School Board looks at coming year's priorities

Board accepts grants, will discuss '06 session with Juneau legislators

Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Juneau School Board accepted almost $1.5 million in grants on Tuesday at its final regular meeting of the year.

The board also approved its list of legislative priorities and discussed the 2006-07 school year calendar.

"The grants are wonderful supports - for special needs in particular," Superintendent Peggy Cowan said.

The district accepted a one-year $15,000 "Artist in the Schools" grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts for purchasing supplies and stipends for local artist residencies. An "Enhancing Education Through Technology" grant totaling $199,487 over fiscal years 2006 and 2007 to integrate technology into the curriculum and daily instruction for Juneau middle school students was accepted from the Alaska State Department of Education and Early Development.

Also, the district received a "Looking Both Ways" grant totaling $1.25 million over fiscal years 2006 to 2008 for a "collaborative model designed to provide direct educational services to Alaska Native high school and community based settings." The grant came from the U.S. Department of Education.

"These particular grants are important because they allow us to do some things outside of what we would be able to with the general funds," Cowan said. "In particular they allow us to start some programs and get some materials and bring in expertise to try out new ideas that otherwise we wouldn't be able to do."

The School Board has teamed up with the Alaska Association of School Boards to help create a unified legislative priority list for all of Alaska's school districts for the upcoming session. The Juneau board voted Tuesday to accept a list the Juneau School District has come up with that highlights some of the issues facing the city's schools.

The issues on the Juneau priority list includes legislative financial relief for mandated employer retirement rate increases, increased formula funding, energy cost relief and extending the compulsory attendance law to 17-years-old. Current state law requires students to attend school between the ages of 7 and 16.

Cowan said all of these items are important to providing a quality education in Juneau. She said the increase in the compulsory law is actually quite modest in comparison with other states. The majority require students to attend school until they are 18 years old, while a minority only make it law to attend until they are 16.

"I think it's really important that we hold students in school because future success is so closely correlated with education level and graduation from high school is really critical," she said. "Allowing 16-year-olds to walk away is allowing them to make a decision that they are not ready to meet."

The School Board will meet with Juneau's legislative delegation next month to discuss the strategy for accomplishing theses goals, Cowan said.

The first reading of the 2006-07 school calendar presented some recommendations for some changes in what days students and faculty may or may not be off of school next school year. It was recommended that Alaska Day be recognized again next school year as a holiday and that students be given the day off, which did not happen this year. There also was some discussion on shortening the winter break and what dates to have spring break fall on.

Cowan said they will soon send out the calendar for feedback.

"The particular feedback that we need is around when students conferences should be," she said. "The other piece is when to have winter and spring breaks and how long to have winter and spring breaks."

She said the vote will most likely take place at the Jan. 17 School Board meeting.

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