9/11/2007 12:36:00 PM State presses Sisters schools on TAG
By Tia Duerrmeyer
The Sisters School District has been ordered by the state to further improve its programs for its Talented and Gifted (TAG) students.
Sisters has been found "conditionally standard" regarding programs and services it provides to TAG students. That means Sisters' TAG program is out of compliance with state standards.
As a result the state superintendent of public instruction Susan Castillo has ordered $5,000 be withheld monthly from operating funds the district receives. The funds will be withheld until the district corrects its deficiencies.
In a letter to superintendent Elaine Drakulich, dated August 14, 2007, Oregon Department of Education Assistant Superintendent Salam A. Noor states: "Sisters School District must correct the remaining deficiencies before January 1, 2008, in time for the District Superintendent to sign assurances that the district has met its Division 22 Standards obligations. Should the district not meet this completion date, the State Superintendent will declare the district
The latest glitch provides one more challenge to superintendent Drakulich to place her house in order. Drakulich came to the district with the threat of having $1.2 million in State School Funds withheld from the district as the result of a disallowed homeschool program and the challenge of a lawsuit against the school district and its board of directors filed by district resident Mike Morgan for non-compliance with public meeting law.
The school district has been working diligently to comply with state administrative rules about its TAG program ever since a parent submitted a complaint to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) more than two years ago. Since that time the ODE has been conducting an ongoing investigation of the district's TAG
According to ODE Education Specialist Andrea Morgan, who conducted the investigation, once the district has corrected its deficiencies and is in compliance, the monies the state superintendent has ordered to be withheld will be released and returned to the district.
After its first investigation ODE found on December 5, 2005 the Sisters School District to be "conditionally standard" and asked the district to take "corrective action."
"We told them the things that were out of compliance and at that point the district creates a plan of 'corrective action' and we go back and reassess," said Morgan.
On April 12, 2006 the ODE was invited back to the district to re-investigate.
"They (The district) thought they had corrected the plan of 'corrective action,' and we conducted the review and found that they had not completed it and that they would remain 'conditionally standard,'" said Morgan.
Morgan told The Nugget that the district was given a full year to make the necessary corrections.
"We went back on April 18, 2007 and conducted another review to see if they were in compliance and found that still there were unresolved issues," Morgan said.
Principal Bob Macauley believes those issues can readily be addressed.
"I'd say it's a problem only in that we still have to address some issues. They found some things, and the majority had to do with communication with parents that I think we can do a better job on," Macauley said. "That wasn't my focus. My focus was teacher behavior and student learning. Now, we're just going to rectify that. The state found a lot of good things that we're doing. As a matter of fact they said that the majority of our teachers could be the TAG coordinators in other districts with their knowledge."
According to Morgan the school district has worked effectively with the ODE to correct its deficiencies.
Noor's letter commends the district for "...teachers who demonstrated mastery in assessing students' rates and levels of learning and differentiated instruction that met individual student needs." The letter also notes that "parents and students acknowledge that Sisters High School provides many positive opportunities for students, particularly noting the arts."
According to Drakulich, a meeting is being arranged for Morgan to come back to re-evaluate the district within the next three to four weeks.
"We believe that we have the evidence that those things that were cited ... are met." said Drakulich, noting that because the district feels the re-evaluation will show that it is in compliance, the $5,000 will not be withheld.
"The $5,000 piece is a bit premature, because if we meet it at this next evaluation in September and October there won't be a deduction of $5,000."