Wellington Ed Board Pleased By Grant Program’s First Year

The Wellington Education Committee approved another round of $25,000 grants to the village’s 11 elementary, middle and high schools Monday. It also approved a new policy to allow schools with money remaining from the previous year’s grant to roll it over to the next year.

Community Services Director James Poag gave an update on the grant program and recommended that the remaining money be allowed to stay with the schools, rather than be returned to the village.

“In this summary, it explains that two Wellington elementary schools received B ratings,” he said. “All other elementary and middle schools were A-rated, according to the 2014 preliminary grades. One of the elementary schools moved from a B grade to an A grade.”

Poag said that performance gains for the lowest 25 percent, which is the primary goal of the grants, accounted for 200 of the total possible 800 points in determining the grade for elementary and middle schools.

He explained that the Wellington Village Council had approved a resolution giving the Wellington Education Committee authority to administer and monitor the grants to ensure that proper reporting is being done. As it stands, money not allocated by May 31 must be returned to the village.

“I recommend that this committee make a motion to allow the schools to use the unencumbered funds to begin programs for the upcoming year,” Poag said. “This will require an amendment to the current grant guidelines, which must be done through a council resolution.”

Poag suggested that the committee refine its definition of “non-consumable” and “consumable” items, explaining that a question had been raised whether computers, including laptops and iPads, should be considered consumable.

Items such as workbooks intended to be marked in, pencils, crayons and work paper are considered consumable, and spending grant money on such items is not permitted.

Poag also recommended that the schools, with help from the area superintendent, develop a uniform method of reporting expenditures to the village. However, some committee members did not favor that approach, at least for the coming year.

Board Member Theresa Ventriglio said she thought uniform reporting would be difficult with three different school levels.

“I think that the principals sitting here should have input for that as well,” Ventriglio said. “For us to make that decision as a board, we can do that, but I feel that we get the best information hearing from the principals.”

Board Member Michelle McGovern said the coming year would not be a good time to require schools to have a uniform report due to uncertain mandates at the state level.

“It could not be a more difficult year to ask them to have a uniform report,” McGovern said. “We can thank the Florida Legislature for that, but these teachers won’t even know what their school grade is until November after their school year as it stands right now, not to mention, I’m not sure if anybody can tell me what test we’re taking this spring for every level.”

McGovern added that she thought Poag had done a good job breaking down the reports that had been submitted so they were reasonably comparable, and the committee could see how the money was being spent, especially toward improving performance levels for the lower 25 percent of students.

“The reason for this grant is to help support our lowest 25 percent as best we can in order to equalize our opportunities for all of our students,” McGovern said. “I think a lot of the data in this shows that we were successful, and that our schools were successful in that.”

Board Member Ana Martinez, however, said that a uniform report might be easier for the principals in their presentations next year. She noted that most of the principals produced huge reports on the grant money.

“Maybe we only need certain things,” she said. “We could streamline to one page, two pages maximum.”

Board Chair Marcia Hayden agreed with Ventriglio that a uniform report for the elementary, middle and high schools would be difficult because of the different forms of assessment, but some degree of uniformity would be valuable.

“We do appreciate all the work that Mr. Poag did in putting this together for us,” Hayden said, asking that the reports be sent to all the principals so they could see what was submitted to the council members.

McGovern said she would like to see some form of reporting on how the lower 25 percent of students were served, adding that she believed some of the schools were not doing that. “I think there were some schools that were not able to service the lower 25, so I think that’s important to know as well,” she said.

McGovern made two motions, one to allow the schools to roll over unspent funds, and another to use the state’s guidelines for consumable and non-consumable items.

Both motions carried unanimously, 7-0.