Harlan Independent talks enrollment, funding, academic teams

Published 1:45 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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The Harlan Independent School Board held its regular monthly meeting on Thursday. Meeting in the Harlan Elementary School’s newly renovated auditorium, the board discussed open enrollment, legislative impact on funding and recognized recent achievements of the district’s academic teams.

Board Chairman Dr. Matt Nunez called the meeting to order and handed the floor to Superintendent C.D. Morton to bring the panel up to speed on the district’s enrollment.

“We are registering new students,” Morton said. “Anybody that is interested in registering – regardless of where they live – can do that,” Morton said. “Just call the central office or any of the schools to begin that process.”

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Morton noted that the Harlan Independent School District’s student enrollment is growing.

“Harlan Independent School District was the district with the most growth of all Kentucky school districts,” Morton said. “We’re a place that folks want to be, and we certainly want to navigate that well and appropriately. That’s why we’re asking folks to register so that we can make decisions around enrollment.”

Morton mentioned the district is nearing capacity in some areas.

“At some point, we’re going to have to have a conversation about transportation,” Morton said. “We currently don’t go outside our district.”

Morton also updated the board on the impact of increased enrollment on the district’s state funding.

“Because we’re the top growing school district in the state of Kentucky, there is a minimum of $330,000 of public funds that we are not getting because all school districts in Kentucky are still being funded based on pre-COVID,” Morton said.

Morton explained that for most Kentucky school districts, basing their funding on pre-COVID student enrollment numbers is advantageous because while those districts lost students, they are still receiving funds based on pre-COVID enrollment. However, the situation is reversed for districts such as Harlan Independent that have grown.

“There is about $53 million in SEEK allocated funds that are on the table that are surplus that would help districts that have grown,” Morton said. “If you take all of the money that’s needed to help those growth districts, you would still have about $43 million to disburse among the other school districts. My last communication was that was probably not going to happen.”

Morton told the board he had contacted legislators to voice concerns about the funding.

“The good news is, we’ve been able to manage,” Morton said. “We want to be careful about how we manage continued growth. We want to continue to promote our students, our schools and programs.”

The board also took time to recognize members of the district’s elementary, middle school and high school academic teams for their successes in the Kentucky Governor’s Cup academic competition.

“First, I want to say I’m happy to see so many people come out and support the most important thing that we do here in our district,” Morton said. “We hang our hat on being the very best we can be for our students academically.”

Morton noted the district’s academic teams have done well for years.

“We’ve had an amazing run of academic success related to the Kentucky Governor’s Cup competition among our schools,” Morton said. “This is the first time in our district’s history that the elementary school, the middle school, and the high school – all three of those teams – won the district, they advanced and then all three also won the region. That is a little unusual.”

Team members were presented with plaques commemorating their achievements.

After the meeting, Morton expressed pride in the students, teachers and coaches for their success.

“I’m very proud of the legacy these kids are leaving for the next generation of Green Dragons,” Morton said. “For the first time in our rich history of academic success, we’ve had all three schools have a clean sweep of the district and region in the Kentucky Governor’s Cup Championship. It’s great to be a part of, and I’m happy for those kids.”

Morton stated his appreciation of the Harlan Independent School Board’s commitment to and support of the students and members of the academic teams.

“They spent over $10,000 to send our students to Louisville to compete and represent all of Harlan County, and in particular Harlan Independent Schools,” Morton said.