News Feature

Deer Isle
Web exclusive, July 29, 2010
Frustration mounts as state delays school improvement grant process

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by Colin Powell

Three delays over the past two weeks have the administration at Deer Isle-Stonington High School wringing their hands and wondering when, or even if, they will be awarded a three-year school improvement grant from the Maine Department of Education. According to Superintendent Bob Webster of Union 76, the second delay last week also came with news that the department would be receiving $1.75 million less from the federal government. So instead of $9 million to divide between 10 schools, the department now has $7.25 million.

Webster said the implication of the latest delay is the launching of a third round of application reviews by the state, making it less and less likely the school board will know before August 1 whether they have complete, partial or no funding from the grant. The school board was hoping to know before August, because their plan involves hiring a number of new staff members. “Those people are waiting to hear from us and will have to give 30-days notice and work the month of September at their existing schools where they are under contract,” explained Webster. “It’s pretty tough to start a program without people.”

Asked about a timeline for the awarding of grants, Webster said there simply is no timeline right now. He added that he and at least three other superintendents have begun responding to department of education emails using the “reply-all” option, so other schools can see that they are not suffering alone.

“Some of these schools fired their principals,” said Webster. While the state has not commented on what the reduction in overall funding will mean, Webster said talk among superintendents suggests it will mean either a reduction on funding for all schools, or dropping some Title II schools. “Which, if they fired their principal, that’s not going to work. There will be a lot of pain and suffering if those schools don’t get money,” said Webster.

Part of the latest delay also included news that CSD 13, of which Deer Isle-Stonington High School is a part, must file a different application for their No Child Left Behind federal subsidy program than they have in the past. Instead of a targeted need application, they must file a school-wide program application. The workshop to help train administrators new to the school-wide program application process is August 16. Webster said that had the information about the alternate application been available at the time they were working on the grant, it would have been no problem. But coming this late, the new application type will mean more delays for their school improvement grant. “We are not happy,” said Webster.

The school became eligible for the grant earlier this year when the were placed on a list of the ten lowest-performing schools in the state by the Department of Education.