Monday, October 13, 1997

More staff, computers on board's agenda: School officials hope a new grant would help West Boulevard and Field elementaries

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Tonight's Board of Education meeting will be busy.

The board will vote on funding computers and additional staff for Field and West Boulevard elementary schools and a school-to-work initiative.

The new computers would be funded through a grant designed to support literacy education at schools with a higher percentage of low-income students, said Bert Shulte, assistant superintendent for instruction.

Columbia must submit a request for the Technology Literacy Challenge grant, which will be awarded in a statewide competition. Field and West Boulevard schools would be the beneficiaries if the district wins the money.

"It is another mechanism to enhance literacy development for these primary-age children," Schulte said.

The two-year grant would provide $100,000 in state money for the spring semester 1998 and $50,000 to $75,000 for the 1998-1999 academic year.

Coupled with 20 percent matching local funds, the state money would fund a full-time instructional aide for each building to provide teachers with time for individualized instruction and assessment.

The rest of the money would buy computers and printers for first-, second- and third-grade classrooms in the two schools. In addition to a digital video camera in each classroom, each building would have one scanner and one video monitor for each grade level.

Electrical problems at West Boulevard would still need to be addressed, Schulte said, but the money for that improvement would not come from this grant. The board also will vote on the submission of an application to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for a four-year, $400,000 school-to-work program. Using federal School-to-Work funds, the program would be open to all student s but would target students at risk of dropping out.

The money would support summer academies for students to experience real-world work environments. Required matching local funds would come from existing guidance and technology budgets. In other business, the board will discuss creating an audit committee for the district's finances. The committee would advise the board on financial matters and auditors.

"It's just another way we can make sure that we're accountable to taxpayers," said board member Elton Fay. The board has been talking about the audit committee for more than a year, he said.

If it goes forward, the next step in the process would be to submit a draft outline of the committee's duties, as well as a list of possible members, Fay said. Also up for discussion is the board's communications plan, including discussion of the 1996-1997 school year survey and the schedule for public forums. The board also will vote on appointing Norman Lenhardt to the Advisory Committee on Energy and Environmental Issues.

The Columbia Board of Education will meet today at 7 p.m. at the District Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St. All meetings have some time allotted for public comment.