City schools laud students' achievements
"Tonight we celebrate 50 years of Head Start, and more importantly we celebrate 50 years of Head Start here in Paducah," program director Kristy Lewis told the board and the standing-room-only crowd. "In the last 50 years Head Start has served over 32 million children. Tonight we celebrate the accomplishments of all of your children, either with perfect attendance or knowing their letters of the alphabet."
Lewis said they chose to give the students roses as a nod to President Lyndon B. Johnson's signing of the Head Start declaration in the White House's rose garden in 1965. Some of the roses were almost as tall as their tiny recipients.
This time last year Lewis said they recognized just over 30 students who knew their letters and were school ready. This year they recognized over 70.
"We're always talking about college- and career-readiness and graduation," Lewis said over the applause as the last Head Start students received their roses. "You have now just met most of the graduating class of 2028."
Paducah Tilghman's Class of 2015 gave the district cause for celebration as well Monday night.
As Assistant Superintendent Will Black reported to the board, 87 percent of the high school's 2015 graduates have been accepted and have committed to attending college, and together they've been offered just over $6.8 million in scholarships to date.
This year's graduates are headed to 31 different colleges and universities, including the U.S. military, and the diversity of the colleges for which they're destined is a point of pride for the district.
"We go as far west as Santa Monica College, all the way to William & Mary on the East Coast, as far north as New York University, as far south as Texas A&M and everything in between," Black said. "I think we are building both diversity in colleges and also diversity in the students who attend those colleges, and that's really exciting."
"In the end, I think this speaks to our mission, to know each and every child by name and need," Black told the board, "to customize education based on the needs of each child. And I think if we do that effectively, we're going to continue to see improvement in our college-going rates."
Monday night the board also approved a tentative budget for the 2015-2016 school year. Superintendent Donald Shively reminded the board of the district's budgeting challenges ahead in dealing with the state-mandated 2 percent raise for its teachers.
Due in large part to the mandated raises, maintaining staff next year will cost the district around half a million dollars more than last year, Shively said. Even with the roughly $250,000 the district is projected to receive through the state's SEEK funding allocation formula, the district must find a way to fund the other $250,000.
"That does shift the burden to the local school district to make some decisions so that we can afford to meet that extra funding need there," Shively said.
Paducah Public Schools have managed to avoid significantly increasing local tax rates in recent years, despite the district's ever-tightening budget. But as Shively has said several times this year, the burden of paying for educating Paducah's children will likely shift more to local taxpayers if state mandates continue to increase while state funding does not.
Contact Genevieve Postlethwait, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651.