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Detroit Lakes Public Schools may go the Q Comp route in Race to the Top hunt

Detroit Lakes Public Schools is angling for more money. The school board approved a letter of agreement with the state Monday night as part of a push to join the federal Race to the Top Initiative.

Race to the Top would inject over $4 billion into the nation's schools, with only 10-15 states expected to get the grants.

Detroit Lakes could get an additional $3.5 million in funding over four years if Minnesota is one of the states selected for Race to the Top.

"Minnesota thought it positioned itself well as a candidate for these dollars," Detroit Lakes Superintendent Doug Froke said.

Minnesota received $250,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help write the RTTT grant to the federal Department of Education.

States will learn if they are selected for RTTT in mid-April.

The catch, other than the federal government selecting Minnesota, is that teachers must join the state Q Comp program that changes the salary structure.

The Q Comp program involves performance-based pay in which a teacher's salary is based on how a student does in class.

"The toughest thing is, how do you fairly assess a teacher?" said Board Member Dr. Thomas Seaworth.

He said that you couldn't hold a teacher accountable for something that happened in a student's home the night before.

Seaworth said that the teachers he has talked to recently aren't interested in the Q Comp concept in regards to teacher evaluation.

Rossman Elementary kindergarten teacher and Education Minnesota-Detroit Lakes representative Denise Kettner said that it's too early to talk of teachers joining Q Comp.

"I think we want to wait and hear if Minnesota is accepted," she said.

Teachers want to be part of the discussion, she said, since RTTT is more than just joining Q Comp. There are issues regarding collective bargaining and teacher licensure.

"Part of it is the fear of the unknown," Seaworth said.

Detroit Lakes would have to join Q Comp by the 2012-13 school year or lose future Race to the Top dollars. The district would not be on the hook for $350,000 in RTTT funding it would receive in the first two years if the teachers don't sign on.

When RTTT first came before the School Board last month, Froke said he wasn't enthused about the program because it's designed around a school district switching to Q Comp.

The state changed its requirement from being Q Comp at the start of the grant to moving the deadline out two years.

Implementing a RTTT plan is estimated to cost over $700,000, which is about the size of the federal grant. The $2.8 million comes from Q Comp funding.

The RTTT initiative requires the district to commit to implementing core national standards, uniform evaluation tools for teachers, data warehousing -- and joining Q Comp.

"I've heard the phrase that we're 85 percent there," Froke estimated of implementing national standards.

Seaworth said that RTTT can help the district and teachers improve the areas they need help on, and do so in a positive manner.

Board Member Cyndi Anderson said that if RTTT is a trend, it's better to join now.

"It's better to help construct it then having it imposed on you afterwards," she said.

In other action, the board:

• Reorganized its leadership for 2010. David Langworthy was named board chair in a special meeting Jan. 4. Barbara Boyle is the vice-chair, Terri Boyd is treasurer and Cyndi Anderson is clerk.

n Business Manager Ted Heisserer said the last payment on the Roosevelt Elementary building will be made in February, paying off a 20-year bond.