Harlan County Schools education tech leaders win Stilwell Awards

Published 9:00 am Friday, November 25, 2022

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The Harlan County School Board discussed multiple items during the panel’s regular meeting for November, including Stilwell Award winners and a Post-Secondary Implementation Program.

Board Chairman Gary Farmer called on Superintendent Brent Roark to present his report to the board.

“I’m going to start with the Stilwell awards, and that’s for our technology department,” Roark said. “When COVID broke out, we were forced to completely change gears with what we were doing…we were expected to go from educating kids in a classroom setting to a virtual setting, and that wasn’t in our wheelhouse.”

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According to Roark, the district needed more information and resources for educating children outside of in-person instruction. Roark credited the technical department for making the change quickly and efficiently.

“They made everything change for us, and it was almost instant,” Roark said. “It didn’t feel like it was instant when we were working with them to get it up and running, but if you look at the span of time it took to go from 0 to 60, it was incredible.”

Roark explained the Stilwell Award takes into consideration advances made over two years.

“Really, the drastic improvements came in just a matter of months,” Roark said. “The guys that are here tonight are our district technology core. These are the guys that made it happen.”

The Kentucky Department of Education presents the Stilwell award.

The Kentucky Department of Education’s website at www.education.ky.gov states, “The KDE presents the award on an annual basis. The notation on the award reads, ‘For personal dedication and outstanding service in education technology for the teachers and children of the commonwealth.’”

Roark announced the award recipients from Harlan County Schools are Brent Chitwood, Mike Scott, Doug Bowling, Gene Mills, Chris Caldwell, Austin Hall, Daven Saylor, and Curt Rezek.

The tech team received the award for numerous activities, including deploying over 3,000 Chromebooks and installing and upgrading internet connections and virtual learning software.

Roark then called each individual up in front of the board to receive their awards. The recipients were presented with commemorative coins signifying their award.

“I appreciate all of you,” Roark said.

The board also heard from District Level Special Education Teacher Jennifer Brock concerning a Post-School Implementation Project.

“We brought Jennifer Brock into the district last year when we were having some issues with special education,” Roark said. “She’s written a request for additional…funds on top of what we’ve already got…she got $150,000 for two years, that’s $300,000 of additional funds for a transitional work program that she wants to put in.”

Brock told the board about the Post-School Predictor Implementation Project.

“The project provides additional funds of $150,000 a year for two consecutive years to focus on post-secondary transition programs at Harlan County High School,” Brock said. “I, along with a team of district and school leaders, will complete the predictor implementation school and district self-assessment, and through this assessment, we will determine the areas of transition that we most need to focus on.”

She told the board the position of employment specialist has been determined to be the greatest need. The Employment Specialist will work with local businesses to coordinate and implement job placement opportunities for special education students.

The board passed a motion approving the Post-School Implementation Project. The board additionally approved the job description for an Employment Specialist.