High School Faces Restructuring and Budget Challenges

By Catherine Cluett

Molokai may be isolated, but that doesn’t cushion its schools from dangerous budget slashes. The Board of Education approved a 15% budget cut in October, chopping $46 million from the $2.4 billion budget. But Gov. Linda Lingle is prepared to further hike the cut to 20%, amounting to a loss of almost $70 million for the state’s schools.

The Molokai High School 2009-2010 Financial Plan has prepared for the worst. Principal Linda Puleloa reports that as a result of the cuts, the school will be forced to restructure some teacher positions in order to have enough money to go around. This may mean taking teachers from core curriculum areas. According to early registration numbers, this would be a do-able shift in terms of teacher-to-students ratios, but will invariably result in larger class sizes, according to Puleloa.

These changes come after the school still has not met the Adequate Yearly Progress standards as part of No Child Left Behind Act. Because of this, the school has been placed in a “restructuring” category since the 2005-2006 school year. But the school is one of many in the state with the same status, and Puleloa remains optimistic despite the apparent deficits.

The Numbers
An analysis of previous academic data provided by the Hawaii State Assessment (HSA) showed some improvement. “The school’s growth model has seen a rise to 24% in the number of students who tested proficient in both reading and math in the 2008 HSA,” reads the Academic and Financial Plan Draft. “This is a 7% gain from the 17% of our 10th graders testing proficient in both reading and math on the 2007 HSA.”

But that is still well below under the state averages.

The School Status and Improvement Report from 2007-2008 reports that for 10th graders statewide, the percent proficiency level in reading as indicated from the HSA is 67%, while Molokai High registers at 45%. For math, the state percent proficiency is 34%, and Molokai is 26%. This data can be found at www.arch.k12.us.

Community Council member Dart Bicoy suggested these numbers be compared to the Middle School equivalents. “A school is only as good as its feeder program,” he said. If Molokai High shows improvement from Middle School data, that means the Molokai High is still doing its job well despite the dismal data, according to Bicoy.

But according to data from the School Status and Improvement Report from 2007-2008 for Molokai Middle School, HSA results appear to be roughly equivalent between the two schools. Eighth grade results for reading show percent proficiency for the state at 66%, while Molokai Middle falls at 44%. In math, the state proficiency is 35%, and Molokai Middle is 28%.

The Plan
The 2009-2010 Academic and Financial Plan is a 25-page document outlines the school’s mission and profile, assessment of previous years’ data, strategic plans that include both academic and financial summaries to carry the school through another year.

In addition, the document contains the academic objectives set by the state and how the Molokai High will achieve each of these goals.

“One of the primary duties of the MHS Community Council is reviewing, contributing to, and approving this plan,” says Molokai High School’s Principal Linda Puleloa.

The Council approved the document despite qualms about budget cuts.

Some new additions to this year’s MHS academic program include the addition of online courses to the curriculum, restructuring of the school day in order to better meet the goals of their Needs Assessment, increased individual monitoring of students to better meet their needs (a process called KIDTALK), and adding more “rigor and relevance” to the school’s curriculum.

Because of its restructuring status, an analysis group will be coming this week to audit the Academic and Financial Plan for this year and last year as part of the restructuring plan.

School Tunes
While the administration is busy planning the coming year, students have been working hard toward achieving a policy change they believe will make them happier scholars. A student-initiated pilot plan to allow iPods and MP3 players at school is ready to take flight. These devices are currently considered contraband on school property. The pilot plan, outlined in a proposal drawn up by student council members, calls for a three-week trial period in which students would be observed and the proposal tested. Parent approval and release form signatures will be signed before the plan will go into effect.

“I’m really proud of the process and progress of students to initiate this plan,” says Puleloa.

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