Title I funds 'dwindling to peanuts'

The Park Rapids School Board this week heard a report on decreased funding for a program that helps students improve reading, math and language arts skills.

The Park Rapids School Board this week heard a report on decreased funding for a program that helps students improve reading, math and language arts skills.

Century Elementary Principal Mitch Peterson said $100,000 has been cut for the district's Title I program. Four paraprofessional positions were eliminated earlier to try to remedy the situation, but the school will need to drop one more.

Looking at what's best for students, Peterson said administration has decided to eliminate Title I services at the middle school and concentrate the two teachers and three paraprofessionals left at the elementary level.

"The federal grants are dwindling to peanuts," Peterson said.

"Our students are doing very well," he said, adding he believes the federal No Child Left Behind Act will put all schools in the position of not being able to meet so-called annual yearly progress requirements and yet federal funds are being cut.


"Why fix it if it isn't broken is the question," Peterson said.

"What happens when kids move on to fifth grade and there is no help?" asked board chair Sherry Safratowich.

"It is a hard, cold reality," Peterson replied. "Over the years, the premise was catch them early and get them on the right track."

"Is this a local problem or statewide?" asked board member Frank Schaap.

Peterson said it is a program of less federal dollars across the state, but not in all states.

"So there's no Minnesota money involved?" asked Schaap.

Peterson confirmed that is the case.

"We hear a lot about more special education funds," Schaap continued.


"This is a separate pot of money," Peterson said.

Bruce Gravalin, Century Middle School principal, said he supports the decision to target Title I money on elementary students. "You need to put the dollars with the younger kids," he said.

"But I don't support the environment in Washington at all."

As a footnote, Peterson said a new testing program is providing data that will allow staff to identify students' reading and math needs earlier than in the past.

The board approved the recommendation to drop another paraprofessional position, but, according to Peterson, Tuesday morning it was determined funds would be available to avoid the fifth cut.

In other action Monday night, the school board:

n Heard a report from business manager Olive Springborn that community education is offering adult education, parenting and other classes to inmates at the Law Enforcement Center and the programs will be included in the corrections budget for next year.

n Heard also from Sprinborn that she attended a meeting and learned the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has money to help get rid of mercury in schools. A survey will be done and although the deadline was within days after she learned about the program, Springborn said she believes schools will still have access to the funds.


"Schools have to stop using mercury-containing items by June 30, 2008 and cannot purchase them starting in 2009," she said.

n Learned the student-built home will be sold at auction at 10 a.m. June 30.

Potential buyers who want to walk through the house should contact the high school office.

n Discussed policy regarding the release of student information. Karol Savage said she would like to see restrictions tightened; Schaap said he isn't sure that's necessary.

Superintendent Glenn Chiodo recalled that when the issue came up last winter, the only question related to wording in the middle school handbook was that it said administration "may" give out information.

Gravalin said he will be addressing the sentence, but believes the school needs to retain the right to publish directory information for fine arts and athletic programs.

Savage also asked if the district needs to address policy regarding post-secondary enrollment option (PSEO) students' grades.

Area High School Principal Al Judson said there will be a checklist so when the counselor meets with a student, the information that is covered is documented.


The district's PSEO policy also will be included in the student handbook next year in addition to class registration information.

Also related to policy, Judson said the legislature allows schools to do more to prevent "cyber bullying."

In the past, Judson explained, the district only had authority if such acts were committed on school property or if school technology was used. Now such use of technology is prohibited regardless of whether such acts are on or off school property and whether school resources are used or not.

Two years ago, Judson said, some "nasty things about another student" were posted on the MySpace Web site.

Now, the school could do something about it. "This is a good change," Judson said, adding he will be recommending an amendment to the district's current bullying policy.

Gravalin said he will include the changes in the middle school handbook as it is a problem among 5th through 8th graders as well.

n Learned hiring staff for the 2007-08 school year is done. Eighteen positions have been filled.

n Approved hiring Aaron Morris, middle school special education teacher; Richard Morehouse, middle school physical education teacher; David Niemela, high school custodian, effective June 19; Suzann Johnson, part-time high school health paraprofessional; and Jason Mielke, head boys track coach.


n Approved the resignation of Jeff Johnson as assistant golf coach.

n Decided to meet July 18, but not July 2.

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