A.L. school board votes to expand scholarships

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2 additional awards to be added from reserves

Two more scholarships are being added to the annual Albert Lea School Board scholarship this year due to an abundance of funds in the program’s reserves.

Mike Funk

Mike Funk

According to Superintendent Mike Funk, the scholarship’s reserves have about $3,000. The board usually gives out two scholarships per year, each worth $500. The school board members themselves are the ones who fund the scholarship, board member Linda Laurie said.

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The reserve grew because board member Bill Leland contributes all of his board pay to the scholarship fund; each board member gets $1,200 per year.

Leland said he does this because when he was first a board member, financial difficulties prevented him from contributing to the scholarship fund. This is his way of returning the favor to board members who covered for him when he couldn’t contribute, he said, and he also wanted to create a reserve in case a board member couldn’t contribute in the future.

Funk said the purpose of the program is to provide scholarships to students, and said there’s no reason to have a reserve of $3,000.

Finding middle ground, the board unanimously approved a motion to add two extra scholarships to the school board scholarship, using up $1,000 of the reserves.

Historically, the scholarship has been awarded to one male and one female student who wouldn’t otherwise get a scholarship, Chairman Mark Ciota said. Last year an essay was added to the scholarship’s application process, asking the applicants to discuss an obstacle they had overcome, board member Julie Johnson said.

Funk said in the past, some students were awarded the scholarship who also received other scholarships, and suggested being very clear about the scholarship’s criteria so the scholarship selection committee could take that into consideration when selecting the scholarship winners.

Ciota said the board can revisit the scholarship next fall to see where the balance is at that point.

In other news, the school board:

Listened to a presentation about the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, or ACEs. Jill Johnson and Lana Howe presented to the board on behalf of the ACEs committee of Freeborn County.

Johnson said nine ACEs were researched in Minnesota, including abuse, mental illness, drug use and divorce. More than half of all Minnesotans surveyed reported one or more ACE happening in their lifetime. Of that, 60 percent had two or more experiences and 15 percent had five or more. The ACEs have multiple outcomes such as adverse effects on health, teen pregnancy and depression, among others.

In order to combat ACEs in Freeborn County, Johnson suggested implementing two programs. The first is a social skills curriculum that helps teach students in kindergarten through sixth grade skills such as self-concept, executive function skills and academic achievement.

Mark Ciota

Mark Ciota

Johnson also suggested implementing the REACH program, which was developed in an area learning center in Hutchinson. The REACH program is a half credit elective class students can take that gives them a safe place that will support them emotionally, socially and academically.

Johnson said the ACEs Committee of Freeborn County was formed to inform the community about the ACEs study.

Look to the Tribune Wednesday for more about the school board meeting.