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Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Funding tenuous for STEM program

Three area schools in engineering-based learning curriculum

By Shelley Grieshop
ST. HENRY - One of St. Henry school district's most notable programs is in jeopardy without the promise of future funding.
The school - along with Fort Recovery and New Bremen schools - has successfully participated in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program since receiving initial grant funding in 2008. However, as state funds continue to dry up, Superintendent Rod Moorman has become increasingly worried.
"How are we going to do this? How will we sustain what we're doing?" he asked school board members Monday night.
To date, the schools jointly have been awarded nearly $900,000 in state and local funding for the program. However, no new government funds are on the horizon, officials said.
STEM, an engineering-based program, focuses on critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and innovation, collaboration and team building and communication. The local STEM program was initially introduced to high school students only. But recently the three schools began offering it to students in younger grades with the idea of continuing the education through graduation.
Moorman said, in his opinion, STEM education is "more important than anything else that we're doing" in the school. During Monday's meeting, he gave a presentation to the board that supported the need to provide programs such as STEM to prepare students for "jobs that don't even exist yet," he said.
About two-thirds of STEM funding received by St. Henry has paid for technology hardware such as computers and software, laptops, digital cameras and SMART Boards. Remaining dollars have paid for related curriculums and books, and a variety of activities such as STEM Camp and other summer activities, field trips to area businesses and after-school STEM sessions for teachers.
Last week, St. Henry schools participated in a Webinar (an on-site meeting via the Internet) sponsored by Bowling Green State University to help partner STEM schools in northwest Ohio. Others participating in the Webinar included Perkins Local Schools and the Putnam County Educational Service Center.
"I vision a whole bunch of networking" in the future, Moorman said.
A local STEM strategic planning meeting was scheduled for today, he told the board.
Prior to Moorman's report, school treasurer Glenn Miller gave what continues to be a gloomy five-year financial forecast. By 2014, the district will show a negative cash balance of $1.2 million without assistance from the state and/or federal government, according to Miller.
The hope is that as state funding dwindles, federal funding will increase, Miller added.
"The state of Ohio isn't as bad as some others. What will happen to them?" he asked. "That's why I think the (federal) government will have to step in and do something."
Moorman said the current "scuttlebutt" circulating throughout the education system is that a maximum of 3 percent may be taken away from school districts in the state's upcoming budget corrections bill.
In other business, the board:
• Learned high school seniors last scheduled day is Friday. Graduation of the district's 101 seniors is set for 2:15 p.m. May 30.
• Approved a resolution to continue the school's association with the Ohio High School Athletic Association for the 2010-2011 school year.
• Approved Deb Puthoff as athletic ticket manager, Lori Schwieterman as athletic site manager and Donna Woeste as census officer for next school year.
• Approved the resignation of Melissa Starkey as eighth-grade volleyball coach for 2010-2011.
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