By JEFF BRADY
While more than half of public schools in Alaska opened the school year with the news that they were inadequate a headline in the Anchorage Daily News the Skagway City School was one of the exceptions.
A day before the announcement of the first No Child Left Behind report cards by the state Department of Education, Skagway Superintendent Michael Dickens told the Skagway School Board that the local school satisfied the adequate yearly progress report.
Im happy to report that our district qualified in all areas, Dickens said.
Fifty-eight percent of schools in the state did not satisfy the AYP, but Dickens noted that Alaska fared better than some states. For example, he said, 80 percent of schools in Florida and 70 percent in Michigan did not make the grade.
The NCLB act, signed by President Bush earlier this year, set a goal for students nationwide to be proficient in reading, writing and math by the 2013-14 school year, and requires districts to make AYP reports based on testing results in various subgroups. Getting students to take the test is a key many districts in Alaska failed because they did not meet the 95 percent attendance requirement for the tests.
Not only did Skagway have enough students taking the tests, they tested well.
I am very pleased to inform you that our students had an aggregate percentage of 64.03 percent score at Proficient of Above in Language Arts which includes Reading and Writing, Dickens wrote in a letter to parents on Aug. 22. A score of 54.85 percent was achieved at Proficient or Above levels for our students in mathematics.
Skagway remains eligible for federal Title I grants other schools did not. Consequences can be severe in the future for schools that do not make the NCLB grade. If a district does not make the grade over a long period, it could lose local control.
During the school board meeting, Dickens noted that the next testing period will be Feb. 16-27, 2004, and he is urging parents not to take their kids out of school on vacations during that period.
Posing with the big check are (back row, from left) Superintendent Michael Dickens, and board members Chris Ellis, Julene Fairbanks, Darren Belisle, and (kneeling) Chris Maggio and Joanne Korsmo. JB
Big check from PIMCO presented: $20,000-plus for the music program
Toward the end of the last school year, the district received word that it may receive a generous corporate donation sometime over the summer and that the check would arrive via cruise ship.
Superintendent Michael Dickens was away much of the summer, but left instructions for someone to meet the ship on July 2 and meet the donor. But when that day arrived, high winds kept the cruise ship Crystal Harmony from docking. The 600 or so passengers of the vessel, chartered by Pacific Investment Management Company, saw Skagway only from a distance.
But they came back. At the urging of company officials, the ship returned to Skagway on the Fourth of July, Dickens said. School staff members Debbie Knorr, Kathy Pierce and Pat Taylor accepted the check for $20,020.75 from senior vice president Mark Porterfield, and gave him a tour of the school.
A blow-up of the check was formally presented and accepted by the school board on Aug. 19.
PIMCO, a $65 billion company with 9.75 percent annual growth last year in the bond market, was founded by Bill Gross about 30 years ago. His wife, Carol, is highly interested in education issues, and the PIMCO Foundation supports school programs in their native California and elsewhere.
The money was donated for the schools music program. Dickens joked that the PIMCO entourage saw Skagways kazoo-playing Bigger Hammer Marching Band in the parade and concluded that the school needed new musical instruments.
Right conclusion, anyway. The district is in need of new instruments and music instructor Barry Beckett also plans to use the money for purchasing an $11,000 computer-based keyboarding program that can teach students piano at a young age, Dickens said.
School board members were thankful for the donation, and children will be writing letters to PIMCO in Newport Beach, Calif. soon, Dickens said.