With the Block Grant School Funding system put into place several years ago, USD 443 put less emphasis on encouraging teachers to earn their ESOL, or English for Speakers of Other Languages, endorsement. That particular funding system did not add any additional dollars to the district’s budget for the endorsement. Now, however, with the repeal of Block Grant Funding, the ESOL endorsement could mean a large increase in the overall budget.

"We now realize that because we haven’t continued with incentives, we’ve lost a lot of teachers who have [their ESOL endorsement]," Dr. Ramona Nance, executive director of human resources, said at the Nov. 13 USD 443 Board of Education meeting. "We left potentially $500,000 in bilingual funding on the table last year because we don’t have the same number of teachers with the endorsement as we have in the past."

Nance said that even bigger than the financial benefit is what the district could potentially be missing out in allowing students to achieve the utmost of academic success. She said the administrative team started addressing the need but has not determined any one specific plan on what that incentive package may look like.

"We’re putting a high priority on it and would like the board’s input on putting that plan together," she said.

The program involves 15 credit hours and the district has spoken to numerous universities to see if they would give a tuition break to a group of teachers.

"We’ve had some really interested conversations so we’re hoping we can put something together to make it affordable," Nance said.

According to Dr. Fred Dierksen, superintendent of schools, other districts in the area pay for the program for teachers. In addition, they then pay an incentive on an annual basis.

"Our hope is there’s a value to the students," he said. 

Dierksen added that most area districts offer a face-to-face campus program versus more of an online delivery system. Nance said the district is distributing surveys to teachers to see what most prefer.

"I think it’s great," board member Tammie West said. "It was very successful and made a difference when we had it before. It’s huge to have in our district."

In other business, Debbie White, principal at Bright Beginnings, provided the mandatory school board Program Governance Training. The board also approved a new sound system for the Performing Arts Addition at Dodge City High School, as well as disposal of old equipment.

Nance asked the board for the approval of four additional kindergarten teachers for the 2018-2019 school year. The request was approved. 

The board meets for a luncheon meeting on Nov. 27 at Sunnyside Elementary.