Board not keen on training in Texas
Clintonville School Board prefers more economical travel
By Bert Lehman
When posed with the question of allowing district personnel to travel to Texas for training, members of the Clintonville School Board indicated they prefer the district find more economical ways to get training.
Superintendent Troy Kuhn presented the idea traveling to Texas at the board’s Sept. 26 meeting.
Kuhn said the district’s administrative team recommended the training in Texas and it would be paid for with the district’s ESSER III funds.
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds were part of federal stimulus laws passed by Congress to provide financial support to school districts because of Covid-19.
Kuhn said the majority of the ESSER funds school districts received can be used to help children up who may have fallen behind during the pandemic.
He said the school district can spend the funds however it feels it is necessary to accomplish that goal.
The Clintonville School District has around $2 million in ESSER III funds remaining. The funds need to be spent by 2024.
Other school districts are sending employees to conferences and training, Kuhn said. He added that other districts have used the money to hire more nurses on site.
Kuhn said he was bringing the request to the board because he wasn’t comfortable approving spending a large amount of money on training that the district’s administration wants, but that the public may question using the funds for that purpose.
The training that the administration is considering is out of state, Kuhn said.
“Out of state trainings are a lot of money,” he said. “Anywhere from $2,000-$3,000 per person. The one coming up in November we feel is extremely important to get the district to continue moving in the right direction, with collaborative learning, how to meet appropriately, how to structure a professional learning community.”
He added that there are different aspects of the training for elementary, middle school and high school personnel.
Board member Kris Strauman asked how the district would verify that the training received helped fill the students’ learning gaps.
“That’s my big concern,” Strauman said. “Out-of-state conventions are awesome. You get lots of information, but if you don’t do anything with it, it means zip. And, our kids have a big (learning) gap. We got the money that we can close this gap, but I want to make sure that it’s effective.”
Board President Ben Huber said if the district is going to spend more than $30,000 on something it should be on hiring another employee for the district. He said that would have a bigger impact on the students who were impacted by Covid.
Kuhn said he understood that feeling, but said a new position would last only one or two years.
He added that for the training in Texas, tthe administrative team would like to send two employees each from the elementary school, the middle school and the high school.
“And they would come back and then lead the groups for PLC to get the ball rolling on what is a professional learning community,” Kuhn said.
There is also a follow-up training later in Texas that the administrative team would like to send some teachers to, Kuhn said, adding there is additional training in Minneapolis, followed by one in Madison. He said some of the trainings are the same, while some are different.
“This is why I did not sign the requisition and I wanted to bring it to you guys, because, again, I’m going to guess $40,000-$60,000 for everything, out of $2 million,” he said. “That would be sending the vast majority of the teachers to a professional learning community training so that we all have the same vision, the same idea.”
The main reason the administrative team favors the training is to help get the teachers to “buy in” to the idea of PLC.
“At this point, without people seeing, experiencing and feeling it, we don’t know how we’re going to get the teacher buy in, unless the teachers actually experience it. That’s the main reason this was brought up,” Kuhn said.
Strauman asked how the training in Texas, Minneapolis and Madison are different.
Kuhn said the first training in Texas is similar to one of the trainings in Minneapolis and one in Madison.
The plan would be to send six employees to the Texas training, then six more to the Minneapolis training, and a lot more to the training in Madison because it is closer, Kuhn said.
He added that the training in Minneapolis and Madison is during the summer and the administrative team is afraid the district won’t get the commitment from teachers to attend training during the summer.
For $40,000-$60,000, Huber suggested the district try to hire the training company to come to Clintonville to do the training for the entire district.
Kuhn said the company doing the training in Texas wouldn’t do it for the district for that amount, but there may be other options for on-site training.
Strauman said it is worth researching.
She added that there is no guarantee that teachers who go to the training will stay teaching in the Clintonville School District.
Kuhn asked the board if it would be more appropriate to not send employees to the Texas training but to spend the same amount of money to send more employees to the training in Minneapolis and Madison.
Kuhn acknowledged that the only reason the training is a possibility is because the district has ESSER funds to spend.
“We have the money available or we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Kuhn said. “So, that’s why we’re trying to make it exciting, maybe do a little bit more with it. But again, it’s not taxpayers’ money, but it’s still school district money.”
Strauman asked, “What’s the best way to spend that money to benefit the kids that are behind?”