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Program’s effect not yet known by district

April 18, 2008
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald
GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Enlarged School District may soon get its middle school taken off the state Schools in Need of Improvement list, but not before the whole district was put into a special needs category.

Superintendent Robert DeLilli said Thursday being placed under the state Education Department’s Contract for Excellence program for the 2008-09 school year could lead to more remedial programs in the district. He said that could result in program and staffing cuts in other areas, but it was too soon to determine exactly what would happen.

“We have to look at the percentage of money that will go to new programs and what those new programs will be before anyone can make a definitive statement,” he said.

The Contract for Excellence program was started last year to provide guidelines on how a certain percentage of state aid should be spent by the school districts that met two criteria. According to information from the state, school districts that received a 10 percent or $15 million increase in state foundation aid and had at least one under-performing school were required to develop specific plans to demonstrate how their increased funding would be used to improve student performance.

According to numbers from the state, Gloversville received approximately $2.7 million in additional foundation aid from the state this year, a 12 percent increase. About $1.8 million will be subject to the state guidelines governing foundation aid.

DeLilli said the middle school was listed as a school in need of improvement by the state two years ago because the English Language Arts standardized test scores of its special education students were considered unacceptable by the state.

That is a source of frustration for DeLilli.

By June, the school district may find out the students have improved their test cores enough to be taken off the list, but the state will still require the school district to be under the Contract for Excellence program for next year.

“It is kind of like putting the cart before the horse,” DeLilli said.

SED spokesman Tom Dunn said the program serves as a way for the state to hold school districts accountable for the aid they are spending. The state has been handing out large increases in funding to school districts the last two years and wants to make sure the money will be spent on programs that can reduce the problems in the district, he said.

A list of things that could be done under the guidelines include helping students with limited English proficiency, reducing class size, increasing time on tasks, offering full-day kindergarten or pre-kindergarten, and improving teacher and principal quality, according to the SED Web site.

School Board President Katherine Hillock said “it’s a shame” when she was told the school district had been placed under the program.

Programs such as Reading First, which is already experiencing a dropoff in Federal aid, could be hurt by the guidelines, she said.

Reading First, which provides instruction to students in kindergarten through third grade, is experiencing a 61 percent cut in federal funds. The school district has been considering a number of possible ways to continue the program with a smaller amount of funding, including using other money in the school district.

“Maybe the state means well, but not all issues are black and white from school to school,” Hillock said. “There are unique issues in each school district.”

For programs such as Reading First, DeLilli said, the school district will try to be creative and continue it in some form. It may even be possible that it falls under one of the Contract for Excellence guidelines, he said.

School officials have been considering a $52 million dollar budget for the 2008-09 school year, an increase from last years $46.8 million budget.

The Board of Education will meet Monday, and DeLilli has said a couple of budget scenarios will be presented for the board to consider.

Gloversville got a significant increase in aid from the state budget, but not as much as some school officials were expecting.

The school district will receive approximately $36.6 million in state aid, compared to about $31 million last year. However, that amount is about $118,000 less than was included in the proposed executive budget.

A spokesman for state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, said the representative has requested additional funds from the Senate Finance Committee to bring up any school district he represents to the figure in the executive budget.

Last year, more than 50 school districts, representing more than 40 percent of New York’s public school students, fell under the criteria. A total of 36 school districts stayed on the Contract for Excellence list for the 2008-09 year, and Gloversville was one of only three new districts added to the list.



Rodney Minor covers Gloversville. He can be reached at gloversville@leaderherald.com.
 
 
 

 

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