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Paynesville Press - June 2, 2004

School board plans reduction in Title program

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area School Board took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, May 25.

*The board reviewed a plan to reduce the district's Title programs in the 2004-05 school year. For several years, the district has run these programs based solely on the amount of federal funds it receives.

In 2004-05, the district is scheduled to receive $30,500 less in Title funding from the federal government, almost a 15 percent reduction. The district does have $13,400 in carry-over funds from this year, meaning the net reduction to its Title spending for next year is $17,100.

The school district uses its Title funds to pay for a Title teacher and for another teacher to reduce class sizes; to hire instructional aides; to pay for staff development (required); and to pay for some administration costs. To accommodate the loss in federal funding, the district plans to reduce the portion used for administration (meaning more money will need to come from the general fund) and to reduce aide time. Aide hours will be reduced from 6.25 hours per day (168 days) to five hours per day (171 days).

Deb Gillman, the district's Title coordinator, told the board that if Title funding continues to decline more significant changes may be necessary, possibly having a part-time Title teacher.

She also told the board that the district's percentage of students on free and reduced lunches (used to determine Title funding) is increasing, which could mean more funding for next year. Administration has told the aides that if the district receives more Title funding that it will increase aide hours.

The reduction in aide time due to federal funding cuts is particularly frustrating, said Gillman, since these aides have worked hard to become licensed aides under the federal law No Child Left Behind.

*The board approved adjusting the hours of the following instructional aides: Ginny Chevalier, Barb Hanson, Faye Hartert, Mary Heinen, and Bernie Roeser from 6.25 hours per day to five hours per day; and Jeanne Olmscheid from 4.75 hours per day to 3.5 hours per day.

*The board approved a trip to Orlando, Fla., by the high school choirs over Thanksgiving 2004. The choirs, who made a similar trip in 2000, will sing in a mass choir at Disney World. Students will miss two days of school to make the six-day trip, since it comes over a holiday. Students will raise their own funds if they want to make the trip.

*The board approved continuing its membership for 2004-05 with the Central Minnesota Consortium, which provides GED testing for the Community Education Adult Basic Education Program.

*The board set graduation for the 2004-05 school year for Sunday, May 29, at 2 p.m. The board had previously approved the 2004-05 school year calendar but had not set graduation. Because school ends before Memorial Day next year, the decision was whether to hold graduation on Memorial Day weekend or wait another week.

High school principal John Janotta surveyed the junior class and their parents and the results indicated a preference for having graduation on Memorial Day weekend: Sunday, May 29, 2005.

*The board approved offering to pay for cap and gown rental for the senior class. Television news reports last week indicated that schools could not legally charge for caps and gowns. The high school has had seniors pay for the rental costs, $12 this year.

Board member Lowell Haagenson questioned if passing along actual costs, and not charging an extra fee that might prohibit seniors from participating in graduation, actually breaks the law.

But the board decided to offer a refund, since members of the senior class have already paid $12 for cap and gown rental. A letter will be sent to members of the senior class, and parents wanting a refund should either sign and return the letter or call the high school office.

The district hopes that families will consider donating the money to the school district by not requesting a refund. Refunds will likely be given at graduation.

*The board approved two-week driving assignments for special education summer school in June and July for Rita Garding, Jeanne Haag, and Tami Zwiefel.

*The board approved employee assignments for the fitness center for June to August 2004: Sue Teicher (20 hours per week); Jacqie Utsch (20 hours per week); Danielle Dickhausen (11 hours per week); Becky Titrud (9 hours per week); Reed Quarfot (substitute); and Jim Paster (substitute).

*The board heard a follow-up report from Janotta about concerns raised by the high school advisory council at its previous meeting.

The students had raised concerns about college visit days, the enforcement of the dress code, and not knowing what to do for an emergency lockdown.

Janotta said that juniors and seniors average about two college visit days - they are allowed three - so it does not seem to him that they need to increase this allowable amount. Some students do use all three, Janotta noted, while others don't use any. Students can take unlimited days with a parent, and the school does allow students to take half days, added Janotta.

Most job shadow days are done through classes, Janotta told the board, but juniors and seniors who want to spend a day job shadowing - not related to a class - can use a college visit day. Janotta said the section in the student handbook that explains these policies will be updated to better inform students.

The high school and the middle school held a mock intruder alert recently, and Janotta and Gillman were pleased. Both said they had a hard time seeing anyone in the school, even when they looked through the windows into classrooms, since students and teachers did a good job of moving to corners of the room. Holding a drill like this may need to be an annual event.

Gillman and Janotta talked with the teaching staffs about more strict enforcement of the dress code, but so far the biggest factor in adherence to the code might be the relatively cool weather.

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