Friday, January 8, 2010

A New Year - but with Old Problems

On January 5th, the school board met at Park School. We held elections, and Mona Dyke was elected as board president. I was elected to be vice president.

A presentation on Park School was given by its principal, Jane Myers, and we then trooped over to Crestwood for a presentation by principal Angie Lutz. Time was allotted for questions, etc. and both sessions were very informative.

From there, we headed over to the Middle School where principal Ben Ohlemacher held a presentation in the old library. We learned a lot!

Next we went to the high school, and Steve Gfell met with us, first in the Media Center and then finished his presentation in the science lab. Again, we were given a lot of good information on the plans in place for our students.

All of that was good stuff, and the three new board members were active participants.

While still at Park School, Paulette shared with us news about a federal grant called the "Race to the Top", or "RttT". States need to apply to be considered for this grant, and each school district within each state interested in participating needed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") by four o'clock on Friday the 8th.

There is a formula already outlined, which shows that if Ohio were to be awarded grant money under RttT, the Swanton School District could potentially receive $68,000 over a four year period. Wow!

Of course, there are parameters to be met, as with any grant - but the first step was to get our MOU signed and submitted by the deadline. The school board unanimously passed a motion to instruct Paulette sign this MOU on behalf of our district.

Every school district in the state had the opportunity to participate and therefore receive a portion of the “Race to the Top” grant for the 2010-2011 school year if it is awarded to Ohio. Districts that do not sign the MOU will not be eligible to receive any of the grant money, should Ohio be selected.

Each local teachers’ union must also sign the MOU before it is submitted, and unfortunately the Swanton Education Association (SEA) would not agree to sign without additional demands in a separate MOU between the SEA and the Swanton School Board. Paulette agreed to sign the SEA’s proposed MOU with a minor change in wording, but SEA President Judy Teague, refused on the advice of their Ohio Education Association’s representative. Mrs. Baz then asked to meet with SEA officers to discuss it and was informed there was nothing to talk about.

The Swanton School Board and administration had looked forward to establishing a committee consisting of equal numbers of teachers and administrators to work on the proposal if this grant was awarded, in a continuing effort to become an “Excellent” school district. Some teachers’ unions from neighboring school districts (such as Evergreen) did not require an additional MOU and willingly signed the ODE Memorandum of Understanding as written. Other local districts agreed to a compromise on the additional MOU language and signed together. Those districts will thus be able to receive funds from this Federal grant if it is awarded to Ohio, while Swanton will not.

It is especially disheartening when you realize that many of the components of the “Race to the Top” grant are already being done with full SEA participation at our High School and Middle School as part of the “High Schools that Work” program. It would have been extremely helpful to have had that extra $17,000 in each of four years of the “Race to the Top” grant timeframe.

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