School Board approves new Title I teacher hire

With current projections expected to be down for Title I funding that comes initially from the federal government and then is dispersed through the state, the Milaca School Board approved the hire of an additional Title I teacher using general funds to cover the cost.

At the regular board meeting Aug. 13, Elementary Principal Steve Voshell provided the board with several options to try to keep the program running at its current level:

–Hire a Title I teacher at a cost of more than $18,000 out of the general fund.

–Hire an additional Title I paraprofessional, which would cost the district no money out of the general fund and would leave a little more than $4,000 to carry over to next year.

–Extend the hours of a current Title I teacher from part time to full time with a carry over.

–Not hire or change any hours and have a more than $30,000 carry over, but also increase the student-teacher ratio in the program.

Voshell said that the program has been successful in the past and is worth continuing at current levels.

“Overall the title program generally speaking grew more on the math test than students not in title,” Voshell said. “Now they had further to grow, so you want them to, but in most grades and most subjects, the students in title grew more on that math test than students not.”

He said that he brought up the decision for discussion and a vote because he knows this issue will come up again in the future, and it would be easier to do something now.

“What I want to avoid is a spring where the budget is tight and we have to cut from six to four or three teachers,” Voshell said. “The program is helpful and benefits a lot of students, so we want to provide as much of it as we can.”

Voshell added, “I just think we need to be aware that as we move forward that we don’t know what the allocation will be, but we know we’re going to spend every bit of it.”

School Board members were receptive to the plans, and agreed something needed to be done. However, Board Vice-chairman Jeff Larson said that more information needs to be available when making decisions like this.

“We are making decisions on hunches, and I think we need to stop making decisions on hunches,” Larson said. “It makes me think that we have got to find a way to really understand and measure the effectiveness of the programs we have.”

Larson added, “It’s really, really hard to do, and I think this is going to become a bigger issue the farther we go down the road.”

However, he and other board members believed that spending money on the program is worth it, they said.

“I think that we should stick money into Title I from the general fund,” Board Member Judy Pearson said. “I think this is extremely important.”

Board Member Todd Quaintance expanded on Pearson’s opinion.

“If we decide that the program is essential within the current model, and we understand that it will cost us an extra $50,000 next year, and $100,000 the (next) year, and it could cost a lot of money, but you could say the same thing for kindergarten or first grade – they all cost us a lot of money if you want to have them,” Quaintance said. “Obviously we aren’t going to get rid of those, but if we believe that a program is something we need, we just become comfortable with the fact that whatever that is comes out of our general fund.”

Quaintance later made a motion to approve the hiring of an additional Title I teacher, the first option, which includes using money out of the general fund. Larson seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.