Funds diverted for remediation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Despite warnings that the school division would likely be scrutinized, the Suffolk School Board on Monday voted 6-1 to funnel all of its $2.6 million Title I funds into elementary school remediation.

After reviewing two funding options, the board supported School Superintendent Dr. Milton Liverman’s recommendation that the board focus the federal money at the elementary level..

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School Board Vice Chairman James Perkinson voted against the measure.

&uot;It is my belief that this is the best long-term option for our students,&uot; Liverman said. &uot;…Concentrating our resources on the elementary level will let us better prepare our elementary school students for the middle school experience.&uot;

School Board member Billy Hill agreed.

&uot;We know early intervention is the answer,&uot; he said. &uot;Then we may not need to remediate in (grades) six through eight.&uot;

The two middle schools that missed the mark to achieve AYP (Average Yearly Progress) – King’s Fork and John F. Kennedy middle schools – would no longer be Title I schools. Consequently, school choice option will no longer be available to students at those schools.

Meanwhile, Suffolk Public Schools is appealing last week’s preliminary test results indicating that Elephant’s Fork missed its AYP benchmark.

If that appeals fails, the division is setting aside Title I funds to address the issue, including $262,845 for professional development and $405,691 for school choice expenses. The plan calls for eliminating four middle school Title I teacher positions to partially fund the expenses.

Should the state agree with the school division’s assessment that Elephant’s Fork did not miss the AYP benchmark, the funds will go back into the city’s $2.5 million Title I grant fund, said Bethanne Bradshaw, the school system’s spokeswoman.

Narrowing the grade span of services to the elementary level will allow the school system to use more of its Title I funding for instructional use, Liverman said. &uot;We are not abandoning our middle school students,&uot; Liverman stressed. &uot;We are replacing Title I funds with local dollars.&uot;

Under Liverman’s alternate proposal, not adopted, the division would have spent about $400,000 on mobile classrooms and providing transportation to middle school students.

The new plan allows the school system to hire remedial teachers for the middle school with local funding sources, said Liverman.

But he cautioned that the move will invite scrutiny from the public – including federal and state officials – because of the perception that the action simply avoids

making school choice available to the two middle schools, Liverman said.

&uot;We’re not trying to hide anything so what difference does it make if anyone comes in (to audit the decision)?&uot; School Board member Billy Whitley said.