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SAGE backed by school committee

ELLSWORTH -- Appeals to keep the program were made as the local review committee presented a Student Achievement Guarantee in Education report to the Ellsworth School Board on Monday.

Curriculum and Instruction Director/Hillcrest Elementary School Principal Leona Johnson outlined data the committee analyzed regarding the program, which promotes reduced class sizes in elementary schools through third-grade. Included were:

• State guidelines and the philosophy behind SAGE

• Ellsworth district's current waiver

• The state Department of Public Instruction's response to this year's program in Ellsworth

• Current class numbers and projected numbers for next year

• Budget impacts of keeping SAGE next year

• Projected class sizes without SAGE and average class sizes at area schools

The district will have to be fully compliant with SAGE's student-teacher ratios in 2010-11 to continue receiving funding. The committee will submit a local compliance plan by Feb. 1.

If the district doesn't continue its participation, it can't reapply for SAGE funds in the future, committee members noted. A ratio of one teacher to 15 students is a benefit of continuing.

Regarding enrollment, the committee examined three scenarios: one with SAGE classrooms for next year; one without SAGE, yet keeping class sizes at 22 or fewer students; and one without SAGE, yet with class sizes at 25 or fewer.

Subsidies from the state are expected to be close to $260,000; the SAGE subsidy is $2,250 for each low-income child served.

"SAGE costs the district approximately $100,000 a year," Johnson said, indicating six teachers are available to the program locally.

Supt. Barry Cain suggested proceeding with the Feb. 1 report, which "doesn't commit us to SAGE."

A parent and a teacher spoke about how the program benefits students.

The board took no action.