Summer School, eLearning graduates celebrate with commencement

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Jul. 27—"My favorite part of education is moments like this."

Those were the words of South Laurel High School Principal Dr. Jeremy Kidd as he congratulated graduates of the Summer School and eLearning classes during a special commencement exercise on Monday evening.

"I've always loved to watch the students come in as wide-eyed freshmen and see them grow to this point," Kidd added.

North Laurel High School Assistant Principal Mike Harris echoed those feelings, adding, "I'm happy to see this. Some may have taken a little longer, but those are sometimes the people who overcome. I see a lot of talent here."

With that, the graduates stood and accepted their diplomas from Laurel County School Superintendent Dr. Doug Bennett.

Although the commencement ceremony was not the traditional hoopla of the regular graduation, the graduates marched into the meeting room of the McDaniel Learning Center, accepted their diplomas, turned their tassels and filed out of the room in the same format of the traditional commencement ceremonies.

The graduation exercise was held during the beginning of Monday's bi-monthly meeting of the Laurel County school board.

Once the graduation procedure was finished, board members discussed business items pertaining to the school district.

One of those was a rate increase for the afterschool child care programs. Board members voted unanimously to increase the hourly rate for afterschool childcare by $1, which will take effect in the upcoming school year.

The establishment of a district police department was also on the agenda with board chair Jeff Lewis asking how the hiring process was progressing. Bennett said the district would hire "up to 18 officers" but that finding POPS (Peace Officer Professional Standards) certified officers poses a problem. Bennett said police departments all over the area are advertising for officers which narrowed down their opportunity to hire. He re-iterated the new law allowing school districts to establish police departments, adding that the district could keep the current LEOSA (Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act) as well as School Resource Officers (SRO).

"We will definitely have one in the four bigger schools (2 middle and 2 high schools) and the three big elementary schools," Bennett explained. "The thing is, they have to be POP certified and every school in the district is supposed to have one SRO by August 1. There's no state funding for that."

Board members did approve a revised salary schedule for the upcoming school year, which Bennett said would apply for the district's police chief and officers once that is established.

Also approved were hiring up to 10 emergency Certified Substitute teachers for the upcoming school year and to re-create several positions. Those included Director of Pupil Transportation, which was vacated by Todd Cox to accept the position with the Pupil Personnel office. An academic interventionist for North Laurel High School, 4 Special Needs Assistants, an LBD teacher at Johnson Elementary and at NLMS, a Special Needs Assistant at Cold Hill Elementary and at Wyan-Pine Grove Elementary, a Preschool teacher at Keavy Elementary and an MSD teacher at Bush Elementary. Board members also approved creating two Title I teachers at London Elementary.

The Elgin Dental Liaison grant was also approved, with Bennett praising the program.

"This will offset the liaison raise," he said. "We are the only district (in the area) that Elgin supplies to and that really helps us out."

Hazel Green Elementary was also on Monday's agenda, seeking approval to apply for the Heart of America Library Makeover grant.

"This is a national non-profit organization that provides resources for libraries," Bennett said. "That money can be used to buy furniture, floor coverings, books and other resources to help spruce up the school libraries."

Four items on the agenda were tabled — all of which involved personnel issues and the Superintendent evaluation, which require an executive session. Bennett said the evaluation was intense and board members should have it completed by the next meeting.