The Ketchikan School Board Wednesday night once again rejected a motion to hire three paraprofessionals for the preschool program. The board also accepted two grants totaling approximately $114,000, and approved policy revision regarding the release of student directory information.
The board’s decision to not hire three paraprofessionals for the preschool program was unanimous. Speaking on KRBD’s Morning Edition, Superintendent of Schools Robert Boyle says it has been challenging trying to find a way to meet the needs of the preschool population. He says results show the importance of early education.
“Over the last several years we’ve operated preschools through stimulus funds grants and education job funds from the federal government, and the results we are seeing in our student assessment scores of children who have been part of our preschool program verify its importance and its impact on student achievement. And we are really pleased with the results we’re seeing. Therefore it’s become a priority for the board that we find that we can raise student achievement scores in our elementary schools by having a quality preschool.”
Boyle says the challenge is to determine how to implement the program given funding constraints.
“The district has been seeking and we’ve recently received notification from the Department of Education of some grant funds, that would be targeted at preschool. So the district’s requirement to support it with regular operating funds was diminished. The number of students who are on wait lists, who wish to attend out preschools, has changed. That has diminished as well. So we are trying to seek that balance of using minimum amounts of operational funds that come from the state and the borough, and maximizing the program.”
Boyle says the district’s goal is to continue to pursue grant funding for the program, so it can provide services to all interested students. By not hiring additional paraprofessionals, preschool classes would be capped at 15 students. The board is also considering changing from a full day to half day program.
Also Wednesday night, the board unanimously approved the acceptance of two grants.
“The grants allow us to do several things for some students that we have that have difficulties. The first grant is attached to the correctional facility that’s here in town, and allows us to staff two-thirds of a teacher. And the other is a school improvement grant and it’s specifically for Revilla. And we have a program that we’re going to be working with our Revilla students to encourage a higher graduation rate.”
The grant for Revilla Alternative School is for training for the “Why Try” program designed to improve students’ social and emotional skills. The nearly $49,000 grant also funds activities scholarships and transportation, gym rentals, first aid and CPR certifications, and healthy meals. The Youth in Detention grant totals $66,000.
In his report to the board, Boyle provided his response to concerns from Ketchikan Indian Community that the District was not in compliance with Title VII of the Indian Education Act. KIC previously sent a letter to Boyle saying that the district was not in compliance and needed to address the issue. Boyle says that the district is in compliance, but things could have been done better.
“What I suggested in my report to the board is that we need to revise our approach to the Indian education program and be more inclusive, and to be more transparent with every aspect of that program.”
The board plans to address Title VII again at its next meeting, hoping all concerned can work together to develop a long-term solution.
The board also unanimously approved revised board policy regarding the release of student directory information. The revised policy was proposed by the Association of Alaska School Boards due to amendments to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The changes address the ability to limit disclosure of certain information, add scholarship eligibility as a category, and clarify that students can be required to wear or carry a student ID even if the parent has opted out of directory information disclosures.
The next meeting of the Ketchikan School Board is October 10th.