by Colin Powell
“We were holding up three other schools while we resolved [the Deer Isle-Stonington application], and came to the conclusion that we cannot approve their grant application,” Maine Department of Education Spokesperson David Connerty-Marin said in a recent phone interview.
In the meantime, Superintendent Bob Webster and High School Principal Todd West are still waiting for a letter from the department officially rejecting the school’s application.
The school improvement grant, made available to the high school when it scored amongst the 10 lowest schools on state assessments, would have provided the school with more than $2 million over three years.
“We’ve invested more hours of technical assistance with Deer Isle-Stonington High School than with all the other six applicants combined,” Connerty-Marin said. “We were trying to work with them to get them what they needed to be approved. In the end, it wasn’t possible,” he said.
Connerty-Marin said the only problem was the issue of non-highly qualified teachers. Federal requirements for Title 1 funds under the No Child Left Behind Act require that all teachers funded with Title 1 money be certified in every subject they teach. On Deer Isle, this means that while there is a teacher certified to teach French, she also teaches Spanish, for which she is not certified. This makes her a non-highly qualified teacher.
Connerty-Marin also said the state would work with the school if it became eligible for a school improvement grant next year.
But Webster said he doesn’t plan to take Connerty-Marin’s offer. “We’d have to qualify in the bottom 10 schools again next year,” Webster said. “And that’s not going to happen.” He said the school and school board have been working hard to improve instruction over the past few years, and those improvements will continue without the school improvement grant money.
Still, Webster expressed frustration that a small rural school would be denied grant money designed to improve the school until it improves its instructors’ certification. “It doesn’t make any sense,” Webster said.