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BP school declines to ‘race to the top’

By JUDY SCHLESSELMAN

Belle Plaine Community Schools will not participate in the federal Race to the Top grant program for school improvement.

At a special meeting May 13, the board decided against signing on with the state department of education as it applies for a second-round of grants.

Race to the Top is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education and is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It is designed to bolster student performance by reforming underachieving schools.

Belle Plaine could have received $69,816 over four years, but there was no guarantee.

Belle Plaine is among many districts concerned with Race to the Top requirements. Districts with schools on the lowest-achieving list are required to implement one of four intervention strategies. One of those options is to replace the principal, screen existing staff and rehire no more than half the teachers.

Director Marie Stratford said she had little time to research the program but feels the administrative costs could outweigh any funding the district would receive. She also has concerns about program stipulations.

“There are requirements, and I don’t know totally what they are,” she stated.

The board voted 3-2 against the grant. In favor were board president Joyce Livermore and vice president Don McKinney. Marie Stratford, Mike Bachelder and Jim Pierce voted “no.”

The board unanimously approved Superintendent Bill Lynch’s recommendation to apply for a $67,066 grant for the four-year-old preschool program. This is the district’s third attempt for the grant that would offset tuition expense for parents. Lynch suggested Belle Plaine may have lost out previously because a number of districts with established, grant-funded preschools were awarded additional grants.

In other business, the board hired Kristen Bevins as junior high softball coach.  Bevins is a 2009 Belle Plaine graduate and attends Kirkwood Community College. She was on the SICL All-Conference team three years in high school and was voted Most Valuable Player her senior year. She has earned her coaching license.

The next regular board meeting is set for Tuesday, May 18 at 7 p.m. in the boardroom at Longfellow School. The meeting was originally scheduled for Wednesday, May 19 but was moved due to Red Carpet Senior Night.

UPDATED May 13, 2010 3:57 PM

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