Rep. Jill York, 96th District
February 21, 2014
It seemed to me that we might have had more visitors here at the Capitol last week than any other time in my recollection. Big issues bring big turnouts and the halls were packed with folks carrying information to share with their legislators. Most of the groups made stops in the rotunda, giving speeches to cheers that echoed all up and down the marble walls of the Capitol.And all the while, committee meetings and bill drafting and daily appointments rolled on for we members of the General Assembly. Here’s a glimpse of our progress report so far -- more than 400 bills have been filed for consideration this session and roughly 60 bills of those have been approved by the full House and sent on to the Senate. Two bills have passed both chambers and been signed by Governor Beshear, Senate Bill 7, dealing with nurse practitioners, and Senate Bill 113, which gave a 30-day extension for establishing new voting precincts under the redistricting that passed in a special session last year.There are more bills yet to be filed and more issues will find their way to committees for consideration. It’s been a busy but productive week.In fact, I write this as I am catching my breath in my office following Friday adjournment. Just moments ago the house passed House Bill 202 which would guarantee teachers across Kentucky 120 minutes of non-teaching or planning period time, around 24 minutes per day, that is to be unencumbered by other duties. A few days ago we took up House Bill 388 in our Natural Resources and Environment Committee. This bill would enable Kentucky to push back against unrealistic Environmental Protection Agency regulations that are punitive and damaging to our economy. You see, under the approval of the Obama administration, the EPA has extended its regulatory authority to attack the fossil fuels that enable our state to have the low power rates that are attractive to industry. The aim of HB 388 is to take advantage of the broad discretion left to the states to set their own standards by the Clean Air Act. The bill would require reasonable carbon standards, flexibility in implementing those standards and would be fair to both coal and gas fired power plants. I voted for HB 388 in committee because I see it as a reasoned and practical approach to ensure Kentucky’s competitiveness in the US and abroad. It is not a large stretch of the imagination to see that the admirable aims of the Clean Air Act, which was not written to regulate carbon dioxide, is being hijacked by a White House intent on crippling the fossil fuel industry and in turn, devastating Kentucky’s economy.Thanks again to all who have called to voice their opinions on HB 173, which seeks to make Kentucky a “Smoke Free” state. Testimony from citizens in favor of the ban and those opposed continues to be compiled in my office. I was especially pleased to welcome a delegation from Carter, Lewis and Mason counties who wished to share their hopes that the ban would become a reality.It is my firm belief that the best endeavors start with the citizens and people getting involved with issues. There are many examples of “good folks working on a good mission” in our communities of the 96th District and this week we helped raise awareness of just such a story. Senator Robin Webb and I joined forces to honor Shelli Jenkins, 12, of Carter County for her citizen activism to raise awareness of Marfan syndrome. Shelli and her family traveled to Frankfort to talk with and share materials with members of the legislature about the genetic disorder that can have tragic results if left undiagnosed. Marfan can exhibit itself in symptoms as mild as flexible joints and flat feet, to a tall thin body with long limbs, to risk of aortic aneurysm. Nearly half of those who suffer from Marfan are undiagnosed. Shelli and her family have been working to educate those who exhibit any outward symptoms of a blood test that can determine if they may suffer from the disorder.The Jenkins family and their activism is one to be celebrated. It takes courage to step forward and share your personal story with strangers but Shelli is determined to make a difference and raise awareness in those around her. Read more online at www.marfan.org.I hope to tell you more about the legislation I have been working on in future reports. Several of the bills arose directly from ideas shared with me by citizens, and though the schedule is crowded, I have hope that several will make good progress toward successful passage. As the weather finally begins to turn to something that resembles spring, I hope you will consider making a journey to your Capitol city to see the legislature in action. This beautiful building and the work done here belong to all Kentuckians. One of the best parts of this role is the chance to get to spend time with my friends from Lawrence, Carter and Lewis counties and show them how important they are to the future of our great state.I hope you will keep those cards and emails coming! You may reach me through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or contact me via e-mail at email@example.com. You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.
by James Ellis
Adult Learning Center
LOUISA – Depending on the response from Frankfort and if the weather cooperates, Lawrence County School District students could experience their last day of the 2013-14 school year on anywhere from June 2 to June 10 as it stands now, according to the information shared at the February regular Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.
Having missed 26 days and leaving Spring Break in the calendar, attending school on the final scheduled Data Day and on Memorial Day, as well as including a routinely approved three day request, the Board could set the final day as June 10. But if disaster days are granted and the weather or other circumstances do not result in any further missed days, release could take place as early as June 2.
“We must watch and see and bring this back to you in March,” concluded Superintendent Mike Armstrong.Additionally, the Board was given an orientation to the superintendent search process via phone conversation with Kentucky School Boards Association consultant Mike Oder, including: legal requirements and the search process as facilitated by KSBA, the timeline for selection, salary options, candidate criteria, recruitment and advertisement, and establishment of the screening committee. The Board Chair will serve as the spokesperson for the Board throughout the search process. Advertising the vacancy will begin February 25 with the new superintendent being named on May 19, 2014.Louisa Middle School eighth grader, Carrie Jo Cecil, was honored by the Board as the only middle grade student this year across the state to score 50, a perfect score, on the Language Arts Written Assessment in District Kentucky Governor’s Cup competition and for being the first perfect score obtained by a Lawrence County student in the history of Governor’s Cup competitions.
Additionally, Carrie Jo’s score of 45 at recent regional competition is also the highest score currently in language arts across the state advancing her to State Governor’s Cup in March. Carrie Jo spoke humbly to the Board regarding her accomplishments, noting that others (including her sister Kate Cecil) are also advancing. Kate competed in composition at the district and regional level earning her the opportunity as a sixth grader to compete at the state level against mostly seventh and eighth graders. After a standing ovation by the Board and audience, Mr. Armstrong noted that academic team competition is still continuing with “more honors won by our students than ever”; and once competition at the elementary, middle and high school concludes, the Board will invite all teams for recognition. Carrie Jo was accompanied by her sister; parents, Kim and Joey Cecil; Academic Coach Bill Hammond and Principal Tom Castle.
Quality performance of students comes hand in hand with quality instructors and Mr. Armstrong recognized one such instructor at the meeting, Andrea Riffe, fifth grade teacher at Louisa East Elementary, as “a teacher who has set herself apart from her peers here in Lawrence County as our first home-grown recipient of National Board Certification.”
Andrea recounted her intensive year-long experience in obtaining the ten-year certification. 100,000 certifications have been earned across the nation with 2,980 currently in Kentucky. Beginning with the teacher choosing from 25 certification areas, throughout the program an emphasis is placed on defining, implementing, and documenting the teacher candidate’s philosophy of teaching. Andrea’s certification is in literacy – reading and language.
The process consisted of submitting a comprehensive portfolio followed by a six-part, computer-based assessment of about three hours. “Then you wait until the following year to find out if you’ve passed,” Andrea shared humorously, “knowing there is a 50% failure rate on first attempts.” The portfolio submission actually consisted of four portfolio entries, including her philosophy of teaching reading and language, student work samples, assessment results, and two videoed lessons accompanied by in-depth reflections. “I was required to reflect on what happened in the lesson, why it happened, the results, and where I planned to go from there.”
Mr. Armstrong concluded: “On behalf of the Board, we want to publicly acknowledge your accomplishment and tell you how proud we are of you. As we cultivate NBC teachers here in Lawrence County, you set the bar, not only for today, but for future teachers years down the road.” It was also noted that other teachers in Lawrence County are enrolled in the certification process and that one other NBC teacher is in the district, Anita Laney, science teacher at Fallsburg Elementary who previously earned her certification in Elliott County.
Also, the Board heard from Lawrence County High School band director Jessica Crittendon. Ms. Crittendon shared information on re-envisioning band and music instruction at the middle and high school level in Lawrence Count, providing data on competitive marching band participation by the high schools in fourteen Eastern Kentucky counties and the hours of a student’s time demanded by marching band outside the school day.
Competitive marching band was optional this year for the first time; and with the elimination of competitive marching band entirely next year, students’ options for music instruction and participation will widen. “Lawrence County has quite a tradition of competitive marching band, but my job now is to make the decision that is best for the program.”
Ms. Crittendon concluded by sharing opportunities that can occur if the band does not compete: fundraising could target replacement/ repair/purchase of instruments; bringing in guests and post-secondary educational partners to work with students; more time for jazz band, percussion ensemble, and chamber groups; sponsoring students at summer music programs; more performances, especially in the fall; exposure to more music than the three songs of the marching band show; and educational/performance trips.
Finally, the district approved by a 5-0 vote the 2014-2015 Nonresident Pupil Contracts: Lawrence County Schools with the following districts: Johnson County School District, Elliott County School District, Ashland Independent School District, Boyd County School District, Martin County School District, Morgan County School District, Russell Independent School District, and Paintsville Independent School District.The new agreements contain a provision for one-to-one student exchange with those districts in order to prevent unnecessary decreases in student enrollment and the subsequent loss of funding.
By Glenn Mollette Physician assisted suicide is becoming a bit more popular in America. A New Mexico judge recently ruled that terminally ill, mentally competent patients have the right to ask a physician to end their lives. This would make New Mexico the fifth state to make it legal. My first wife progressively died for twelve years. Multiple sclerosis took her from a vibrant active person to a total invalid unable to do anything but talk. She was a prisoner inside of a body incapable of functioning to any degree whatsoever. On New Year's Eve three years before she died she begged me to call Dr. Kevorkian, who became famous for assisting 130 people in their deaths. She later tried suicide and once begged me to put her in our closed garage and start the car. She did not want to die and leave her family but living trapped inside of a body ravaged by disease was excruciating for her. I know how I personally feel. Should I get to the point where I am without hope of ever enjoying this momentary world I would like to simply go on over to the other side to be with my Lord. There are some problems herein. Life should always be our priority. My heart screams out, "No to any assisted suicide." We need to put our priorities on finding new cures for disease and enabling people to live to ripe old ages so that one day while watching Andy Griffith we just sort of nod off and wake up in a better place. Our society's priority must never focus on how we can more readily help our sick and aged die faster but how we can heal and help life to be more enjoyable. However, life cannot be very enjoyable if we are imprisoned in a body that will not function. Physician assisted suicide is also legal in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont. Terminally ill patients in these states can now have their doctors prescribe a fatal prescription. Patients must make the request. Keep in mind this is illegal in most of our country. Also, in many cases persons get beyond the point of making such a decision and linger often in vegetative states. This is where a living will comes into play so that life support can be removed and Hospice can assist. I will be redundant. I don't like the idea of ending anybody's life. About a month before my wife died our doctor called me off into a corner and said, "Glenn, there comes a time. She has struggled with this for so long. We have done all we can do. My response was, " I want you to help her live." "Okay, we will do all we can, " he assured. They did try and she lived about another month. I will always be glad for that one more month as we talked about things I would otherwise have missed. The end of life is a tough conversation for anybody facing it regardless of which side of the bed you are sitting. The bible says there is a time to die. Having someone we love voluntarily make that decision about ending his or her life just doesn't seem like that is what the bible is talking about. However, keep in mind that God is bigger, more loving and far more forgiving than we are. Glenn Mollette is the author of Silent Struggler: A Caregiver's Personal Story and nine other books. Contact him at GMollette@aol.com. Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmollette.
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