Wanting to respond to a recent opinion piece that mentioned him, Elizabethtown Board of Education Chairman Tony Kuklinski offered a rebuttal Monday at the beginning of the school board meeting.
An editorial published in the July 5 edition of The News-Enterprise titled “Call for collaboration” focused on a June board meeting in which Kuklinski asked about collaboration between Helmwood Heights and Morningside Elementary schools and their principals, Jessica Turner and Tim Mudd. At a June board meeting, Kuklinski asked Mudd and Turner if there was a collaboration between their two schools. Both principals indicated they were working together.
“When the time came, I did what I was elected to do. I asked questions,” Kuklinski read from a prepared statement.
Kuklinski said his question was a “far cry from a plea” as written in the editorial.
“It is not my place to call for collaboration. The superintendent (Jon Ballard) and his administration are responsible for the academic performance in this district,” he said.
Kuklinski also asked if there was competition between the two schools that might hinder collaboration. Both Turner and Mudd indicated there was a rivalry, but it would not hinder future collaboration between the two schools.
“Their answers were exactly what I expected,” Kuklinski said. “If every school in the district is driving to be the best, and they are, then there will always be a connotation of competition if one school does better in an area than another. It’s human. It’s natural.”
Kuklinski, who has a military background, then used the rivalry between the U.S. Armed Forces branches as an example.
“Does or should that competition be of concerns to the citizens of this country,” he said. “Absolutely not, because at the end of the day, the mission of the military is to protect this country and their citizens and all branches work together to do that. ... Our teachers and administrators have the same goal. They work together to provide the best education in our district for every student and they do that day in, day out, year after year.”
Kuklinski also took issue with a statement the discussion was “uncharacteristically transparent” for a generally harmonious school board meeting.
“If anyone on the editorial board would have attended any of the board meetings in the last 13 years or so, because that’s how long I’ve been on the board, they would know that this is an absolute false statement,” he said.
After mentioning the Kentucky Department of Education constant changes to the grading criteria for schools and school districts, Kuklinski praised the editorial for saying Mudd and Turner were “well respected, thoughtful individuals who, along with the teaching staff, have formulated specific plans including instructional assistants, engagement with students in smaller groups and more parental involvement.”
“They were right on the money,” he said.
Kuklinski ended his statement by encouraging people who question the board’s transparency or dedication of the school district to express it during a board meeting.
“I’m very proud of our teachers, our administrators and this district,” he said. “Regardless of what the background or the intent of this editorial was, that’s how Tony Kuklinski feels about this district.”