October 25, 2014

Stimulating education

Schools learn preliminary amount of Title funds to be received from stimulus package, waiting for more news

By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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Arenac Eastern eyeing math coach after hearing Title I amount

TWINING — The Arenac Eastern School District has been preliminarily awarded $120,101 for Title I programs from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

“When you get Title I money, it doesn’t go into General Fund,” said AE Superintendent Rocky Aldrich. “Basically, Title I money is generally figured on free and reduced lunches, the number of people getting free and reduced lunch.”

Aldrich says Title I money can be used for several items – parapros in an instructional setting, staff development, tutors, technological needs and subject coaches.

However, he says how the district will spend its stimulus money that has already been announced is still up in the air.

“We may add additional parapros. … We have the reading coach, we’re looking at possibly putting on a math coach,” Aldrich said. “We’re offering up summer school, we’re offering up tutoring. We’re looking at getting substitutes so teachers can take a day to get some training.

“Do we have some ideas? Yes. But I want to see the amount first so we can make some realistic goals.”

And while the amount of stimulus funds, which may still change since Aldrich says the money isn’t in hand yet, hasn’t been officially allocated for any specific resource, Aldrich says there has been some instruction from State Superintendent Mike Flanagan.

“Spend you money wisely on things that will last,” Aldrich said, adding the money is provided for two years. “Instead of buying the kids pizza, buy the stove.

“That’s the challenge.”

AuGres-Sims re-imagining district with Title I stimulus

AuGRES — The Title I amount that has been announced for the AuGres-Sims School District (AGS) is currently $110,000 and AGS Superintendent Gary Marchel says instructions from State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has the district looking outside the box.

“What they want us to do is recreate our schools so that in two years when that money disappears, there’s still things going on … to re-imagine,” Marchel said.

He says the re-imagining may begin in the classroom.

“I’m looking at some way to infuse my classrooms with teaching with more technology,” Marchel said. “What we have to do is address things from the child’s standpoint. … The kids are into this technology. They are doing podcasts, teleconferencing, text messaging.

“We’re still teaching basically the same way we did 30, 40 years ago,” he added, saying just telling students to do pen to paper assignments like writing a three-page paper in an English course doesn’t necessarily cut it anymore. “If you look at marketing, you don’t do a three-page paper in marketing.”

Marchel says the stimulus funds may be allocated to give teachers training on reaching students with more tech-savvy lesson plans that would help recreate the district, but since the amount of funds awarded to the district for Title I funding has changed so much, no plans for the funds have been hammered down.

“We’re just kind of going with the flow,” he said.

Standish-Sterling moving personnel, dodging layoffs with stimulus

STANDISH — As the largest school district in Arenac County, the Standish-Sterling Community Schools District (S-S) is being allocated the most Title I monies from the economic stimulus package passed in February, preliminarily allotted $312,845 over two years.

“We’re going to try to hire two more Title (I) people and get them into the classrooms with our kids. … Our Title (I) people, they help with reading, they help with literacy,” said S-S Superintendent Michael Dodge. “We don’t have a title person at the high school and we’re looking at getting one to float to all four schools.

“Each building will have one and then there will be a floater that will help coordinate the program.”

The Title I additions to the high school and district as whole, however, doesn’t mean new jobs in the district.

“We’re looking at a loss of about 33 students (next year),” Dodge said. “We’re looking at the potential of a reduction of three teachers.

“We’ve never been in this position before. That kind of bothers me.”

Instead of having to lay off employees, Dodge says he is posting the Title I positions within the district, hoping two teachers will fill them internally.

And Dodge added that the third teacher on the chopping block may be able to be saved when the Title I positions are filled.

“I’ve tried to nickel and dime budgets, so I’m going to try to do that to save that positions,” he said, adding small cuts in other areas may be enough to prevent a teacher layoff.

Dodge also acknowledged that the $312,845 coming from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act would be more than enough to pay two Title I employees over two years, however, he says he is taking a wait and see approach before alotting the leftover Title I stimulus money for a program or for more employees.

“You don’t want to get fat on this money and start some $50,000 program with this money and then not be able to fund it three or four years down the road,” Dodge said.

But, he added, with leftover Title I stimulus funds, there may be some more additions to the district.

“We might say ‘Hey, we can use more parapros,’” Dodge said. “We want to get the most bang for our buck.”

He also added that positive results have been seen with the current Title I program, but if a new one is started, those results won’t be proven while stimulus dollars are still in the hands of the district.

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