LCHS council debates use of grant

October 29, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

STANFORD - A 25-member committee will study how to best implement a $207,000 Smaller Learning Communities grant that was officially OK'd by the Lincoln County High School Council Tuesday night.

Final approval of the grant followed more than an hour of debate among council members and prior to that, an hour and a half of questioning from parents and teachers during a public hearing. Most said they were not against the grant but shared concerns of exactly how it will be put to use.

The purpose of the grant is to help freshmen make the transition from middle to high school. But many parents who spoke said they are against segregating one group of students from another. One option, according to Principal Ty Howard, is implementation of a so-called freshmen academy and team teaching.

"I want to know where the research is that shows that teaming works," a woman said.


Howard said student performance needs to be improved, citing poor test scores the last four years.

"The earlier grades are struggling," he said. "We have to do something."

Teacher Helen Francis said academics need to be more focused, pointing out that freshmen are not reading as well as they should.

"The problem is not in socialization," she said. "When did this academic break down start?"

Parents and teachers said the community was not privy to information about the grant when it was first being considered. Some said they would have been more involved had they realized what the council was contemplating.

"You can't restructure the school without some kind of input," said Keith Schillo.

"There's no problem with the (grant) money," said Raevonna Hall, who is both a parent and a teacher. "I want to know how we will spend this money."

School officials do not now exactly how the grant will be put to use.

"The answer to that is we don't know," said Lincoln County Assistant Superintendent Karen Hatter.

After the public hearing, the school council voted to rescind a motion made at an earlier meeting to do away with the grant. Then council member Donald Coffman made a motion that the grant be accepted but under strict guidelines such as helping students who are reading below the sixth-grade level and that "under no circumstances will ninth-grade students be segregated in one designated area of the building or teachers teamed."

That motion failed to reach consensus among other board members because they felt Coffman's motion was too stringent.

"I don't want to tie our hands tonight," said teacher Charles Fegan.

Council member Bob Camenisch said the grant should be accepted but that committees should decide how to apply it. Sonja Bratcher agreed.

"I would rather see it go to standing committees before we vote on it," she said.

After more debate and several more failed motions, the council agreed to officially accept the grant. Eight council members approved it, Camenisch and Bratcher voted against it, and Warren Anderson and Annabel Kellam abstained.

The council then agreed to form an ad-hoc committee to study how to put the grant to use. The committee will be made up of two parents from each grade level from eighth to 11th grades, one student from each of those grade levels, a principal, a teacher and a member of the school council.

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