School board starts to tackle 2010

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

School board members have been preparing for next week's board meeting at committee meetings last week and Monday.

Next Monday, the full board will hear from the policy committee about their efforts to merge the recently rediscovered goals from 2000 that deal with the hiring of minority staff and the use of minority-owned suppliers with the present board's stated goals and mission statement.

"It's a work in progress," said chairman Mike Keny.

After the policy committee's meeting last Thursday, the board held a work session to learn about "Race to the Top," from interim director Roy Dukes.

Dukes went to a special Department of Education meeting in Nashville on Nov. 30 to discuss the state's Race to the Top application.

"Race to the Top is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to accelerate the progress that you...have been making in our schools. We plan to submit a strong application in the first round that will address the competition's four primary areas: standards/assessments, data systems, great teachers and leaders, and school turnaround," wrote Commissioner of Education Timothy Webb.

President Obama challenged the nation on Nov. 4, saying, "It's time to stop just talking about education reform and start actually doing it. It's time to make education America's national mission."

Each school district has to sign a Memorandum of Understanding stating what parts of the reform proposal the district will support and implement. The MOU must be submitted by Dec. 18.

"Race to the Top is not a formulaic grant," wrote Webb. "It is competitive, which means that not every state or district will receive funds. We will be asking you, your boards, and your unions to sign an MOU. Those districts that sign these agreements will be eligible for Race to the Top funds; those that do not sign it will not be eligible."

According to Keny, Marshall County will be a part of the state's RTTT application, though Marshall County Education Association, representing the teachers, is reported to have reservations about tying teachers' tenure status to students' success rate.

Another topic of discussion at the work session was the search for a new director. Keny said the board is ready to begin the search, and will be discussing what qualifications to demand of the applicants and how to go about searching for the right person.

Additional funds from any source would be welcome in Marshall County, according to the budget committee's discussion Monday night.

"We may have to just maintain the status quo," said Dukes. "It's going to be a real struggle."

"We're not in good shape," agreed budget director Janet Wiles, adding that revenues and expenditures are both down. "We're trying to get people to spend as little as possible this year so it can carry over to next year."

"Talking about the worst case," said committee chairwoman Kristen Gold, "we might only provide what is paid for by the BEP (Basic Education Program)."

The budget committee agreed to meet again in January to look at BEP funding and what it pays for.

"It will be ugly," Wiles said.

"We have our work cut out for us, more so than ever," said committee member Craig Michael.

"Maybe we'll get something from the state in January," Dukes said optimistically.