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Janssen wants to give poor middle, high schools slices of Title I pie

Donna Logan, Bear Creek Elementary's reading coach this year, says "there is a certain amount of worry" about the possible funding shift. Then again, some middle and high school principals are thrilled.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Donna Logan, Bear Creek Elementary's reading coach this year, says "there is a certain amount of worry" about the possible funding shift. Then again, some middle and high school principals are thrilled.

With the district's budget in a historically tight squeeze, Pinellas schools superintendent Julie Janssen plans to pump millions of dollars into struggling middle and high schools.

The only problem, some say, is that the money will be pumped out of struggling elementary schools.

"There's no way we can not feel the effects of this budget cut. I'm not Houdini," said Lisa Roth, the principal at Belcher Elementary, which stands to lose about $350,000 in personnel and services. "The challenge is for it to be as painless as possible."

At issue is money from the federal Title I program, which sends tens of millions of dollars to high-poverty schools every year.

For years, Pinellas has used that money for elementary schools alone, thinking that investments in earlier grades will pay dividends later. But now Janssen plans to give slices of the Title I pie to some middle and high schools, which as a whole perform worse than elementary schools on the FCAT and in school grades.

Under Janssen's plan, the number of high-poverty schools dividing the money will grow from 48 this year to 68 next year. That includes nine high schools and 13 middle schools.

The big whammy is this: The district has used the money to pay for four positions at each Title I school: a reading coach, a math/science coach, a Title I facilitator and an "intervention" teacher who worked in small groups or one on one with struggling students. It then divvied up the rest of the money among all the Title I schools.

Under Janssen's plan, the district will no longer pay for those positions "off the top." If schools want to keep those positions, they'll have to dip into their Title I money, find other money, or work out arrangements with other Title I schools, such as co-funding and sharing some of those positions.

"I can probably hold one of the four," said Paula Texel, principal at Bear Creek Elementary in St. Petersburg.

The school got $215,000 in Title I money last year, on top of the four positions. Next year it's slated to get $177,000 — without the four.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Bear Creek kids eligible for free and reduced lunch is expected to rise, from 81 to 84 percent.

"I'm concerned I won't be able to provide my kids with everything they need," Texel said. "It's just going to take some creativity."

Schools have until May 7 to submit plans for next year's funding. Technically, the School Board must still okay the overall plan, but several principals said the change was presented to them as a done deal, not a proposal.

In announcing the plan, Janssen said dollars are growing scarce and schools must better scrutinize programs to see what's working and what's not. School Board chairwoman Janet Clark agreed.

"We probably have a lot of places in Title I that money is not being spent wisely," she said. "I think we really need to take a close look at all the different programs (and) who we're funding."

Gleeful, stoic, worried

Some middle and high school principals are giddy about the possibilities.

Mary Conage, the district's Title I director, anticipates they'll be using their newfound money for things like longer school days and extra teachers.

Gibbs High is slated to get $797,000 next year, more than any other school. Principal Kevin Gordon said he plans to use the bulk of that money to hire 10 or more teachers who can work with struggling students in small groups.

"We're going to be able to drill down and do more individualized instruction for the kids," he said.

The mood is less upbeat at some elementary schools.

At Belcher, some of the Title I-funded staffers cried when the principal broke the news. At other schools, they were stoic.

"There is a certain amount of worry," said Bear Creek reading coach Donna Logan, who will return to the classroom next year and try to do some coaching on the side. But "we just have to utilize the resources the best we can."

Although the Title I changes will lead to lost positions, it's widely assumed that most if not all of the people filling them will land positions elsewhere in the district.

But concerns go beyond personnel. Some worry that the district is hurting itself in the long run.

"The greatest need is at the elementary schools. Early intervention," said School Board member Mary Brown. "I feel that if we are doing a good job there, then we won't continue to feed children into the system who aren't on grade level."

Board members Linda Lerner and Nina Hayden appear to be leaning in favor of Janssen's proposal, but say they need to see more details. The board will take a closer look at the plan at a May workshop before voting on it.

Schools won't be holding their breath.

"We'll deal with it," said Roth, the principal at Belcher. "I don't have an alternative."

Times researcher Connie Humburg and staff writer Rebecca Catalanello contributed to this report. Ron Matus can be reached at matus@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8873.

Title I gains and losses

Here's how much elementary schools would get — and lose — in Title I money for the 2010-2011 school year, as well as how much middle and high schools would get for the first time. Traditionally, the district has used Title 1 money to pay "off the top" for four positions at each Title I elementary school, including reading and math coaches. It then divvied up the rest of the money among those schools. Under the proposed plan, if schools want to keep those positions, they'll have to dip into their allocation listed below, find other money, or work out arrangements with other schools, such as co-funding and sharing some of those positions.

Elementary Schools 2009-10 2010-11 Difference
Azalea $137,240
Bardmoor $181,480 $174,329 -$7,151
Bear Creek $214,760 $176,678 -$38,082
Belcher $206,440 $142,575 -$63,865
Belleair $244,400 $308,391 $63,991
Blanton $228,280 $212,860 -$15,420
Campbell Park $254,800 $294,793 $39,993
Cross Bayou $124,550 $120,723 -$3,827
Doug Jamerson $193,440 $182,787 -$10,653
Dunedin $208,000 $255,619 $47,619
Eisenhower $307,840 $321,988 $14,148
Fairmount Park $297,540 $290,986 -$6,554
Frontier $188,000 $154,039 -$33,961
Fuguitt $158,390 $123,589 -$34,801
Gulfport $187,720 $237,294 $49,574
High Point $266,240 $296,425 $30,185
Imagine Charter $74,730 $109,483 $34,753
James Sanderlin $198,120 $170,099 -$28,021
John Sexton $255,840 $226,016 -$29,824
Lakewood $238,160 $276,301 $38,141
Lealman $195,520 $212,121 $16,601
Life Force Arts $42,968
Lynch $197,080 $207,691 $10,611
Maximo $246,480 $329,603 $83,123
Melrose $178,880 $203,962 $25,082
Mildred Helms $211,120 $238,704 $27,584
MK Rawlings $181,420 $207,221 $25,801
Mt. Vernon $176,280 $188,426 $12,146
New Heights $225,680 $254,210 $28,530
North Shore $124,550 $142,846 $18,296
Northwest $241,280 $216,149 -$25,131
Pinellas Central $208,000 $203,461 -$4,539
Pinellas Park $262,600 $254,210 -$8,390
Ponce de Leon $243,360 $224,607 -$18,753
San Jose $111,390 $93,498 -$17,892
Sandy Lane $289,560 $287,179 -$2,381
Sawgrass Lake $165,910 $157,620 -$8,290
Seminole $161,210 $132,544 -$28,666
Seventy-Fourth Street $215,800 $180,574 -$35,226
Shore Acres $141,470
Skycrest $270,400 $282,873 $12,473
Skyview $190,320 $179,967 -$10,353
Southern Oak $177,840 $148,665 -$29,175
Starkey $153,220 $144,008 -$9,212
Tarpon Springs $168,480 $205,812 $37,332
Walsingham $215,800 $180,907 -$34,893
Westgate $211,640 $212,860 $1,220
Woodlawn $238,680 $254,545 $15,865

Middle & High Schools 2010-11
Azalea Middle $411,623
Bay Point Middle $244,097
Boca Ciega High $586,422
Clearwater High $559,027
Clearwater Intermediate $145,196
Dixie Hollins High $501,337
Dunedin Middle $243,484
Fitzgerald Middle $253,285
Gibbs High $797,357
Imagine Charter Middle $8,269
John Hopkins Middle $342,079
Lakewood High $661,382
Largo High $325,258
Largo Middle $207,344
Lealman Intermediate $146,605
Meadowlawn Middle $217,451
Northeast High $559,027
Pinellas Park High $560,652
Pinellas Park Middle $320,547
Pinellas Secondary Middle $63,435
St. Petersburg High $630,125
Tyrone Middle $286,632

Janssen wants to give poor middle, high schools slices of Title I pie 04/24/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 24, 2010 5:28pm]

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