School district benefits from compensatory revenue program

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 9/15/99.

Computer lab The students in the Paynesville Area School District are benefiting from a relatively new state program... compensatory revenue. This year the district will receive $171,252 to be used for various education programs. The main focus of the program is to help students pass the graduation standards tests.

The Legislature directed schools to use compensatory revenue to meet the education needs of pupils whose progress toward meeting state or local content of performance standards is below the level that is appropriate for learners of their age.

Since the start of the program three years ago, the district has received about $442,991. The funding varies from year to year with the numbers applying for free and reduced lunches. This year (1999-2000) the district received $171,252; compared to $178,159 last year. In the first year of the program (1997-98), the district received $123,580.

The amount of compensatory revenue funds the district receives is based on the free and reduced lunch count within the school district. The district is required to submit the numbers for the free and reduced lunch program to the state by Oct. 1.

This week, a flier was sent home with elementary students urging families to sign up for the free and reduced lunch program and how the district benefits by the receiving compensatory funds.

Based on Oct. 1, 1998, count, the district had 207 students in the free lunch program and 138 in the reduced lunch program. This figure provided the school district with $171,252 to be used to help students.

"The money cannot be used for building upkeep but for education programs," Howard Caldwell, district superintendent, said.

"I feel the program is very well used," Caldwell said. "The district benefits greatly from the program."

The district receives the funds and divides it among the various grade levels, according to the number of students in each level eligible for the free and reduced lunch program.

Barb Koehn, food service manager, said even if families are eligible and don't want to utilize the free and reduced lunch program, they should still apply. "Families aren't required to use the funds even if they are eligible. However, by applying for the designation, the district receives funds which help with the learning process," Koehn said.

"Even kindergarten students who do not eat lunch here are eligible to apply for the free and reduced meals," Koehn said. ECFE and ECFE-special education students are also eligible, Caldwell added.

At present, approximately 33 percent of the Paynesville student body is enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program.

Besides compensatory revenue, the district's state funding for Title I and the breakfast program are also determined through the free and reduced lunch program.

"The funds are a worthwhile addition to the district as they provide opportunities for the different grade levels to do things that are not here without the dollars," Caldwell said. "The dollars provide an independence for each building. The principals can look at their own needs and what is needed to aid the learning process for the students in their buildings," Caldwell added.

High school usage
John Janotta, high school principal, said he was leary of using the funds the first year they were available, thinking the funds might not be available the next year. "I analyzed the program the first year, looking for the best means to use the funding. I wanted to be sure the funding wouldn't disappear like so many other program funds promised by the state," Janotta said.

Janotta took the funds the high school received the first year and put them to use the second and third year of the program. In the high school, the funds provided extra classes on weekends to help prepare students to take the graduation standard tests.

"We had pretty good success with both the reading and math program. The focus of the program is to get kids ready for graduation," Janotta added.

For the 1999-2000 school year, the district hired Melinda Zachman with compensatory funds to work with students in the middle school and high school who still need to pass the graduation standards tests.

This year the high school has been designated compensatory revenue of $35,754. This compares to $30,229 the high school received last year.

Middle school
"I feel really good about the compensatory revenue in the middle school," Deb Gillman, middle school principal, said.

Compensatory revenue has paid for summer school the last two years and enabled the district to purchase all new materials for summer school.

"I felt the students needed a different approach for summer school as they were not making the grade with what they had during the school year," Gillman said.

"Summer school had a relaxed atmos-phere, giving the students a more positive approach to math and reading. Thirty-one students attended school from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m., for seven weeks. With four teachers, the class sizes were smaller, giving the teachers more one on one time with students."

Gillman stressed that many students were struggling at the beginning of summer but with the extra help, it provided the skills needed to bring up their confidence and knowledge.

Gillman added that her middle school account is at zero right now as she spent it all this summer.

"The first year the funds were available we purchased five computers for the school. Last year we purchased 30 computers for the computer lab and the remedial programs necessary to help the students," Gillman said. "We have used a lot of technology during the summer school sessions. The old classic computers were recycled and moved into classrooms."

She added, "It's exciting what a person can do with the funds. However, I still feel we are behind in technology. I would like to purchase more computers so students and teachers have access to computers in individual classrooms."

Elementary school
Todd Burlingame, elementary principal, said compensatory revenue at the elementary level has been used to start the accelerated reader program and to pay a portion of the salaries for three staff members (AnnMarie Stevens, Cheryl Colbert, and Kevin O'Neal) who provide extra help to students.

"This year we have received $78,000 from compensatory revenue," Burlingame said. The first year the program was in effect, the elementary school did not use any of the funds, but explored various ways it could be used. Funds not used are always carried over to the next year. That gave the elementary school $146,000 to spend last year. The funds were used to start the accelerated reader program in the fourth and fifth grade and expand it to the third grade this year.

"It is important parents fill out the free and reduced lunch program forms as the funds help out the district greatly," Burlingame added.

How to apply
Anyone interested in applying for free and reduced lunch program within the Paynesville Area School District should contact Barb Koehn at the high school (320-243-3761) or Donna Ahrens at the district office (320-243-3410) located in the elementary school complex by, Sept. 29. This will ensure the applications will be processed in time to meet the Oct. 1 deadline securing compensatory revenue funds for the 2000-2001 school year for the school district.

For compensatory aid the state uses the number of students enrolled as of Oct. 1. However, residents can apply for free and reduced meals anytime during the school year.

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