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Board asks for more combined sessions

February 12, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education proposed to the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday that the two groups hold more frequent combined sessions over the next few months while budgets are being discussed.

School Board President Bernadette M. Wagner reminded the commissioners at a joint meeting of the two bodies that the federal No Child Left Behind education act is not federally funded.

School officials have said the lack of federal funding requires the school system to seek local money to take steps to be in compliance with the act.

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"This carries a significant budget impact," Wagner said.

The School Board wants to hold more informational sessions about the act with the commissioners to keep them aware of the act's demands on the school system and its funds, she said after the meeting.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners plan to meet every Tuesday and Thursday through March.

"We could maybe put another hour onto Thursday," Snook said.

School Board Member Jacqueline Fischer asked if the commissioners would extend their meetings with the School Board to two hours.

The two groups said they would try to arrange meeting times.

Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said No Child Left Behind asks school systems to "close the gap" between low performing students and high performing students, but does not allow the school systems to make excuses for not being able to accomplish the tasks it asks of them.

"It's very much in line with my thinking and that of other educators," she said.

Schools Deputy Superintendent Patricia Abernethy told the commissioners that 2000 Census information shows that Washington County has a low percentage of residents with bachelor's degrees and a high percentage of residents without high school diplomas, compared to other counties.

"We need to give students an appropriate background so they can choose careers," she said.

Abernethy said student programs in special education, gifted and talented programs and career and technology courses, among others, need to be improved to help meet the goals of the federal act.

Under the federal act, the school system also must measure the yearly progress of its students, she said.

Snook said he'd like to know the amount of time it takes to increase students' performance rates to meet national standards and how much effort it takes to track that progress.

"This is a huge effort and sounds like a lot, a lot of individuals doing it," he said.

Schools Executive Director of Elementary Education JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown said the school system is checking students' performance on county issued quarterly benchmark exams, which test functional skills, among other tests. She said they're doing so to gauge student performance and to determine what school system departments need to be enhanced to close the gap.

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