Gemmill celebrates CCPS diversity, improvements

Jon Russelburg | Kentucky New Era

Christian County Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ann Gemmill gives the annual State of the Schools address Tuesday at the James E. Bruce Convention Center.

The Christian County Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual State of the Schools Eye Opener Breakfast Tuesday morning at the James E. Bruce Convention Center. Christian County Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ann Gemmill took the stage and praised the students and staff of the district.

She also shined a light on the diversity in the halls of the district’s schools.

Christian County is the 11th largest county in the state by population. It is the second largest county in the state by land mass.

CCPS has 15 schools that house 8692 students. Of that student population, 4384 are Caucasian, 2948 are African American, 655 are Hispanic and 705 are of other ethnicities.

“That’s a pretty large community,” Gemmill said. “And we celebrate our diversity.”

She acknowledged that although diversity presents some challenges in the schools, it also helps all students learn about worlds outside of their own.

“We believe because they go to school with a diverse population, they understand each others differences,” she said. “And they understand that there is a special needs child in their building and there are going to be special needs people in their world.”

Gemmill also acknowledged local and state leaders for passing legislation accommodating for students with disabilities.

The district has 1320 students with special needs.

“We love them,” Gemmill said. “We honor them … they make our world a better place.”

The district’s socio-economic diversity mirrors that of the state.

“Socio-economic diversity is the greatest predictor of success,” Gemmill said.

She said that students in the lower socio-economic categories may come to preschool behind their peers. As each grade level builds on the previous year, those students are continuously behind each school year.

That’s why, Gemmill said, the district has aggressively gone after grants like the Striving Readers Grant to help students learn to read before they set foot in a CCPS building. The grant also helps those students who are already in school but behind their peers catch up.

The district improved from 43.1% in kindergarten readiness last school year to 45.9% for the current school year.

“Early childhood education is huge,” Gemmill said. “And I applaud our teachers, our administrators for all of the hard work they do.

“Because basically, they are catching kids up. And they do.”

Food insecurity is also a factor for those students in lower socio-economic classes. There are 5845 students at CCPS that qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“Even though 73% of our population (qualify for) free or reduced lunch,” Gemmil said. “We serve all students free.”

When the new Kentucky Department of Education’s five-star accountability system was released earlier this month, it showed that no schools in the district were under the Targeted School Improvement or Comprehensive School Improvement labels. Gemmill said that one school in particular has shown how the district’s hard work has paid off.

Indian Hill Elementary School gained a three-star rating in the new system.

“Indian Hills is our Cinderella story,” Gemmill said. “Indian Hills was at the bottom of the pack eight years ago.”

Indian Hills was the highest rated school in the district for the 2017-18 school year. Gemmill stressed that Indian Hills was one of six schools in the district that earned a three-star rating.

Gemmill closed by lifting up public schools, and stressing the district’s need for local support.

“Public Schools will educate you, no matter how well you read when you come,” she said. “Public education will educate you no matter how much money your family has. Public schools will educate you no matter what language you speak.

Public education will educate you no matter what you believe in because … we know that our students deserve the best.”

Reach Jon Russelburg at jrusselburg@kentuckynewera.com

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