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School district to lay out $5.6 million in stimulus spending

Posted: Monday, July 13, 2009

School board members tonight are slated to get a look at how the district plans to spend $5.6 million in stimulus funds.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Steve Atwater, along with Sean Dusek, assistant superintendent for instruction, and Norma Holmgaard, federal programs coordinator, have scheduled a work session for 5 p.m. to review the district's application for State Fiscal Stabilization Funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The $5,652,786 the district expects to receive as the fiscal stabilization portion of the federal stimulus funds is not the only stimulus funding heading this way, according to Atwater.

"What I like to say about this is we'll be looking at it as providing the roots, not the branches (of the tree)," he said.

Expressing similar concerns that Gov. Sarah Palin had about accepting stimulus funds and starting programs without having money to fund them into the future, Atwater said these funds would be used for developing a more comprehensive electronic reporting system throughout the district and creating more training opportunities for teachers.

"We would be training our people to be the trainers," he said, rather than bringing instructors up from the Lower 48 to train district teachers. When asked if administrators or teachers would be trained as trainers, he said, "more teachers than administrators."

Additionally, the district will look to make all schools wireless and to have more laptop computers available to students so they will not have to pack up and move to a computer lab to do work.

In terms of vocational education, Atwater said the district will look to replace aging infrastructure with more modern equipment where possible.

He also would hire someone on a contract basis to oversee and assure that the stimulus funds are spent on approved expenditures.

Also on the school board agenda for Monday is a discussion of board goals for 2009-2010.

One goal -- develop a clear working definition of graduation and drop-out rates -- has been an area of confusion in the past, according to the superintendent.

"The drop out rate is different than the graduation rate," he said.

"Last year, our graduation rate was about 70 percent. That does not mean 30 percent dropped out," Atwater said.

A person is considered to have dropped out of school, only if they have not enrolled elsewhere, he explained. The district's drop-out rate last year was just under 4 percent.

Simply because a senior did not graduate in June, does not mean they will not be graduating the following Christmas, or some other time in the near future.

In Alaska, the state mandates that school districts graduate 55.6 percent of their students.

Atwater said that is from building to building and across the district.

The regular board of education meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. tonight.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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