Harlan Independent School Board adds positions

Published 12:49 pm Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Harlan Independent School Board discussed multiple topics during a recent meeting, including adding a School Resource Officer (SRO) to the school’s staff as required by House Bill 63.

According to Harlan Independent Schools Superintendent C.D. Morton, Harlan Independent will only be required to hire one SRO due to the small size of the district’s campus. Morton recommended the board following discussions with multiple agencies, including the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Harlan, and neighboring school districts.

“The initiative to put a Resource Officer on every school campus in Kentucky is a step in the right direction for increased school safety. With this action, I feel confident we will be able to attract a high-quality candidate,” said Morton.

Board member Debby Howard addressed the importance of providing a safe environment for students.

“Our students and families deserve the safest learning environments possible. This added measure will only strengthen the culture in our schools, particularly if we can secure an SRO who has great relationships with students,” Howard said.

The board also addressed the growth of student enrollment across the district.

Morton pointed out that all schools in the district will see increased enrollment at the start of the next school year. The board approved additional teaching positions at Harlan Elementary and Sunshine Preschool to address the increased student numbers.

Director of Student Services Emily Clem told the board that increased enrollment is due in part to how the faculty and staff stayed connected to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Districts across Kentucky are still recovering from students who grew increasingly disengaged from the Pandemic, and many have just stopped communicating with schools,” Clem said. “Our size and small family atmosphere really helped us over the last couple of years. It wasn’t perfect, but we were able to keep our students engaged and, as a result, has seen significant growth for the first time in several years,” Clem said.

Morton added that increased enrollment at Sunshine Preschool means an additional classroom will be required, with another possibly on the horizon.

Preschool Director Shannon Lawson advised the board the new classroom is nearly filled, and an additional teacher will be required if enrollment remains steady.

“We are fortunate to have the space available to do this at this time,” Lawson said. “If we have to add an additional teacher that would put our facility at full capacity, we are trying to spread the word that if you are interested in getting a spot in our program, you better do it quickly.”

Morton added that increased enrollment creates challenges regarding space and available teaching staff.

“Things are getting really tight at the elementary school, and the entire country is dealing with issues related to teacher shortages,” Morton said. “We feel fortunate that we have had a surplus of quality teacher applicants for our elementary positions, but it has been a serious struggle to find qualified applicants for some of our specialized content areas in High School. It is a growing concern nationwide.”

In other board activity:

The board took steps to establish a School-Based Law Enforcement Agency.

The board approved the addition of biology and Spanish teaching positions at Harlan High School.

The board approved early enrollment applications and school handbooks and the district code of conduct.