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Story Archives: Board nixes 'Race to the Top'
|Board nixes 'Race to the Top'|
A federal initiative to improve K-12 schools failed to meet the approval of the Franklin Parish School Board. Despite the lure of some $4.35 billion in stimulus funds, school districts across the state have declined to participate in the Obama Administration's "Race to the Top" (R2T) program.
"Of course we need the money, but we don't know how much money that will be and it can only be used for performance and incentive pay," said Supt. Lanny Johnson. He added the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) would receive half of the amount awarded to participating local districts.
To be eligible for the federal grant, participating schools must develop, among other things, comprehensive performance management and personnel evaluation systems in conjunction with the LDOE. According to the stipulations in the plan, teachers receive merit pay based on 50 percent of student achievement and 50 percent on principal and peer evaluations.
"Awarding merit raises based on student performance is not a problem, but when half of that pay depends on principal and peer evaluations, that could cause some problems," Johnson said.
The LDOE is asking local school districts to partner with the state to reform the education system, though the grant funding is only available for four years. School officials are concerned with the sustainability of the program after the grant has expired.
"Once we put all of these reforms in place, how will we continue to fund the program after the four years are up? People are fearful of that, and there are no definitive answers," Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the most "alarming" aspect of the plan is the redistribution of teachers to low-performing schools. That means teachers in well-performing schools could be reassigned to a lower performing school within the same district.
"As a superintendent, you look for ways to improve academics," Johnson said. "Last year, we had the highest growth in the state; all of our schools made their growth target, and I just don't want to mess up what we're doing. I just don't think this is for us at this time."
The financial audit prepared by the firm of Postlethwaite and Netterville for the year ending June 30, 2009 was presented to the board Monday evening during their regular business meeting.
Freddie Smith and Tommy Naiquin reported no internal weaknesses and rendered an unqualified opinion on the financial records of the school board. An unqualified opinion is the highest rating available for a financial audit.
Members of the board passed a motion to accept the final audit.
Dr. Ruth Bonner Thompson, curriculum specialist at Franklin Parish High School and Terri Shirley, principal of Crowville School, were each recognized as Region VIII Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators award winners. Thoy Leonard introduced the honorees and presented each of them with a plaque. Thompson received the award for Region VIII Leader of the Year. Shirley received the Region VIII Educator of the Year award.
In other news, members of the board unanimously passed a motion to re-elect 2009 officers. Officers for 2010 are, Eddie Ray Bryan, president; Dorothy Brown, vice president; and Richard Kelley, chaplain.
Board members also passed a motion to set graduation exercises for seniors at Franklin Parish High School for Friday, May 21.