West Sonoma County District wants to reject federal funds to help El Molino High

  • Kaitlyn McClintock, right, and other students make their way to their classes after the lunch period at El Molino High School in Forestville, on Tuesday, December 4, 2012. The student population at the high school has been declining with fewer than 700 students enrolled this year.

    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

The West Sonoma County School District is considering rejecting a slice of federal funds in an effort to free El Molino High School from what officials said is an unfair designation as a struggling campus.

El Molino High School is in Year 2 of Program Improvement sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law, a label that allows students to freely transfer.

That movement has exacerbated an ongoing issue of declining enrollment that has seen El Molino's student population fall from a high of 1,200 in 1998-99 to 672 this year.

Saying no to $135,000 to $150,000 in funds earmarked for socioeconomically disadvantaged students would free El Molino of any penalties under the controversial law.

"It would relieve us from the Program Improvement sanctions immediately, instantly," West Sonoma County School District Superintendent Keller McDonald said. "I believe it's important enough to have a conversation with the board to find those funds within the district budget."

Despite a state academic performance index score of 790, 10 shy of the state goal of 800, El Molino is under Year 2 sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law for failing to have all students subgroups meet academic standards.

That designation allows students to freely transfer across the district to Analy High School despite the fact that this year Analy failed to meet federal benchmarks. Analy met only 10 of 14 targets but will not fall into Program Improvement because it does not receive Title I funds.

While El Molino, a four-time California Distinguished School has gotten dramatically smaller, Analy's enrollment has remained steady and is currently at 1,367.

In 2011-12, about 26 freshmen transferered from El Molino to Analy. One of those students cited Program Improvement as the official reason. This year, 72students made the same move, 58 of whom cited federal sanctions.

<NO1>"<NO><NO1>We are taking the bull by the horns,"<NO><NO1> McDonald said. "<NO><NO1>All the positive energy in this room is a good <NO><NO1>."

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