Superintendent's Blog
Casey Allen's Blog Page
Trading Snow for Rain
Posted 3/13/2015 at 9:45:25 AM by Casey Allen [staff member]

A new blog post is long overdue.  We suffered through a second consecutive long winter that has altered our schedule and disrupted our year.  While flooding can be an issue as well, I think I would rather have the inches of rain than the feet of snow we have suffered through the last several weeks.

This month's blog entry seems like a great time to thank the people who help the school district get through the winter weather.  Hopefully you haven't had to be on the roads immediately after a winter storm, but our employees start the process of getting the campus ready for students as soon as it is safe to come in. 

Custodians and maintenance workers put down their brooms and hammers and pick up snow shovels, bags of salt, and get behind the wheels of tractors and trucks to start getting snow and ice off of the parking lots and sidewalks.  Bus drivers are evaluating their routes to determine safe and unsafe areas of passage, while bus mechanics are making sure that our buses are operational and safe to put on the roads.  This year, Steve and Hunter Sullivan have worked on our campus for hours...many long hours...using their equipment to do much of the heavy lifting of snow and ice removal.

There are many more people who are not our employees who help make school happen after a weather event.  The county and state road departments have done an awesome job this year in getting on top of the roads and making sure that a bus full of children can be safe on our roads. City, county, and state workers are very important to our ability to get back into school in a timely fashion, and we thank them!

I know everyone hopes that Spring is here to stay.  Even as it is pouring rain outside right now, it is better than the anticipation of waking up to another blanket of that white stuff.  Stay warm and enjoy the weather!
 

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Ballard County Board Members...duel-free
Posted 1/14/2015 at 9:41:14 AM by Casey Allen [staff member]
As some of you have read in previous blog posts, January is School Board Appreciation Month.  We have a hard-working board of education who keeps their focus on students and student achievement. 

As elected officials, all board members must take their oath of office.  It is the same oath of office that many other Kentucky officials take after elections in January.  Though taking the oath of office is a serious occasion, most people in the room can't help but chuckle when they hear that elected officials have to swear that they have never participated in a duel. 

Perhaps that part of the oath is a carryover from an earlier time.  However, the role of the board member has never been more important in Kentucky.  As the General Assembly struggles to provide funding due to a sputtering state economy, our local board continues to provide the support needed for our students to receive a high-quality education that prepares them to be successful in the workforce or in higher education.  That commitment to our students is what allows us to keep making good decisions for our students every day.  We truly appreciate our Ballard County Board of Education!

Learn more about the Ballard County Board of Education at this link
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Community Support
Posted 12/12/2014 at 5:37:22 PM by Casey Allen [staff member]

We are one week away from our winter break, and I want to take the opportunity to share with everyone some of the things that have gone in our district over the last week. First, Ballard Memorial High School and Ballard County Career Technical Center were awarded the Fall 2014 PEAK Award by the Kentucky School Boards Association. The award was given in recognition of the hard work that has gone on at BMHS and BCCTC in improving College and Career Readiness. While we very much treasure the award, we have made it clear through the whole process that the success of our district, and particularly BCCTC, is very much dependent upon the support of many businesses, industry, and community partners. To all those who support us, we celebrate the award with you!

On Thursday, December 11th, I participated in Ballard County Middle School’s first ever “Truth and Consequences” program for our 8th grade class. The BCMS gym was filled with partners from law enforcement and the local judicial system, as well as counselors and family wellness groups that we work with for our children. Perhaps the most impressive thing to me was the number of parents who showed up to go through the program with their child; there were even many community members who came out to go through the program with students whose parents were working or otherwise unavailable. Not a single 8th grader went through the program alone because of the support of our community.

Finally, today was the Holiday Meal for Ballard County Elementary School. On a regular day, the BCES cafeteria and kitchen serves about 500 lunches. Today, we welcomed parents, grandparents, friends and family into the building to eat with our students. BCES served over 970 turkey, dressing, fixings, and pie lunches! While it took us a little longer to turn our school into the largest restaurant in the county, we certainly appreciated all the community members who came out and showed the kids that they are the most valuable resource our community has.

Thanks to everyone for supporting the students of Ballard County!!

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The $86,400 question
Posted 10/30/2014 at 2:27:19 PM by Casey Allen [staff member]
Beth Hawke, the Assistant Director of Gatton Academy, recently shared the message below with Gatton parents and students.  At this time of year, it is sometimes difficult to think of all that we have to do and keep track of our most precious resource: time.  Thanks to Beth for sharing the message...

What would you do if I gave you $86,400 today? You might ask, "What's the catch?" You have to spend the entire amount, there is no banking or saving this money. And then tomorrow, I'll give you another $86,400 that must be spent within 24 hours. This might be fun for a few weeks or even months but eventually, it might feel like a burden as you'd constantly have to find ways to spend the entirely of your $86,400.

You and I face a similar situation each day. We are given 86,400 seconds a day. We have to spend each and every one before we get anymore. We cannot bank them to save for another day when we might have something better to spend them on. And much like the hypothetical money example above and as much as I wish it were so, we cannot dip into the future seconds to borrow more to get through all we want to accomplish today. Time, it is the most finite of the resources we have. While it isn't always easy, we can make more money. We can get more stuff. We can grow our families. But none of us can create more time. We may say we are giving our time to a cause, an organization, or to another person but in reality, all we are doing is reallocating it from one account to another.

Yesterday...it is gone. All that is left behind are memories. All I can do is savor any successes and grow from my failures. Dwelling on past mistakes and setbacks without an improvement plan is a recipe for bitterness. I can't change what happened but I can learn from it.  Who I used to be does not have to be who I will be.

Tomorrow...it is not promised. I might get my 86,400 seconds again tomorrow but there is no guarantee. I can prepare for tomorrow but I have not seen it, it may never be mine, or I may change in a way that requires a totally different expenditure of my 86,400 seconds. If I spend too much time worrying about tomorrow, I exchange the joys of today for fear and anxiety about things I can't control.

Today...it is all that I have. These 86,400 seconds will be spent by this time tomorrow. After they tick away, I must give account to myself of how I spent them. Did I work efficiently and effectively so that I had some time to relax or help those who needed me? Did I use any of them to make a positive difference for someone else? Will I be better prepared for any tomorrow's I get or did I create a burden for myself?

One day at a time...it's all we have. This moment might be all we ever find. We can only do something today, we can't do everything. When we are faced with difficult tasks, we have two choices. We can either a) give up or we can b) get to work. Choose b. You are worthy and capable. 

Today...you cannot change that bad test grade from last week but you can evaluate what went wrong and how you can improve for the next one. You can seek out and accept the help that is near.

Today...you may not be able to change that rude thing you said or did to but you can do something to build someone else up. You can apologize and make an effort to make it right.

Your 86,400 seconds are ticking away...what will you do with them?

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State Accountabiltiy
Posted 10/3/2014 at 9:44:31 AM by Casey Allen [staff member]

Good morning, Ballard County Schools! Today is the public release of state-wide test data. This day used to be a much bigger deal in the media; today, however, you won’t see much about Ballard County in the papers. That is a shame, and I suspect it is because test data is so much harder to interpret under the state’s new Unbridled Learning accountability system.

Let me give you all a quick rundown of our successes this year. Ballard Memorial High School maintained their Distinguished status in the state. Distinguished Schools are defined by the state as performing in the top 10% of schools using the state’s reporting system; BMHS actually places in the top 5% of schools using the state’s numbers. BMHS continues to excel state-wide on College/Career Readiness and Graduation Rate (two of the five areas in the accountability formula). This was the second year of Distinguished status for BMHS.

Ballard County Middle School has ranked as a Proficient School the last two years; the state defines Proficient as any school performing in the top 30% of schools. BCMS raised the bar this year coming in as a Distinguished School for the first time ever! Following closely behind BMHS, BCMC ranks in the top 6% of middle schools in the state (using the state’s accountability numbers).

Ballard County Elementary School was the shining star in our district when it came to growth. BCES refocused their efforts under the new leadership of Vicki Gough and brought the school from the bottom 31st percentile of Kentucky elementaries to an amazing top 30th percentile in just one year!! As a school in the top 30%, BCES attained the status of Proficient School. That means BCES faculty, staff, students, and parents worked together to raise BCES from the bottom third of schools to the top third. What an amazing feat! BCES is living up to their new vision of getting Everyone Ready for the Next Level. This is not BCES’s first time recognized as a Proficient school, but they are happy to be back there for the first time under the new Unbridled Learning accountability system.

Finally, as a school district, Ballard County did something we have never done before: Ballard County Schools is now designated as a Distinguished District! For the last two years, Ballard County garnered the status of Proficient; this year, with the high performance of all three buildings, we move into the Distinguished category for the first time. Using state accountability numbers, Ballard County is in the top 6% of school districts state-wide. In our region, only Murray Independent, Marshall County, and Calloway County outperform us as a district!

If you would like to check out the newly updated School Report Cards for any school or district across the state, click here: http://applications.education.ky.gov/SRC/Default.aspx

I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of the successes of our district! It is only through the hard work and commitment of the dedicated staff of each school and our district, the students in the classroom, and the parents and community that support us every day that we can make such significant gains.

Enjoy a well-deserved Fall Break next week! When we come back, we can use this positive momentum to keep making great decisions for our kids and preparing our current class of students to be just as successful as the last.

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Congrats!
Posted 9/30/2014 at 9:32:36 AM by Casey Allen [staff member]
Ballard County Schools would like to congratulate Smokey D's Restaurant of LaCenter for winning GRAND CHAMPION at the 2014 Barbecue on the River! 

Smokey D's and the Smith family have established themselves as strong partners with our school district.  They provide support for our students time and time again.  We love to see them be successful!!

Great job, SMOKEY D'S!!!!
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School taxes support our students
Posted 9/3/2014 at 12:07:57 PM by Casey Allen [staff member]

Today is a quick entry about one of the more difficult jobs of the Ballard County Board of Education…setting tax rates. Around this time each year, the local board of education in each school district has the duty to review property values, school revenue, and school needs. The board then has the duty to set school tax rates on real estate, tangible property, and motor vehicles.

While few people in the county are excited to hear that their taxes might be going up, any increase in school taxes set by the board of education are used solely for the purposes of supporting the local school district. This is the part that makes the board’s job difficult: raising taxes is seen by some people in the community as a negative thing, but board members know that increased revenue supports our academic programs, our teachers, and ultimately our students.

Because the money from this proposed tax increase will support our staff and students, I ask that all of our school district faculty and staff be vocal in support of our board of education as they make this decision. Our BOE will have a tax hearing onThursday night, September 4th at 6pm. At that meeting, members of the public are invited to come speak to the board about the tax rates. While it is rare that we have community members come speak out against a tax increase that supports the school, it does happen. If employees of the district are so moved, I would encourage you to attend this hearing as well and voice your support for a 4% increase in revenue that will support the work that we do here in our schools on a daily basis.

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First Prize Opportunity
Posted 8/14/2014 at 3:17:28 PM by Casey Allen [staff member]

First things first: at the regularly scheduled August meeting of the Ballard County BOE, the board appointed the last two members of the Certified Evaluation Appeals Panel.  Appointed by the board for membership on the panel was Bob Wilson, Director of Pupil Personnel.  Appointed as alternate if a situation arose where Mr. Wilson cannot serve was David Meinschein, prinicpal of BMHS. Congratulations to both of them, and we appreciate their willingness to serve.

Now for our first prize opportunity: something that will be a focus of all Ballard County schools this year is the Kentucky Framework for Teaching.  The Framework is based on the research work of Charlotte Danielson and is also the foundation of the new Growth and Effectiveness System being used across the state of Kentucky. 

I have a nice, shiny Bomber lapel pin, custom made for Ballard County Schools by Unlimited Graphics in LaCenter, that I will give to the first school employee who emails me and tells me what Domain 2 of the Kentucky Framework for Teaching is. 

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Appeals Panel and new use of the Blog
Posted 8/10/2014 at 4:53:03 PM by Casey Allen [staff member]
Good morning!  As promised, I want to let all Certified Staff know about the outcome of our 2014 Certified Evaluation Appeal Panel election today.  You may be wondering why I asked you to visit my blog to find out the results.

I decided to redirect everyone to this page as a quick reminder that the blog is still active.  It is my intent to use the blog this year to create more communication about things going on in our district that directly affect student learning. 

I intend to post to the blog more frequently; in addition, I would like district employees to visit the blog more regularly...and send me a response when you feel like it.  From time to time, this blog may feature "guest bloggers" talking about what is going on in Ballard County Schools and things that are working well.  If you are diligent in reading the blog, you may also have the opportunity to win a prize every now and then.

That said, here are the results that you all came to see.  The 2014 Certified Evaluation Appeals Panel members elected by the certified staff in Ballard County are as follows:

Elected Panel Members: Jo Ann Cooksey and Sherry Taylor
Alternate Panel Members: Kim Grogan and Amy Rodgers

Thanks to all four individuals for being willing to serve on this panel, and thanks to all the certified employees who voted.  Stay tuned to the blog to find out who the Ballard County BOE appoints as the last member of the panel and the additional alternate.

Have a great week!
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Spring has Sprung!
Posted 4/18/2014 at 10:14:55 AM by Casey Allen [System User]

On a recent visit to the Preschool, I ran into a special guest who was visiting our kids.  I'm the one on the right...

I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see the official arrival of Spring as I was this year. The winter weather has been a disruption to the school year, to say the least. It is probably more accurate to say that it has altered our schedules, affected our teaching, and made this school year one of the most challenging in decades.

Now that it is all behind us (knock on wood), we have to sprint into the home stretch ready to wrap this year up on a positive note and with good results for our students. Here are a few notable things about the next 6 weeks:

· If you are a parent or staff member, please take time to read the newsletters that principals and teachers are sending out. Right now, there is a bunch of important information going home about how each class and building will be wrapping up the year.

· SBDM election time is here. You can read my blog post from last April (just scroll down) to learn more about SBDM and the function it serves, or you can contact your child’s principal to find out more. It is an important role, and the district needs great parents to fill those positions. Please be involved in your school’s SBDM, even if it is just by voting in the election.

· Our district calendar has been amended for the last time (we hope). You can find the amended calendar here. Changes to the calendar were substantial so please double check it against other activities you have planned. Notable changes include going to school on Election Day and Memorial Day, and a last day for students of May 30th.

· State testing will be the focus of our last 2 weeks of school in every building. Please read newsletters or contact the school to find out more information. Testing is the way the state determines if Ballard County Schools is cutting the mustard. As I have said in the past: good student performance is a benefit to our whole community in a variety of ways. As it is with most things that we do in the schools, we need our community support to be successful.

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Big results from our smallest students
Posted 3/11/2014 at 11:11:18 AM by Casey Allen [System User]

One of the school buildings in our district that often is overlooked sits off our main campus in the heart of LaCenter. The Ballard County Preschool is located in the old LaCenter Elementary building. The Preschool serves our youngest students by having morning and afternoon sessions of 3 and 4 year old students.

The faculty and staff at the Preschool often fly under the radar when it comes to school recognition. The Preschool schedule varies significantly from the elementary, middle, and high school, and the content of what is taught is vastly different too. Clearly, reading and math are not the focus of 3 and 4 year old students—at least not in the traditional sense. But what is going on at our Preschool is not just working, it’s working very well!

According to data obtained from the state’s new Kindergarten Screener, over 66% of Ballard County Preschool students are ready for Kindergarten. That number is significantly higher than Ballard County’s closest neighbors and second in the region to only Murray Independent. The state average of Kindergarten readiness is only 49%, so our little Preschool outperforms the average by a whopping 17%.

The numbers show how effective our Preschool is, but a visit to the building will let you know why. It doesn’t take long to see the care, attention, and love that our Preschool employees give to every child that walks through the door. You cannot work in the Preschool setting unless you are prepared to be totally dedicated to meeting the needs of all children, all day long. Our employees are the mothers and fathers to these children during their time in the building. They literally take care of every need: physical, emotional, and educational.

So, I want to offer my thanks to the staff at Ballard County Preschool for the wonderful job that they do every day. Data shows that what you are doing with our students is educationally effective. What I see every time I walk in the buildings lets me know that our youngest students are working with the employees in our district with the biggest hearts.

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Ballard Preschool
Posted 3/11/2014 at 4:39:00 PM by [anonymous visitor]
Thank you so much for your kind words on the job we do at Preschool. As a 19 year employee of the preschool, I take great pride in the job the teachers and entire staff do there! I see the great strides our students make while in our center! I wish everyone could have the opportunity to come observe a day in our life. As hectic and crazy as our days are, we wouldn't trade places with anyone! We love our jobs and our kiddos!
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New BCES Vision and Mission
Posted 2/10/2014 at 12:11:26 PM by Casey Allen [System User]
We are in the midst of another week-long snow break, but I wanted to take time to write briefly about something going on at our elementary school. BCES, under the guidance of new principal Vicki Gough, recently reworked their school vision and mission. This was a process that included multiple meetings with school and community leaders, and also parents and students.  The meetings stressed that setting the vision of the school tells the stakeholders where it is the school wants to be.

The new Vision Statement for BCES is:

BCES: Excellence is expected, inspired, and achieved.

All members of the committee that worked on the vision were in agreement that excellence is where we want to be—excellence in all facets of what the school does. Mrs. Gough has talked about this from the time she took the reins at BCES. The idea of being excellent is a big task, maybe scary for some people, but it is a vision worthy of our kids. I’m excited by it.

The committee went on to set a Mission Statement as well. The mission is:

Ready for the Next Level.

The committee spent a lot of time trying to refine the mission to something that was agreeable to all, and it looks like they did a great job. From conversations within the group, it was agreed that every child, regardless of their age, grade, or performance, must be prepared to take the next step…whatever that may be for them. Transitioning between grades, preparing to go to the middle school, or even just progressing through learning targets in a lesson, there is a commitment at BCES that everyone—students, teachers, administrators, and even parents—will be ready to keep making progress to the next level.

I’m excited about the renewed energy at BCES and excited about the commitment on behalf of all the BCES stakeholders to make it a school of excellence by getting everyone committed to progress. Please help us make our vision a reality!

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Is it Spring yet?
Posted 1/23/2014 at 4:30:01 PM by Casey Allen [System User]

The month of December was not particularly kind to us with the snow and ice, but we actually have been pretty lucky during January. Many districts have been out of school for winter weather that we have not gotten on this end of the state (knock on wood). The cold temperatures, of course, have not avoided us. I have the damage from a broken pipe upstairs in my house to remind me of that!

January is also the time for Board Member Appreciation. The work of our board is often thankless. Making hard decisions relating to policy, jobs, and money often times makes them easy targets for people who are short on facts but long on ink. We certainly have five great board members who work hard to make great decisions about what is best for our students and our district.

There has been a change in our board since last January: Kent Gordon filled the vacant District 2 seat left by long-time board member, Kim Terrell. For more information about our board, please see the Board Members page.

Ballard County Schools is committed to getting every student prepared to enter the workforce or go on to higher education. Creating strong, productive students is good not only for our school district, but also for our community, our county, and their respective economies. Our local board of education provides the district with the means to get that done. So from all of us at the school: We appreciate our Board of Education!

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Ice, ice, baby...
Posted 12/17/2013 at 3:18:43 PM by Casey Allen [System User]

The picture above is from the driver's seat of my car while driving (slowly) on South Wayside Drive in Ballard County.  Roads like these were unsafe for bus transportation for over a week.


It is great to finally be back in school…at least for a little while. The final decision on whether to cancel class is never an easy call; missed days disrupt instruction and require many people to reschedule events around us.

With the exception of the ice storm in 2009, I cannot think of another year where we missed this many consecutive days of school. I also cannot think of a time when we missed school this early in the winter. We certainly hope that last week’s weather event was a fluke and not a sign of things to come for winter!

Our 6 days of canceled classes have put the next few days into fast forward. Our district is working to make up lessons and tests in the classroom; likewise, we are working to make up concerts and ball games in our after-school hours. We certainly appreciate the patience of our parents and the community as we work to make the best decision for kids.

I have heard words of support from most of the parents I’ve spoken with about the missed days. While it is important for students to be in class every day that they can be, it will never be more important than the safety and welfare of our students. Thanks to all of those who have been supportive of our decisions.

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Safe Schools Week
Posted 10/31/2013 at 5:24:49 PM by Casey Allen [System User]

Last week was the official Safe Schools Week in the state of Kentucky, as organized by the Kentucky Center for School Safety. Let’s be honest though: every day is a great day to pause and think about ways we can make our schools safer places to be.

At the end of the summer, I wrote a blog entry about Ballard County Schools participating in Active Shooter training with the Kentucky State Police. That training is now being recognized as cutting-edge training to help prepare school districts on how to respond in a worst-case scenario in our schools, and Ballard was one of the first districts to have it!

But that event was something that was a big deal; it took lots of time and effort to organize and carry out. There are so many little things that we can do each day to make our schools safer. Here are a few things I thought about from incidents just this year:

· Driving slower in school parking lots where it is much more likely to encounter student foot traffic

· Encouraging students to stay on sidewalks and use crosswalks when walking on campus

· Being prepared to take a little extra time when picking up and dropping off your child at school

· Being patient and supportive as the school follows safety protocols (such as showing a picture ID or wearing a visitor’s tag)

· Encouraging students to be aware of bullying and harassment issues within the school, and teaching children tolerance of differences at home

Again, these are just a few suggestions based on my observations; obviously there are many more things we can do to ensure safer schools. If you have suggestions of your own, feel free to contact your child’s principal and give them your thoughts. 

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Painting the Golden Gate
Posted 9/23/2013 at 11:10:30 AM by Casey Allen [System User]
Sometime last year, I was introduced to a new term. A presenter on a webcast I was watching referred to a process as a “Golden Gate Initiative.” This was something new to me, and if they hadn’t explained it I probably still wouldn’t understand.

The speaker explained that the process of painting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is a never-ending process. The painters work from one end of the bridge scraping, sanding, prepping, and painting as they work all the way to the other end. When they get all the way across the bridge, they pack up their supplies and go back to where the started…and they start over.

This process might sound frustrating or even punishing, but it is the process that is necessary to keep the bridge looking its best. In addition, the process ensures that the bridge is always inspected and repaired regularly, and each trip across the bridge actually leaves it in better shape than it was the last time.

This same concept describes what successful teachers are doing in their classrooms every day. Planning lessons or units is not a one-time deal; it is something that is revised every single time the lesson or unit is taught. Ask a teacher if they teach each class the same from year to year, or even from class period to class period. Depending on the needs of the students and the individuality of the group, refinements are made every single day. As teachers assess students, they are making adjustments, looking for gaps in content and making “repairs.”

There is no time when this is more evident in schools than in the Fall. When state test data comes back, each school and each teacher will be able to look at the results of the end of year tests. Teachers will look at how their current students performed last year, then use the information to help refine the instruction in the classroom. Teachers will also look at how their students last year performed on the test; this is equally important information that will tell the teacher where the gaps in their instruction took place. These adjustments occur throughout the year as well, but the return of state test data always brings the process to the front in our schools.

So often, educators at all levels are reminded that their jobs are different from a typical 9 to 5 job; and that is so true. Where outsiders will note “summers off with the kids” and “all those breaks during the year,” those of us in education know that the teacher’s job, when done correctly, is really a Golden Gate Initiative. No beginning, no end, and a focus on continuous improvement.

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Fall sports season in Ballard County
Posted 8/23/2013 at 2:19:49 PM by Julie Thomas [System User]
This is one of my favorite seasons of the year…Fall sports season. You know the time is near when the warm days start transitioning into crisp nights. As a high school football player, and later as a coach, this time of year evokes memories in me of being a part of a team…something bigger than one person. 

In Ballard County Schools, we have high school, middle school, and little league football going on. Cheerleaders are ready to perform for all those games. High school and middle school volleyball teams have been prepping all summer for this season, too. Our high school golf team is in midseason with a home tournament this weekend. And middle school baseball and softball are underway, as well.

So many things going on, and so many lessons being taught outside of our classrooms during those activities. We wish all of our student athletes good luck and good health during this season. As a coach, I always reminded my players that they were students first, then athletes. And I would like to thank all of our coaches who spend so much more time than they are paid for; many of the coaches in our lower grades are not paid at all, but are volunteers who put the time in because they love the game and the kids.

I would also like to thank the administrators who make sure that these events take place in our schools, and that sporting events are safe places for our students and our community.  Our principals and assistant principals remain focused on teaching and learning throughout the day, and often put in 12- or 14-hour days to supervise athletic events. 

If you get the chance this fall, come out to one of the many sporting events in which our Ballard County students are participating. If you have never seen a volleyball game before, try it out…you will not be disappointed. Maybe stop by a little league football game on a Saturday morning to be reminded of what it was like to be young and excited about just getting to play, instead of being worried about winning or losing.

As always, thanks to our community for the support you give us that makes all of the things in Ballard County Schools possible.  
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Safer Schools Today
Posted 8/1/2013 at 7:45:51 PM by Casey Allen [System User]
I took a little break from blogging over the summer, but with a great Professional Development activity today I just had to write about it!

If you drove by our main campus today, you probably noticed that we had lots of employees and lots of police presence. Under the guidance of our DPP, Bob Wilson, the district had a day of school safety activities. The experience was a good one, and we feel like the outcome makes our schools a safer place.

A team from the Kentucky State Police, led by Lieutenant Brent White, came to Ballard County today and taught us about responding to a worst-case scenario in our schools…a school shooter. Sheriff Todd Cooper and his dedicated staff of officers attended and assisted, and the entire Ballard County Schools staff was involved.

My big take-away from the training was that you cannot prepare for every single possibility, but all of us can get more confident in assessing situations and making good decisions. We learned that the old-school directive to drop and cover is not always the most effective response in an active shooter scenario; we will now tell people to assess the situation and Run, Hide, or Fight. 

A big thanks to one of the newest members of our community, First Community Bank, who provided lunch for everyone involved—nearly 250 people. Without their support, the cost of the meal alone could have made an activity like this cost prohibitive. We appreciate them being a partner with us in serving our schools, and therefore our community.

At Ballard County, we are focused on making good decisions for our kids every single day! Today’s training made our schools safer, and that makes it a better place for our kids!

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Teacher Appreciation Week
Posted 5/7/2013 at 3:00:20 PM by Casey Allen [System User]
I would like to take a moment to say thanks to everyone who works so hard every day to make Ballard County Schools a great place to be. I know the week is “teacher” appreciation, but we all know that every person employed in a school district is teaching a child something. Some employees are teaching while in the classroom, while others are teaching from behind the wheel of a bus, behind the cafeteria lines, or as they work to keep our facilities clean and functional.  

I would like to offer my appreciation not only to the employees who have made my children’s first year in Ballard County Schools so wonderful, but to all the people who have made my first year as the superintendent a successful one. As some of you may remember from my opening day talk, I’m a firm believer that “none of us can do what all of us can do.” There is nothing done in this district that is not a group effort. As long as the Ballard County Schools faculty and staff are making good decisions for kids every day, then we will continue to be successful and show the growth that our students deserve.  

I know that testing is stressful and that the end of the year adds to that, but I also know you all will remain focused…because it is what is best for our kids. Thanks to you all for a wonderful year and for making every day a great day to be a Bomber!
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School-Based Council Elections
Posted 4/23/2013 at 8:07:28 PM by Casey Allen [System User]
If you are a parent or guardian of a Ballard County student, you should have seen an email, newsletter, or some form of communication about the upcoming School-Based Decision Making (SBDM) elections. 

The SBDM councils at our Elementary, Middle, and High Schools are the policy and decision-making bodies that help guide the principal in making the best decisions for our children; each SBDM council is comprised of three teachers, two parents, and the principal.

SBDM teacher and parent members are elected by their peers; the information you have received or will be receiving should indicate that elections for next year’s councils are coming up very soon. If you have an interest in being involved, or if you know someone who would do a great job in working with the principals to help guide one of our schools, contact the principal and nominate that person for the SBDM election that is coming up.

An example of the importance of the SBDM role can be seen in our current situation at BCES. Teachers and parents who were elected in the Spring of 2012 likely did not know that they would be picking the next principal of BCES in April of 2013…but that is happening right now. The current SBDM members of BCES will be making a decision that could quite possibly affect students in Ballard County Schools for years to come. Luckily, we have great parents and teachers on that council that are approaching that task with all due diligence.

Please contact your school principal for more information about your council elections. Participate in the process when the election day rolls around, and have a positive effect on your child’s school.
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What is the least you will accept?
Posted 3/22/2013 at 5:23:20 PM by Casey Allen [System User]
When I wrote the title above, I immediately thought of my father when he was car shopping. My dad never was one to dicker over price. He would ask the salesman for his “lowest price,” and if the number he came back with was not what my dad was willing to pay he would walk away. My dad frustrated many car dealers (and my mother) with this system. But there is another way to look at what we are each willing to accept, and that is when we talk about the expectations we set. We talk about setting high expectations all the time—with our employees, our students, our own children. But what do we really mean? And, like my dad, are we willing to “walk the talk”?

Our BMHS head football coach, John Elliott, shared an email with me a few weeks ago that really put this in perspective for me. In the email, a veteran coach explained to a group of young coaches that their team will become the lowest version of the expectations that they will accept. For instance, a coach may tell his team that he wants to win a championship, and that the team members should all exhibit excellence. But the coach may not require them to act like champions, or actually exhibit that excellence. As a coach, he just sent the message to the team that he was willing to accept much less than what he told them. Human nature being what it is, the players will work to give the coach not what he expects, but what he accepts. That doesn’t make the players bad people; it just makes them human.  

This email struck a chord with me. It is true whether we are talking about an athletic team and coach, a class of students and their teacher, children and their parents, or employees and their boss. High expectations are only the first step toward becoming great, and it is the easy step. The hard, next step is when we show our team, our students, our children, and our employees that we will accept efforts that are working to meet those high expectations.

That email from Coach Elliott led me to reflect on the way I treat others, and the mixed signals that I sometimes send about what I expect and what I accept. I’m going to encourage our faculty and staff to think about what our expectations are, and what we are willing to accept as we work toward those expectations. I think that if we raise the level of what we accept, it will go a long way to helping us meet our goals.

I want and expect Ballard County Schools to be great. From now on, I need to do a better job of communicating not just great expectations, but also what I consider acceptable efforts from myself and others in getting us there. It’s only by raising the bar for our effort and our actions that our expectations can become reality.
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March Madness
Posted 3/11/2013 at 4:37:40 PM by Casey Allen [System User]
As a former principal and a Kentucky Wildcat fan, I often compared the March Madness that we all know and love (the NCAA basketball tournament) with the madness that is going on in our schools this time of year. Just as college basketball teams are getting ready to prepare for the “Big Dance” at the end of the year to show what they are made of, so too are our students preparing for their biggest tests.

This is the time of year where teachers are in the home stretch of getting students ready for state testing. Some people think that schools get more money the better the students perform. That is not true. However, teachers know that many people in the public compare counties and communities based on a district or a school’s test scores. In other words, the better our kids score on the state testing, the better the community looks.

While this may just be a point of personal pride for some teachers, there are many reasons why the community should want our state test scores to compare positively to our neighbors. Business and industry often looks at the available workforce of an area before making a decision to locate there; if our students do well on tests, more jobs may come to Ballard County.

In addition, when your school is performing better than a neighboring school, more students and families may choose to come to your school. More students in our district mean more jobs within our schools and more money into our community. Again, the advantages extend beyond just making our teachers and our kids look good. 

High performing students are good for EVERYONE in the community. So, even though state testing will not get into full swing until the first week of May, know that this time of year is the big push to get students where they need to be. Attendance, attention to the work, and an eye on the end result are what will help us perform well on the state tests and help our community prosper!
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Kids say the darnedest things...
Posted 2/7/2013 at 10:49:30 AM by Casey Allen [System User]
I have set aside some time this year to sit and eat lunch with some of our high school and middle school students. While some students are excited to eat with the superintendent, most are more worried about what’s going on in the cafeteria while they’re sitting there with me!

My goal was to talk with a few students about what is working well in our schools, and what things might need to be changed to make our schools better. When people heard that I asked kids what we need to improve, they automatically assume that I received the old “standard” responses. Sometimes I did. I have had students tell me that they should be allowed to use their cell phones during the day; that they just had too much homework; and that cafeteria food is not good. However, not nearly as many students said those things as you might think.

Most students really wanted to give authentic, valuable input about our schools. Here are some of the things that students said we need to improve:
·        More hands-on learning
·        More physical activities
·        More foreign languages
·        More choices in the classes they take and the work that they do

These are very mature thoughts and comments from students. Maybe not surprisingly, they reflect what researchers on good teaching strategies have been telling us for years.  

Following up on my last blog entry, I was even more pleased to hear from students about what they think works well in our schools. Here were some of the responses that I heard over and over:
·        Teachers care about students and about learning

·        Students are safe in our buildings
·        School and community support makes us a school with lots of pride and a positive culture
·        Cafeteria food is good
·        Our facilities and technology give Ballard County students lots of opportunities  

My favorite quote was from a BCMS student, who told me toward the end of our meeting, “School takes all my worries away.” Even now, I’m moved by that statement. As a parent, what more could you want from the place where your children stay for seven hours a day?  

There was a lot more input than what I’ve listed here, and there were just as many suggestions for improvements as there were good things. I’m just glad to have taken the time to listen to what our students have to say. I have several more student lunches on my calendar, so it’s possible that your children might get an invitation to eat with me. If so, tell them that they are not in trouble, and that I just want to hear their thoughts about our school district. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy sharing their opinions as much as I enjoying hearing from them.
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Looking for what’s right…
Posted 1/23/2013 at 12:59:32 PM by Casey Allen [System User]
BMHS principal David Meinschein shared a video with me earlier in the year that featured Dewitt Jones, a National Geographic photographer. Mr. Jones is a highly respected and sought after public speaker. His message is inspirational and uplifting. If you have time, I would encourage anyone reading to look him up and watch some of his free promotional information.

The reason I thought of his work at this point in the year is because we often get bogged down in a midyear grind at about this time. Weather keeps us indoors, students and teachers are returning from having some time off, and families are often looking forward to spring break and maybe even summer activities. All of this can create a cultural lull in our schools.

At a recent athletic event, I sat next to a fan who was not happy with anything going on. He was not happy with the effort of the kids on the court; he was not happy with the calls of the officials. At one point he started a conversation with me about things in our schools; not surprisingly, he was not happy about that subject, either. 

It was this conversation that made me reflect on one of Dewitt Jones’ powerful messages: Celebrating What is Right. The message is a simple one, and something we all need to be reminded of from time to time. In any situation, we can choose to look for what is wrong or look for what is right. Too often, we take the easy road and start looking for what is wrong; those things jump out at us and are easily identified. After identifying what’s wrong, we often start looking for who or what is to blame. As human nature would have it, we rarely look within ourselves for the source of what is wrong, or for a solution. The result: We are unhappy, pessimistic, and pointing fingers of blame.

Dewitt Jones reminds us that nearly every situation has something right about it, too. His suggestion: Go into situations looking for what’s right. When you do that, you start feeling more upbeat about your situation. You identify positive things going on, which leads you to more positivity. Instead of thinking about who to blame, you start looking for people or things to credit for the good stuff that you see. 
When you start thinking this way, you start to realize that there is good that can come out of most situations, and you develop the ability to look for and find that good. Often times, you will be encouraged to do something good yourself, and that is a great feeling.


So, as I sat at the ballgame with my negative counterpart, I began to look around. I saw teachers and administrators not just attending a game, but cheering for kids in their school. I saw young people dedicating time and effort to playing and cheering…learning to be a team and encouraging our community school spirit. I saw a bunch of students who attended an event to support their team and cheer for their school. I saw members of our community, some parents and others who just enjoyed the event, all pulling for the Ballard Bombers.  In fact, the more I looked for what was right, the more I found. 

We didn’t win our game, but I did not come out upset and negative. There was a lot right going on at that game. There are good things in our schools and our communities all around us. Next time you go out, try looking for the good and see what you can find…you might just be surprised at the positive effect it has on your outlook!
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Board of Education Recognition Month
Posted 1/8/2013 at 2:30:52 PM by Julie Thomas [System User]
We survived Christmas break with only a couple of threats of winter weather, and students are back in the classrooms hard at work. The start of the new calendar year is a great time to recognize our district board members. In fact, January is Board Member Recognition Month in the state of Kentucky. Ballard County is blessed to have five board members who serve their community and make decisions based on what is best for all the students.  

Our board members in Ballard County are:
Karen Tilford, District 1
Kim Terrell, District 2
Haskell Sheeks, District 3
Cara Mills, District 4
Tammy Dennis, District 5
For more information about our board, please see the Board Members page. 

The Ballard County Board of Education meets primarily at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month in the board office at 3465 Paducah Road, Barlow. All meetings are open to the public and input from the community is encouraged.    

The responsibilities of the board of include:
·        Approving and reviewing instructional programs
·        Review student progress
·        Appoint the superintendent
·        Adopt the annual operating budget
·        Establishing schools and approving contracts for new construction and renovations
·        Establish tax rates
·        Ensure that school practices and policies are in agreement with Kentucky Revised Statutes  

The Ballard County Board of Education works diligently behind the scenes to ensure that Ballard County students and schools have the resources they need to be successful. We appreciate all of their hard work and dedication to our schools and our kids. If you see a board member this month, be sure to thank them for what they do!
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School Safety
Posted 12/17/2012 at 9:20:40 AM by Julie Thomas [System User]
I hope everyone is preparing for a festive holiday season as this first semester of school winds down. School safety is a topic that is on everyone’s mind right now in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting. Certainly, the thoughts and prayers of Ballard County Schools go out to the Sandy Hook Elementary community and the parents and teachers who lost their children and colleagues.

We have had a few inquiries about the steps that Ballard County School District and our individual schools use to maintain a safe learning environment, and we are sensitive to those concerns. School safety is a process that we engage in year-round in Ballard County. We work with state and local law enforcement and emergency management on a regular basis to review and revise our district and school plans. 

Principals and their staffs review, update, and drill on their plans to remain prepared in case of an emergency. We remain keenly aware that no matter the plan or the practice, the possibility exists that an emergency or event may occur that we simply had not planned for. In that instance, we hope that our practice and review has given us confidence in assessing a situation and making sound decisions about appropriate responses.

In the end, we want parents to feel safe sending their children to Ballard County Schools; we want those children to feel like school is a safe place where they can focus on learning. If any of our parents or community members would like to discuss school safety, feel free to drop us a line and let us know your thoughts!

During the time away from school, I sincerely hope that each child and family in Ballard County has an opportunity to relax and recharge. Enjoy the precious time with family and friends!
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Welcome!
Posted 12/6/2012 at 2:09:25 PM by Casey Allen [System User]

I hope that everyone is finding their way around Ballard County Schools’ new webpage. It was our intent to create a new page that is more user-friendly, easier to navigate, and contains the information that students, parents, employees and community members want to see. If you have feedback for us about webpage navigation or content, please let us know. We value the input of our community!

Those who know me best know that I am not the most technologically-advanced person. However, I would like to use this blog as a way to communicate with everyone about things going on within our district. I suspect that most entries will discuss the positive things that I get to see on our campus every day – and that others might not know about at all. From time to time, there may be an occasional entry where I’ll discuss a community issue or concern from the school’s point of view.

Regardless of the blog’s topic, I would like everyone to feel comfortable reading and sharing your opinions with me. My email address is casey.allen@ballard.kyschools.us. It is through communication and conversation that we will grow.

For now, browse our new webpage, give us some feedback, and know that Ballard County Schools exists to serve our community. Every decision we make is about the kids of Ballard County!

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