “large” school debate, both have merits.
But we do believe a previous board’s decision to build a large Scott County High School on a too small, isolated and landlocked campus all those years ago leave us no other choice than to construct the school already submitted to - and approved by - the state, adjacent to or by adding on to Elkhorn Crossing School. If there exists a mechanism to expand the facility at Elkhorn Crossing (including a cafeteria) along with expanding the enrollment in its programs, thereby effectively relieving the overcrowded SCHS, and without the need of considering it a second high school (and hence not dilute the athletic talent), we can be for that too. SCHSTooBig is simply calling for relief of the overcrowding at Scott County High School. And time is of the essence.
We recommend pouring, then preserving the footers at the current new elementary construction site, ceasing the SCHS cafeteria expansion, then committing the balance of our resources on a cafeteria and expansion at ECS. As we said in our previous post, a $20 million expansion at ECS would certainly resemble a second high school. And by the way, it is way past time to reconsolidate the expensive and yet to be emulated Ninth Grade School back into the high school. More on this in a later post.
Expect the billboard to come down about the same time as the board meeting (unless more funding comes in). Go ahead now and bookmark www.schstoobig.com and keep visiting after the billboard goes down. We still intend to further explore:
WHO SHOULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE
as well as
WHERE DID THE MONEY GO
WHAT EXPLAINS ELKHORN CROSSING
And for those who think SCHSTooBig is not having an impact, you can now find an email address and phone number for each school board member at the school district’s website. Baby steps, yes, but steps nonetheless.