Sophomore students at Graham High School study for an exam in English class in April. Bill Lackey/Staff

U.S. Department of Education leaders to visit Graham schools

The deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and the department’s rural school adviser will tour Graham Local Schools on Wednesday.

Deputy Secretary Dennis Bega and adviser Michael Chamberlain will tour Graham schools as part of a fact-finding mission about rural school challenges and some innovative ways the schools are trying to teach students.

Bega and Chamberlain are scheduled to visit from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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“We are really looking forward to sharing our Career Gears System and to provide a picture of how a district with a very lean budget is trying to promote STEM education, outdoor education and career paths for all students through our board policies,” Graham Superintendent Kirk Koennecke said.

Career Gears is a program that has been put into the schools to help students graduate with a diploma and a certificate.

“It is extremely important that our friends in Washington see the challenges and needs we experience in rural schools,” Koennecke said. “The unfunded mandates we deal with eat away at meager budgets. Our students and teachers are doing amazing things but with a little more funding assistance, we could take it to another level here.”

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Every school faces challenges, the superintendent said, but rural districts often are left with hard decisions when it comes to budgets.

“Rural schools receive fewer funds for poverty assistance due to our skewed free and reduced lunch numbers,” he said. “We also receive less technical assistance based on our number of students. Many of us deal with large transportation and operations costs, as schools across rural stretches eat up more gas and mileage. Funds and tax breaks to help offset fleet costs and replacement costs that go to businesses should benefit schools and partners as well.”

READ: Graham schools to invest $600K on new transportation facility

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