Schools Trustee Says District Dropping Ball On Academic Planning
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Aired 3/28/12 on KPBS News.
One San Diego Unified board of education member is accusing district staff of keeping the board in the dark about plans to use nearly $10 million in federal funds.
SAN DIEGO San Diego Unified Trustee Shelia Jackson accused district staff of dragging their feet in drawing up a plan for how to use $9.7 million in federal funds the district will receive next year to enhance student performance under the No Child Left Behind Law.
Program Improvement Year Three Requirements
This fall the district will enter the third year of "Program Improvement," the status given to districts and schools where students fail to meet achievement goals set by the law. Board members have not yet seen a draft of the district's proposal for using the nearly $10 million that comes along with the heightened requirements entering that third year, Jackson said.
Jackson proposed the money go toward expanding the use of computer programs she said are raising student achievement in some of the city's under-served communities; to supporting professional development in the use of those programs; and to fund this year's summer-school classes. She said she is concerned others will try to use the one-time funding to rescind some of the more than 1,600 pink slips issued to teachers earlier this month.
The original deadline for submitting a spending plan to the California Department of Education was March 10. But the district received an extension and it is now due on Friday.
Jackson told reporters at Lincoln High School Wednesday the missed deadline and the fact that trustees have not yet seen the plan show that academic planning is falling by the wayside because of the district's focus on its ongoing budget crisis.
School district spokesman Bernie Rhinerson said board members received a memo in early February about the proposal process. Jackson said she and other trustees failed to note the deadline.
District Superintendent Bill Kowba dismissed the idea that academics were not the district's top priority, pointing to recent state recognition for it's efforts to increase graduation rates and prevent students from dropping out, and recent decisions to include all courses needed for admission to state universities in the district's high school graduation requirements.
He also said the deadlines for the spending plan are not set by law so a flexible timeline is not unusual.
District staff are required to gather public input on the academic proposal, which Jackson said had not been done. Board members must also approve the plan before submission, a process that could not be completed by Friday.
Kowba said district staff plan to submit a draft of their proposal to the California Department of Education on time this Friday. He said the district will get state feedback on that draft, which will be incorporated into the final spending plan he expects board members to vote on in April.
Kowba said focus groups of parents, school site staff and others were drawn from district advisory committees, the Parent Teacher Association and other community groups. He said those focus groups fulfill the government's requirement for public input even though a district-wide parent notification of the process was not sent out.
The process is similar to the district's procedures for allocating other program-specific federal money, he said. Decisions on how to allocate the Program Improvement money will only be final after getting the board's approval.