By William Croyle
The halls of the 18 Boone County public schools are quiet this morning as the nearly 15,000 students in the state's third-largest school district begin their summer vacations.
Superintendent Bryan Blavatt described the school year that concluded Wednesday as successful, despite having to plow through nine snow days (they were made up during the school year), illnesses and budget uncertainties.
"I've been very pleased," Blavatt said. "Every year it seems we get better and better."
Blavatt said the major focus across the district this year was to improve reading skills.
Districts and their last days of school
Covington: May 23
Campbell County: May 28
Beechwood: May 29
Southgate: May 30
Walton-Verona: May 30
Newport: May 30
Ludlow: June 3
Erlanger-Elsmere: June 4
Silver Grove: June 4
Dayton: June 6
Fort Thomas: June 6
Kenton: June 6
Bellevue: June 9
"Overall, about 96 percent of our students in the third grade and up are reading at least at the third grade level, and a significant percentage are reading well above that," Blavatt said.
He said attendance was good, even though the weather and a flu virus wreaked havoc on the district in the winter.
He was also pleased with student behavior.
"Discipline-wise, the year has been great. We had no expulsions, and haven't had any for the last four years," he said. "And our graduation rate remains high."
Roughly 99 percent of the seniors at the district's three high schools - Boone County, Conner and Ryle - have graduated or will graduate at ceremonies this week.
Boone County, the second-fastest growing county in the state, has seen a population increase of about 60 percent since 1990. The school district trails only the Jefferson County (Louisville) and Fayette County (Lexington) districts in student enrollment.
Boone County schools welcomed 800 new students this past year. Blavatt anticipates an additional 300-400 students will register for the 2003-04 school year, which begins Aug. 14.
The explosion in growth has forced redistricting for next year. About 200 students will change schools, most going from Erpenbeck Elementary in Union to Yealey Elementary in Florence.
"We will lose about 140, maybe 160 students, which will give us some growing room," said Erpenbeck Principal Becky Brown.
Along with new students, schools will see some new teachers and administrators.
About 16 teachers are retiring, while three principals - Bob Warnick at Burlington Elementary, Shelley Mayberry at Collins Elementary, and Russell Sgro at R.A. Jones Middle School - have announced they will not return.
"I'm leaving with mixed emotions, but I think it's time to pass the torch on to someone else," said Warnick, who is retiring after 28 years in the district, the last 13 as principal at Burlington.
New principals for the three schools will be hired this summer.
The district is also anticipating the release of CATS (Commonwealth Accountability Testing System) scores in September. The schools just completed the state accountability tests last week. The tests measure student and school performances, and allow schools to earn financial rewards.
No matter what the scores are, Blavatt said the goals of the district will continue to be raised.
"You've got to keep setting the bar higher and higher. If you don't try to continue to improve, you'll decline," he said. "You can't live off of last year."
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