by Alan McArthur
With no fanfare and apparently no public disclosure of record, the North Platte School District has applied for the A+ program through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
According to Tim Nash, school board president, the district applied for the program after discussing the issue.
“We applied to get the ball rolling,” said Nash. “It may be 2 to 3 years before we're approved.”
The school district’s apparent secrecy in making the application is curious, as the district’s past failure to apply for the program was made a campaign issue by Jon McLaughlin, a candidate for the school board in the April 8 election.
According to Jon McLaughlin, the application for A+ was received by the state on Thursday, April 17.
"I contacted Melissa at DESE who said she received the application on April 17," McLaughlin told The Landmark.
McLaughlin said the school board must have acted in closed session because there were no minutes about discussion of the A+ program.
Dr. Francis Moran, superintendent, said the board decided to go ahead and submit paperwork to the state for consideration.
“The board submitted the paperwork for consideration,” said Moran. “I myself filled out the paperwork in early April. We have talked about A+ for years. The biggest concern is it is not a wise use of tax dollars.”
Moran said the district applied for the A+ program because they have heard changes may be made in the way the program determines whether a district is eligible.
“The board is going to keep open all options,” said Moran. “We are getting information from the State Department that there may be a change in the A+ program. Jay Nixon (candidate for governor) is proposing students be certified and not school districts. We are submitting the paperwork, before getting the final approval we hope changes take place. If it is changed we want to be in the system just in case it is a requirement.”
According to Nash, the board has had discussions about A+ for a long time.
“We have discussed this for a long time,” said Nash. “We really weren't against it, just thought the money could be used better. We thought it would be a good idea to do it.”
Moran said the board decided to apply for the program after discussing the issue during the March meeting. However, the A+ program was never on the agenda for March and the minutes from the meeting do not show that the board took action to apply.
“I don't know when it was actually put on the agenda,” said Moran.
Moran said the board would not have to actually make an approval on the program until the district is approved and changes to curriculum would need to be made.
The paperwork for districts to submit to the state for A+ consideration requires signatures from the superintendent, board president, high school principal, and an A+ coordinator for the district.
Moran in the past has been outspoken against the district applying for A+ status. He recently had a column explaining why he believed it’s not a good fit for the district in a school newsletter mailed to patrons.
Recently, the North Platte District had a survey on its website asking patrons whether they thought the district should apply for the A+ program.
According to Moran, the results of the survey were 60 percent in favor, 40 percent against. The survey ended on April 19.
Nash said the board's decision was based on its discussions and there weren't any outside influences.
“It doesn't have anything to do with letters to the editor,” said Nash. “We as a board thought it was the best way to go.”
In the past, McLaughlin has submitted a letter to the editor to The Landmark and other newspapers urging North Platte to seek the A+ program. McLaughlin also in the past has written letters to the board in favor of the district applying for the A+ program.
“I wouldn't have written the letter if I had known they had acted on the A+ program," said McLaughlin. "It wasn't available in any minutes and must have been done in closed session. Tim Nash, as president, should know better than to act on something in closed session. I wish the school board would quit acting in secrecy and let the community celebrate this long overdue event.”
The A+ program allows qualified high school graduates the opportunity to go to a local community college at a discounted rate, with the opportunity for the student to go on to a four year college after two years. In order to qualify, a district must provide certain courses for students and students must have good grades and do a number of volunteer hours.