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Covington Schools to More Closely Scrutinize Development Incentives

The Covington board of education discussed the setting up of a new committee to review projects seeking approval for a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) incentive, a common practice in local developments in recent years.

Most recently, the redevelopment of the former Kenton County government building on Court Street sought and received such an incentive from the City of Covington and the board of education.

Board member Stephen Gastright suggested a committee to review the projects in the future. Its purpose will be to evaluate the projects in a way that outlines the pros and cons for the school district, which typically forgoes a significant portion of what would be its property tax revenues in order to support the developments.

The board named the new initiative the Working PILOT Review Committee and Board Chair Glenda Huff appointed four community members to serve alongside finance director Annette Burtschy and board attorney Mary Ann Stewart.

 

Gastright will chair the committee and Huff will also serve on it.

Meanwhile, a proposed Holmes Leadership Academy was presented to the board by school counselor Jon Hopkins and coach and special education teacher Ben Brown.

The academy would aim to address disparities in ACT scores, an area in which Holmes has consistently struggled in recent years.

Hopkins and Brown reported that this year's junior class's black male students scored an average composite of 13.5 out of a possible 36, well below the state overall average of 19.5 for all students.

The 2019-20 school year also saw 389 disciplinary referrals, of which 220 were for black male students.

The academy hopes to close the achievement gap through rigorous academic opportunities and would possibly start this summer.

An additional goal is to improve the culture of the school and community by promoting leadership development by motivating and inspiring students to make progress in decision-making skills, accountability, and resilience.

Part of the plan would include an overnight trip to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, a two-day trip that would cost $14,250 for the students and teachers to attend.

If the program proves to be successful, it would be continued into the next school year.

Huff, the board chair, said that she was with the presentation until the field trip was suggested. Huff said that COVID could impact such travel and it may not be prudent to schedule an overnight trip. She also expressed concerns about the uncertainty of the fall semester.

As an alternative, Huff suggested a local field trip.

Superintendent Alvin Garrison added that assistant superintendent Janice Wilkerson suggested that much of the cost could be covered by a violence prevention grant received by the district.

-Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor