LUSD supt. visits state schools chief

By Nancy Gutierrez

On Thursday, Sept. 16, Lindsay Unified School District Superintendent Janet Kliegl met with State Superintendent of Instruction Jack O'Connell to discuss concerns she has with federal and state mandates on testing, LUSD's migrant program and funding for facilities.

"I though it was important to see him directly instead of just talking about these issues," Kliegl said.

LUSD is seeking approval from the state to have the migrant program receive direct funding. Currently the district is affiliated with region 8 in the migrant education program. This region consists of schools from Kings and Tulare counties. The state sends money that it receives from the federal government, to the regions in the state. The regions in-turn distribute funds to districts after taking a percentage. The result is a small amount of funds provided to schools.

"We can provide over 60 percent more services if we are directly funded by the state," Kliegl said. "We can hire a full time nurse to see the migrant students and their families."

Another bonus, Kliegl said, is that the district will be able to send more students to leadership conferences. These conferences, put on by College of the Sequoias and Porterville College, occur during the summer and teach students how to get into college. LUSD can also run a transition program for eighth and ninth grade students who are starting high school and need to take specific classes to enter college.

The decision to become directly funded was made by the migrant program parents. Kliegl said 80 parents were present at a meeting held a few weeks ago where the decision was made. Representatives from Region 8 and LUSD attended the meeting and presented their sides of the argument. At teh conclusion of teh meeting 95 percent of parents voted to become directly funded.

Kliegl said directly funded districts are not uncommon and that in Kern County, five districts are directly funded and have become their own region. If Lindsay completes the two year application process and becomes their own region they will have to take on more responsibilities regarding paperwork and financial accounting. But the migrant parents are ready to take the challenge.

Kliegl also spoke to O'Connell about the state assessment, the Academic Performance Index (API), and the Federal assessment, the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). O'Connell has expressed to the federal government his objections to the AYP and praises of California's API as a better measurement of achievement.

"The AYP looks to see if a certain number of students meet a bar. If not then the school has failed," Kliegl said. "But it doesn't measure if they are making growth."

The API tracks how a school increases or decreases in test scores each year. Kliegl said she agrees with O'Connell, but adds that the federal government is not interested in changing the federal assessment.

"They believe there needs to be a bar that the kids should reach each year," she said. "The federal government is not interested in flexibility."

Finally, Kliegl discussed a proposition concerning joint use facilities. She said SB 16 would mandate that partners, who want to build a facility with the school district, provide half of the cost of the building. Kliegl said previously partners could provide whatever amount they could afford.

"I can't think of one construction project that is under $3 million," Kliegl said. "So in order to get funded the partner would have to come up with $1.5 million."

Kliegl said the majority of businesses or entities that would be interested in partnering with the school district for a joint-use facility could not sustain such a high cost. Kliegl said many rural schools like Lindsay run into this same problem.

"The money is not being used at the state level," she said. "Most schools can't find partners."

Kliegl said O'Connell was interested in the concept.

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