Tahoe Truckee school board endorses attempt to qualify for education stimulus funds | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Truckee school board endorses attempt to qualify for education stimulus funds

Jason Shueh
Sierra Sun
Jason Shueh/Sierra SunBev Ducey, a Tahoe Truckee Unified School District trustee, unanimously approved the district's application for President Barack Obama's Race to the Top grant, which potentially would give the district up to $500,000. and#8220;Everything I see here is extremely valuable,and#8221; Ducey said of the grant which also focuses on student transitions to college, turning around low-performing schools and monitoring student progress.
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TRUCKEE/TAHOE, Calif. and#8212; The school district’s drive to capture a portion of President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top education grant is under way thanks to a unanimous endorsement this week from its governing board.

California stands to gather as much as $700 million from Race to the Top, a $4.3 billion grant within Obama’s $110 billion federal stimulus package for education.

Should the state’s wish be granted, Steve Dickinson, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District assistant superintendent of finance, estimates about $450,000 to $500,000 would come to Truckee/Tahoe and#8212; or, about $116 to $118 per student.

and#8220;This is kind of thing where you’re going to do it now or you’re not going to do it,and#8221; said Superintendent Steve Jennings, who urged trustees to back TTUSD’s drive during Wednesday’s board of trustees meeting.

According to the grant’s setup, if California is awarded the one-time funding, school districts will be required to link teacher pay to student performance and#8212; a clause that has gained controversy and led to some school districts and teachers unions to oppose it, according to various published reports.

Jon Halvorsen, a teacher at Truckee High School and vice president for the Tahoe Truckee Teacher Association, spoke against the grant, saying it could do more harm to schools than good.

and#8220;There are still so many unknowns to this issue; I’d like to know of one school district that can equate pay for performance to increased student performance,and#8221; he said. and#8220;As a teacher do you think I’m holding 10 to 15 percent back each day because I haven’t been offered opportunities for bonuses or higher pay? I’ve given 100 percent everyday,and#8221;

So far, 32 states have applied for the grant, Jennings said, and about 700 out of the more-than 1,000 California school districts have indicated support for the state’s bid.

Wednesday’s approval from trustees was crucial, Jennings said, as the district must fully commit by Friday, Jan. 8; however, he said the district can still back out later if it wishes.

and#8220;The day before the holiday break everything started coming in an avalanche,and#8221; Jennings said. and#8220;I think the state is pushing this really hard at this particular time because they have a better chance of receiving the funds if they have more districts.and#8221;

Jennings said the grant requires negotiation with TTTA, of which Jennings has yet to speak because of the grant’s quick application turnaround.

and#8220;My understanding of it is, we are required to make a good faith effort to negotiate with the local union to work something out,and#8221; Jennings said Thursday. However, according to the grant’s current wording, Jennings said, it does not specify if an agreement is required if a negotiation cannot be met.

Halvorsen on Wednesday said he promotes teacher accountability and supports the district’s teacher-evaluation system already in place.

and#8220;This has been rushed, and I feel the state’ has been asked to do something almost at economic gunpoint,and#8221; Halvorsen said.

Trustee Bev Ducey argued for the grant, and for performance-based pay.

and#8220;We’ve put everyone from the superintendent to the management group on performance pay,and#8221; she said, emphasizing performance incentives can help teachers and the administration take more ownership of their jobs.

Jennings said No Child Left Behind, the government’s national education plan, most likely will be renewed. If that’s the case, a pay-for-performance program will most likely be included in it, he said.

and#8220;We are eventually going to be forced into addressing the issues that are in Race to the Top.and#8221; he said, adding it would be better to make eventual changes with the possible funding than without it.