Lincoln County School Board votes to close McKinney Elementary School

Published 10:45 am Thursday, May 16, 2019

STANFORD — McKinney Elementary School will close at the end of the school year following a vote by the Lincoln County School Board at its monthly meeting Thursday.

One hundred twenty-nine students currently attend McKinney Elementary. There are also about 19 preschool students.

The board heard emotional testimony from several people opposed to the closure, including school administrators, staff, students and students’ parents, and some who were in favor of the proposed move, but ultimately voted 3-1 in favor.

There was a Kentucky State Police presence at the meeting, which was held in the Stuart Underwood Auditorium at Lincoln County High, but the police were simply bystanders with the meeting proceeding in a civil manner as 16 different people presented their views on the proposed closing of the McKinney school. Each speaker was limited to two minutes.

MCKINNEY STUDENTS SPEAK OUT

Among the list of speakers were four McKinney Elementary students.

Xchyler Yellowwolf asked the board not to close McKinney.

“I want others to have the same opportunity that I did,” the McKinney fifth-grader began. “If McKinney is closed, they will be put in a bigger school. They won’t get the attention like I did as there will be more kids. I love my school, our teachers. Please don’t take it away from us.”

Chasity Clark echoed the same sentiment.

“I love my school. I enjoy going to school. I am welcomed with friendly faces every day who know me by my name,” said the third-grader. “I am a student, not just a dollar. Please think about us when you consider closing our school.”

Kynnlee League, a fourth-grade student, spoke of the stress endured by students as the threat of a school closure loomed.

“This week we are doing K-Prep testing and in McKinney we have more to worry about,” she said. “If you close down our school, then we will have to move schools and that will stress all the kids out. Please do not close our school. We don’t care how it looks, we just care about our education. Just the smiling faces that meet us daily. We are McKinney Elementary and we love our school.”

Like her fellow McKinney schoolmates, Lexi Tyler didn’t need the full two-minute time limit to get her point across.

“I do not think we should close McKinney Elementary School because it is too close … And if it does, McKinney won’t really be here anymore because people will be moving away to closer schools. I also don’t want our school to close because it will be a long ride to another school from our house. I also love my school and my teachers,” she said.

Opponents of closing McKinney Elementary outnumbered supporters 11 to 5 Thursday. Those speaking in favor of keeping the school open were applauded by the few dozen community members in attendance. Most all speakers were applauded for their opinions, although several boos rose from the crowd as one of the supporters of the closure concluded their time at the microphone.

OPPONENTS OF CLOSING MCKINNEY SPEAK OUT

The first person to speak at the meeting was McKinney Elementary Principal Paige Hackney.

“I don’t need to reiterate the enormity of your decision tonight,” she began. “I’d like to say that in my 25 years of education, I’ve worked in two states, three districts and six schools. I’ve never experienced the passion and support for a school that I’ve seen from the stakeholders of McKinney Elementary. As we have seen from Kings Mountain and Broughtontown, when a school is closed the community dies. McKinney residents deserve a school they can call their own. I’ve heard it thrown around that we represent only 3% of the students in the district and that such a small population doesn’t matter. Our students do matter. And, if you’re representing all students, then you will allow us to stay open.”

“Previous boards have chosen on one or more occasion to re-district, always resulting in the decrease in the number of students at McKinney. With Stanford bursting at the seams, re-districting once again could increase McKinney’s population and relieve this issue. As you know, Lincoln County will be paying off the bond for our building for years to come since it cannot be paid off early. As long as we are paying for the building, why not make some upgrades and keep it open. The number of employees will remain the same since allocations are based on student numbers, so closing McKinney when having to pay electricity will not free up that much money. Thank you for your time and I plead for you to make a decision based on students, not dollars.”

Stacey Clark, a student parent and McKinney PTO president for the past eight years, says the concern about the school closing is not just about the school but the community as a whole.

“The other day on the radio, something kept sticking out in my head where you all were talking about the future of McKinney. Never said the future of McKinney Elementary, it was the future of McKinney. Our school is all that we have in our community and it is the heart and soul of our community,” she said. “We’re not just a dollar sign. Yes, our school is run down, but there are a lot of schools in the county that are and we have a community that will come together and do anything that we can to help save our school. I have raised $10,000 every year the past eight years just for fall festival, a one-time event. We may not have the best down there but, when it comes to supporting our kids, and our students, our community backs us and they love our kids.”

Vanessa Goodin, a parent of a kindergartener with selective mutism, a form of social anxiety, voiced concerns over losing the close bonds formed between her child and the McKinney staffers.

“She will not thrive in a school setting that is not like McKinney is,” she said. “I used to have to walk her into school every single day, every single day, into the cafeteria. Whenever I was in there, I witnessed people greeting her by her first name. They even knew her lunch number. Now, because of the love and support of these teachers at McKinney Elementary my child is now playing on the playground and whispering to her teachers, which doesn’t sound like a whole lot to you all but it means a whole lot to me as a mom.”

“It’s not about the money. It’s about the kids. It’s about their education.I have three small girls and I want every single one of them to attend McKinney Elementary and have the same education that I did. That’s what I want. That’s what all of us want for our kids. That’s why we’re doing this,” Gooding continued. “And If it’s about money, then why did somebody get a $17,000 increase on their salary? And McKinney had the third top district scores, or we’re ranked third in district on our test scores So keep McKinney open for the kids.”

SURVIVED CONSOLIDATION, SCHOOL CLOSURE

Gloria Sneed, a bus driver in the Lincoln County school system, says she knows the misery of having a school closed/consolidated, sharing that she’s lived through five consolidatons in her lifetime. The first was when the state shut down a one-room schoolhouse next door to her grandfather and the last was when Kings Mountain closed.

“When I’m in seventh-grade, I walk one city block to a school and step inside the building. When they consolidated my school because the state said they had to, I had to walk two city blocks the other way and get on the school bus, so I know what that means,” she said. “My daughter was in the eighth-grade class that was consolidated and moved out here. It was rough for her to change at Christmas time. She survived. Her biggest worry when she got to the middle school, was she would be on a team where there was nobody from Waynesburg there. There wasn’t, but she survived. She’s a well-rounded adult from the consolidation.”

“I worked Broughtontown when they closed it. That was awful. When you close a school three weeks before school starts and you’ve got to scramble where you’re going to put the kids, where you’re going to put the faculty and staff. It was awful. And I survived Kings Mountain.”

SUPPORTERS OF CLOSING MCKINNEY SPEAK

Several boos were mixed in with the applause when Lincoln County High School Business teacher Allen Lewis spoke in favor of closing McKinney.

“I’m a proud alumnus of McKinney Elementary, however, I’m here tonight to ask you to vote in favor of closing McKinney Elementary,” he said. “As someone in business and in education, we live in a data world. Every decision that we make should be based on data. The data and the facts that have been presented are, that it is clear that we are continuing to pump money into a school that the state has recommended that we close and, quite simply, the state is going to close McKinney Elementary. So, we can do it on our terms or we can wait until the state comes in and we have to scramble,as others have said,relocating at that point in time.”

“We cannot continue to progress as a district if we do not make sound financial decisions.
We must be progressive-thinking. We must think about the future, the money that will be saved. It’s true, we will not save as much money as projected the first year, the second year, the third year. It’s going to be more and more and more. We have to keep that futuristic thinking in mind,” Lewis said. “We have to think of all students in the entire county. Consolidating will give students of the entire county a better education while allowing more funds to be available to be spent on them. If we’re truly for the students, then we will make this decision. To quote Jim Collins, ‘Bad decisions with good intentions are still bad decisions.’”

Several local citizens have accused the board of rushing to vote on closing McKinney, however, Vance Mitchell of the Facilities Planning Committee says that is just not the case.

“It’s been said that a decision to close this building is being rushed while McKinney has no representation on the board. Well, I have served on the Facilities Planning Committee for 10 years and this has been discussed over and over again,” he said. “For many years, the Facilities Planning Committee has put together with representatives from all schools, including McKinney, and that committee has made recommendations to this board about closing it. I ask everyone, particularly the board, to look at this objectively, logically and with sound reasoning.”

“The majority of people here will agree that one of the biggest issues with government, and anything political for that matter, is that decisions are not based on how a business would be run or how they would operate and handle their own personal finances. So I ask you to look at this situation from that viewpoint. No matter how much personal attachment you have for something, if you can’t afford it, you simply can’t afford it. From a business standpoint, if you want an unbiased opinion you ask a third party or someone from outside to provide you with facts and recommendations. I don’t think you’ll find one business or school professional … who will tell you it makes sense to keep McKinney open from a financial point of view.”

ROWE RECOMMENDS CLOSING MCKINNEY

At the conclusion of the public comments, board chair Tom Blankenship asked for recommendations to which Superintendent Michael Rowe answered, “My recommendation to the board is to close McKinney Elementary effective at the end of the 2018-19 school year.”

Before a motion could be made or a vote cast, board member Alan Hubble took the microphone to voice his concerns over the issue.

“I know we’ve heard from both sides. It’s a touchy subject, but I’m still of the opinion like many others, for us to make this decision at this time with no representation for McKinney would be a mistake,” he said. “I know everybody’s got dressed up and come to the party, but I say we table it until we get a board seat filled for McKinney. That would be my motion.”

Blankenship asked for a second, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Board member Win Smith then made the motion to close the school and board member Ricky Lane seconded the motion. Smith, Lane and Blankenship all voted to close McKinney. Hubble cast the only no vote as the motion passed 3-1.