Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in Review- Sources: DESE investigating Joplin R-8 School District

(From September 2013)

The Joplin R-8 School District has spent more than $2 million over the past four years for teaching/learning coaches.

The use of Title I and IDEA funds to pay for the salaries of people who have been serving more as administrators-in-training and as the eyes and ears of upper administration in the district schools, appears to be coming under state scrutiny.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is reportedly taking a close examination of how the Joplin R-8 School District is operating.

Jefferson City sources told the Turner Report that DESE is investigating the district after receiving complaints, from patrons, from legislative sources...and from within administration.

While the specifics of the investigation are still being kept hush-hush, people who have taken their concerns to the state department say state officials have examined documents that raise questions about the administration's use of Title I and IDEA funds, both federal programs, but both of which also operate under strict state guidelines.

One concern, a source close to administration told the Turner Report, was the use of Title I funds to pay for the teaching and learning coaches. State department officials say there would be no problem with the coaches if they were helping teachers who were working directly with students. The problem has been that the coaches have been told their job is to work with principals, not teachers, and the coaching positions, which have become a training ground for open principal positions in the district, have all of the appearances of an additional layer of administration. Coaches have also been told that their job is to be the eyes and ears of administration in their buildings.

The payments for coaches from the Title I program also led to the elimination of reading teachers... who were working directly with the students.

If the state is examining the payment of coaches from Title I and IDEA funds, it will also be looking at the question of whether coaches who work at non Title I schools have been receiving funds, a violation of both state and federal laws.

Joplin High School, for instance, is not a Title 1 school.

During fiscal year 2013, $182,495 in Title I funds have been spent on teaching and learning coaches, while local taxpayers are paying $415,649 for a total of $598,145.

Fiscal year 2012 is also being scrutinized since $187,480 of the coaches' salaries comes from Title I and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funds. IDEA funds are strictly designated only for use with those working directly with students who have IEPs (Individual Education Plans). Local taxpayers paid $355,224, while another $45,547 came from Title II A, a program that is designed for use in improving teacher quality. The total for 2012 was $589.251.

The transferring of hundreds of thousands to local taxpayers to pay for the extra layer of administration came only during the last two years, according to district documents. During fiscal year 2011, $314,885 came from Title I and IDEA, while Title II A funds covered the remaining $142,941 in salaries. The total for the year was $457,806.

Fiscal year 2010 documents show $38,372 in local funds, with $236,655 from Title I and IDEA (the district documents that I have do not separate how much funding came from either) and $248,421 from Title II A, for a total of $521,448.

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