Federal grants will help immigrant-rich school districts train more English language instructors

When nearly half the students in a school can’t speak English, every teacher becomes a language instructor to some extent.

Recognizing that reality, federal grants will help Missouri public school districts and local universities to train more teachers to be help those students in the classroom.

Bayless School District in south St. Louis County has long been home to a large immigrant population — first Bosnians in the mid-1990s and now newer waves of refugees. But the district has struggled to find qualified English instructors.

“You’re working at Bayless, you know you’re working with immigrant families,” said University of Missouri-Columbia professor Lisa Dorner, who is a faculty member working on the project.

Bayless is one four districts that will take advantage of a $2.6 million Department of Education grant through the University of Missouri System. Webster University won a $2.7 million federal grant last month to run a similar effort with St. Louis Public Schools, Ritenour and Parkway school districts.

Nearly half of Bayless’ students don’t speak English at home, according Kelly Klocke, Bayless’ director of English language learning. And she said just over a third of Bayless students receive English language services.

Bayless has eight full-time English instructors for its roughly 1,600 total students. Finding those teachers has been difficult, Klocke said.

“There is a definite need and a shortage of them,” she said.

Right now, students with some ability to speak English generally are pulled from their regular classrooms for addition instruction. Klocke said if classroom teachers can work with students who aren’t proficient in English, then their educational experience will improve.

“Our kids will have an opportunity to access the general curriculum all day long, by being supported in their speaking and in their listening and in their reading and their writing,” she said.

Under the UM System grant, 50 teachers will earn certificates to teach English over the next five years. Webster University will train 120 more instructors. Coursework will be done online, but teachers will also receive in-person mentoring.

To fill the past two openings, the Bayless district has had to hire from outside the St. Louis area. Klocke hopes to send 10 to 12 teachers through the certificate program. She said Bayless’ faculty is interested.

In the 2016-17 school year, St. Louis Public Schools gained 700 English language learners. That brings the district’s total enrollment of non-native English speakers to 2,700 of its total of 22,500 students, according to Alla Gonzalez Del Castillo, SLPS’ English language learning director.

Carthage R-9, Columbia and Kansas City Public Schools are the other partners in the UM System program.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Column: We need to help Tampa Bay college applicants so they don’t give up $15 million in Pell grants again for …

More and more often, employers are looking for candidates with higher education degrees or specialized credentials. But as these education needs are increasing, so are financial barriers.

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The Lumina Foundation, a nationwide funder of college attainment initiatives, predicts that by 2025, a short eight years away, 60 percent of working-age adults (25-64) will need a college degree and/or a postsecondary credential to meet projected workforce demands.

This goal for 2025 is achievable in Tampa Bay — both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are at approximately 47 percent — but as a region we still have many residents that don’t know how to take advantage of the resources available. One such resource, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, will be important if Tampa Bay is to reach that 60 percent target.

For example, during the 2015-16 school year, students in those two counties who failed to fill out their FAFSA form left more than $15 million in federal Pell Grants unused. That’s more than $15 million in higher education money that would have been given to deserving students — no repayment required.

FAFSA, which opened its application period Oct. 1, is more than a financial aid system for those in low-income households. It is the gateway for scholarships and financial support, no matter your socioeconomic standing, as colleges use the information to help drive decisions on which students receive their local aid. Not only is FAFSA available to students transitioning from high school to college, it also enables working-age adults to find resources that may help them go back to school to complete their degrees.

We are both part of LEAP, Tampa Bay’s College Access Network, which promotes college access and completion across our region. We’re comprised of partners that represent the business, government, nonprofit and education sectors in Tampa Bay, including Bank of America and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

One of several initiatives we are undertaking is to increase our students’ FAFSA completion rates across our schools. A work team has designed an annual FASFA completion strategy, leveraging college and career counselors, community and funding partners, parent volunteers and local college and university financial aid experts. Since tax form information is an important input to FASFA applications, community partners offering free tax preparation services have also supported our efforts to provide FAFSA counseling.

By focusing on more students successfully applying for financial aid with the FAFSA form, LEAP expects to see an increase in students attending postsecondary institutions, not to mention more successfully completing their studies when financial barriers are removed.

In addition to our work with students at school, we strive to empower adults looking to advance their careers to go back to school. For example, in Hillsborough County alone there are about 181,000 people who have some college credits but no degree. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement as part of their benefits package. Bank of America reimburses eligible employees up to $5,250 for job-related courses or to fulfill a job-related degree program. Financial aid, accessible with a FAFSA application, can often fill any gaps.

Because education and training bring success and stability for individuals and our community, Florida cannot afford to leave so many education dollars on the table. We must find more ways to bring limited resources together to remove barriers for students and get them ready for Tampa Bay’s 2025 workforce.

Marlene Spalten is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. Bill Goede is Tampa Bay president for Bank of America.

GVSU receives federal grant to support degree-seeking veterans

By Theresa Mueller
| 10/18/17 10:06pm

911_RGB01

GVL / Emily Frye Servicemen Calvin Crandell and James Vannette standing their ground in front of the American flag in the center of Allendale’s campus on Sep. 11th.

Grand Valley State University will be expanding its services for veteran students with the formation of Veterans Upward Bound (VUB), a federally funded TRIO program. GVSU received a $1.3 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund the development of VUB.

Funds for VUB will enable low-income veterans seeking to complete degree programs at GVSU to receive free services.

The Division of Inclusion and Equity submitted an application for the federal grant to the Department of Education this past June. Despite the competitive process, the university received notice for the award in late September. 

Currently, GVSU’s Division of Inclusion and Equity provides services to students through the Veteran Network program. 

“The Division of Inclusion and Equity strives to continually extend our efforts to advance the educational pipeline for veterans,” said Kathleen VanderVeen, assistant vice president for equity, planning and compliance, and ADA officer, via email. “Our objectives are to improve veteran readiness for post-secondary opportunities, improve admittance to post-secondary programs and improve graduation rates for the veterans who enter these institutions.” 

GVSU’s Veteran Network program is a campus resource that supports veterans, active service members and dependents in transition from military to student roles. The federal grant enables the university to extend its services to veteran students in the community through VUB.

“VUB is designed to motivate and assist veterans in the development of academic skills necessary for acceptance and success in the development of post-secondary education,” VanderVeen said. 

The grant will provide GVSU the opportunity to develop a dedicated staff and provide free academic support services annually for five years to 125 pre-college veterans from Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties.

“I am thrilled that West Michigan, in particular Grand Valley State University, is going to be able to provide these kinds of resources for the individuals who served our country,” VanderVeen said. “This grant is going to make a difference in the lives of many veterans.”   

The process for finding a director for VUB is underway. Once that role is filled, the recruitment process for program participants will follow. The majority of the effort to establish the new veterans’ education program has been fulfilled by the Division of Inclusion and Equity, but other members of the GVSU community have shown their support as well. 

As a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, GVSU President Thomas Haas is passionate about the university’s outreach to veterans in the community. He sees VUB as an opportunity for GVSU to “serve those who serve us.”

“I will give my full support and let our great staff figure out the right pathway (for veterans),” Haas said.

K-12 Policy Updates: Mandatory Fall Reading for Every Education Entrepreneur

Last week, the Department of Education (ED) published Secretary Betsy DeVos’s “proposed priorities and definitions” in the Federal Register. The document, which is open for public comment until mid-November, lays out her vision for American education, and the requirements and priorities that ED will apply to all competitive funding going forward.

It’s a document that will serve as a road map for state and local education policy for the next four years (at least), so it’s worth reading. But we know that not everyone has time to dig through a 10-page government funding update. So we’ve paired our review of the document with the latest edition of Whiteboard Advisor’s Education Insider report, which surveys Congressional and Administration staff, association leaders, and other decision-makers about what’s next for education policy.

Here are the top three policy updates with big implications for K-12 education entrepreneurs this fall.

1. Your Program Has to Address New ‘Evidence-Based’ Requirements

By now, you’ve likely heard that “evidence-based” programming is critical to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and maybe have read ED’s guidance here. At its simplest, a school or district may use School Improvement funds only for activities, strategies, and interventions that meet the law’s rigorous research and outcomes standards.

ED’s proposed priorities would extend the “evidence-based” requirement to also include competitive grants. All 11 of ED’s grant priorities are “designed to encourage grantees to utilize and build evidence of what works,” and the Department explicitly says that future grants will support approaches “supported by evidence of positive outcomes for students” and avoid “those that are inefficient, ineffective, or unproven.”

To be considered effective, a program must show a statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes or other relevant outcomes based on:

  1. strong evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented experimental study;
  2. moderate evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental study; or
  3. promising evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection bias.

In our last survey, we asked Insiders whether states and districts would take this a step further and embed this new federal standard into their own program funding requirements. Eighty-two percent of respondents said “Yes,” and there is increasing evidence to back their position.

Arizona, for instance, recently revised its Move on When Reading grant to require districts to only use programs that can meet the federal standards. Districts like the Dysart Unified School District (Ariz.), Trenton (N.J.) and othershave also begun to orientate their procurement around the new standards. The evidence-based standards give states and districts new negotiating leverage, and it appears that they are going to use it.

2. Teacher Professional Development Funding Must Also Show the Evidence

The Trump Administration asked Congress to eliminate more than $2 billion in teacher professional development funding for fiscal year 2018, arguing that those funds are ineffective. They will likely make a similar argument the following year.

And yet Secretary DeVos’s proposed priorities do not follow suit. Rather, the importance of professional development is emphasized throughout the document. In particular, ED makes it clear that such support is necessary for the effective use of technology in the classroom, which can “help reduce the inequalities in learning and achievement and better prepare students for careers of tomorrow.”

Notwithstanding the politics of annual appropriations, this document clarifies that ED is interested in increasing the number of educators adequately prepared to deliver rigorous instruction in STEM fields—including computer science—through evidence-based training.

Despite Trump’s proposed cuts, Insiders also predict that Congress will continue the $2 billion annual investment in teacher training. Seventy-five percent of Insiders expect that ESSA Title II teacher professional development funding will remain about the same. No Insider predicted a total elimination of funding—or an increase.

The Senate appropriations committee recently voted to continue the investment, ignoring the President’s request and balancing out the House’s vote to eliminate the program. The conventional wisdom is with the Insiders, that the program will carry on for another year.

While it looks like districts and their vendors will not likely have to engage in a $2 billion belt-tightening exercise next year, that’s not an invitation to rest easy. The aforementioned “evidence-based” requirement and the House’s proposed elimination of the program make it clear that grantees and vendors better start start telling more compelling, evidence-based stories about the success of their programs—or face the possibility of elimination in future years.

3. State and Local Improvement Plans and Enforcement Will Matter Most

Back in the No Child Left Behind era, the federal government set clear lines for student academic proficiency, school accountability, and interventions for schools that weren’t hitting their marks. ESSA changes that by ushering in a new era of school accountability that grants discretion to state and local leaders, letting them identify their own unique challenges and design responsive school improvement models.

What this policy looks like in practice is beginning to emerge through the state plan approval process now underway. To date, ED has approved 16 of the 17 plans submitted in April; another 34 states submitted their plans in September (excluding those with hurricane exceptions).

This new era in accountability shifts the importance away from “what” a school is doing to be in compliance, and towards “how.” The letter of the law is less important than the outcomes (and the evidence of those outcomes), and this shift is evident throughout the Secretary’s “proposed priorities.” For example, the proposal frequently clarifies that ED will focus less on discrete funding streams and more on innovative problem-solving; increase its focus on outcomes while decreasing the emphasis on compliance; and reward the meeting of performance objectives over the manner of compliance. These themes come through loud and clear.

The Insiders enforce the point: half of them expect that there will be little federal enforcement of state accountability plans. As one respondent put it: “ED will …leave states alone for a while.”

This matters because it will increase the amount of homework for the sales and support teams. Local and regional teams will have to learn about the unique priorities, accountability models, and enforcement methods (and resulting changes in school purchasing behavior) of each state and district. National shortcuts, like NCLB’s “adequate yearly progress,” are a thing of the past, so plan on carving out more reading time every week.

Don’t be lulled into inattentive boredom by the regulatory documents and language. ED’s proposed priorities notice is worth your time. It provides the roadmap for federal and state policy discussions in the coming years, and there is plenty to distill. For this fall, though, the three issues identified above should be on the top of your list.

David DeSchryver (@ddeschryver) is Senior Vice President and Co-Director of Research at Whiteboard Advisor, where Ben Watsky is Chief of Staff

OSDE awarded $2.3 million federal grant to increase number of underserved students in gifted, talented programs

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department of Education has been awarded a $2.3 million, five-year grant to identify, serve and support gifted and talented students with disabilities and those from minority, economically disadvantaged and English learner populations.

The Oklahoma Young Scholars Project, made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Education, will serve nearly 6,000 elementary school students in four school districts: Ardmore, Duncan, Guymon and Tahlequah. Districts were selected based on socioeconomic data, poverty rate and low rates of gifted/talented participation in elementary schools.

Oklahoma was one of 12 recipients of the grant, a part of the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program. In addition to an emphasis on identifying gifted and talented students in early elementary grades, the grant will fund professional development for teachers, resources to increase parent engagement and summer enrichment opportunities for students. Instructional resources will be developed and implemented in participating schools, then shared with teachers statewide.

“All children should have the opportunity to build their natural gifts into extraordinary talents. By recognizing those gifts early, we can help historically under-identified student groups reach their potential,” said Joy Hofmeister, state superintendent of public instruction. “This grant will enable us to ensure gifted and talented programs are available to exceptional learners regardless of their background.”

Increasing identification of gifted and talented students from every student group is one of six key initiatives of Oklahoma Edge, OSDE’s 8 Year Strategic plan to provide Oklahoma students with a competitive edge in their postsecondary path to college or career. 

“Educating kids is my passion”

Advocating for public schools is high on Brandon Mowinkel’s list of priorities.

As principal of Milford High School, Mowinkel wants to ensure that Milford’s story and those of other Nebraska schools are being heard by lawmakers on both the state and federal levels.

“Educating kids is my passion,” Mowinkel said. “Regardless of if you think your message is being heard or not, you need to keep advocating. If you stop, they think you don’t care.”

Mowinkel went to Washington, D.C., at the end of September and spent a day on Capitol Hill, meeting with Nebraska Sens. Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry.

The trip was Mowinkel’s fourth to D.C. in the last 15 months. This particular one was for the State Principals of the Year conference and awards ceremony.

“It’s always great to have Nebraska’s educators stop by Capitol Hill,” Sasse said, “but it’s a special honor when it’s Nebraska’s Principal of the Year. Milford should be very proud that Brandon represents their community and school so well.”

Principal of the Year

Mowinkel found out in March that he was the 2017-18 Nebraska High School Principal of the Year as chosen by the Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals.

“This was the culminating activity,” he said.

Top principals from 47 U.S. states attended the ceremony, as well as one from Ramstein, Germany, who was recognized by the Department of Defense.

A local award ceremony will be held in Nebraska in December.

More important than the awards, Mowinkel said, was the chance to speak with lawmakers about the best interests of public schools.

The principals spent time in professional development activities, learning about what it means to advocate, putting together talking points and learning about etiquette for meeting government officials.

They also talked about building culture within a school system, exchanged ideas and asked questions of other state principals.

Best interests at heart

Advocacy may sound simple.

“It’s ensuring strong public schools, which we have, and telling our stories about how policy influences what we do in our buildings,” Mowinkel said.

But it can get complicated, too.

Mowinkel said his main talking points focused on special education funding, career and technical education and Title IIA funding.

He said special education funding starts at the federal level with how much is allocated to each state. Then, the states divide it by school district.

“It’s the most crucial for a group of students that needs it to succeed, whether that’s offering it through classroom skills or things like Project Search,” Mowinkel said. “Telling our stories is the big part of it, trying to tie in specific policies and how they would impact us at a local level.”

Mowinkel said he only had a few minutes with each lawmaker, but he spent more time working with their aides to get his points across. He said sometimes lawmakers aren’t always aware of the issues that impact schools.

“Any time you bring up Title IIA, even people in D.C. always say ‘What does IIA mean?’” he said.

Title IIA is a specific line in the federal budget that allows professional development funding for teachers and principals.

Mowinkel said President Donald Trump cut Title IIA funding in his initial budget proposal.

Speaking with purpose

Advocating for public schools has been Mowinkel’s mission on his previous three trips to D.C. through the NSASSP, as well, and not just for Milford.

“We’re there to advocate on behalf of all schools in the state of Nebraska,” he said. “We always try to put a personal touch on our stories and the great things we’re doing in our schools. I talked about the uniqueness of having robotics, screen printing and broadcasting, and our state testing scores, that are positive aspects of what you’re doing that lawmakers don’t always see.”

He said he was glad this was not his first experience on Capitol Hill.

“It can be overwhelming. The hill is an amazing place, and it’s hard to stand there and not be awe of what takes place in this tiny little area in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Everything that impacts us here (in Nebraska) happens there.”

Mowinkel has been a school administrator for 11 years. He said he never thought he would have the opportunity to advocate for his students like he does, and he is thankful for the chance to tell Milford’s story in a way that counts.

“I’ve found out how important it is,” he said. “I have three kids of my own, and I want them to have the best education possible. We want to be able to tell our story in a way that represents who we are. You hope your message is being heard.”

Education dollars: $3m in jeopardy after audit

By DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau


October 16. 2017 10:02PM


CONCORD — The federal government is not happy with how New Hampshire accounted for millions in educational grants since 2014, and could demand that some of the money be repaid, depending on the result of an audit to be conducted early next year.

“Our estimate is that a little more than $3 million is at risk,” Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut said. “Obviously we know a good bit of that was spent correctly, but can we substantiate that? We don’t know what will be clawed back or not clawed back.”

The programs in question support low-income families, English learners and disabled students through portions of education law known as Title I, Title II and Title III.

In 2017, those three programs, along with School Improvement Grants, brought nearly $55 million to local school districts, with 1 percent allowed for administration at the state level.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued new guidance on how state education officials should account for the distribution of federal education dollars to local school districts. Several states, including New Hampshire, were audited to determine how they were complying.

The review concluded that the state did not adequately monitor federally funded programs at the local level or have accounting systems in place to ensure compliance with federal requirements by local school districts.

“This lack of fiscal oversight creates a significant risk that (local school districts) could mismanage federal programs, resulting in potential unallowable expenditures or instances of waste, fraud, or abuse,” according to the “Pilot Fiscal Review” from the federal Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The report was presented to the state Department of Education in July but not publicly released until late September. The state has until Oct. 18 to respond with a plan that addresses the most serious concerns.

Could prove costly

The practice that could prove most costly to the state is the method that was used to calculate how much of the federal money could be used to pay personnel in the Department of Education for administration of the grants.

The department determined a fixed amount from each grant for administration in its annual budget, and deducted the funds accordingly, in violation of the federal guidelines.

“Part of this uniform guidance clearly established that all personnel expenditures must be supported by records that accurately reflect the work performed,” said Edelblut. “It clearly says that budget estimates alone do not support the charges.”

Each pay period, NHDOE would allocate the total salary charged for each employee to individual programs according to the pre-determined percentages, with no after-the-fact evaluation as to whether the charges accurately reflected the actual time worked by the employee on activities related to any single program.

Edelblut, a CPA with extensive background in financial management, has since changed the accounting method.

“Employees now keep track of the hours they work on programs; we charge the programs for the level of effort expended; and we support that with the underlying documentation for the time claimed,” he said.

Claw back coming?

That’s going to depend in large part on an independent audit of the expenditures from fiscal years 2014-16 that the state is required to do as a result of the federal findings.

The accounting firm of KPMG has been retained and is expected to launch the $25,000 financial review some time after it completes the audit of the state fiscal year due by the end of December.

Gov. Chris Sununu said he found the results of the Pilot Review “disappointing and troubling.”

“I appreciate the work the commissioner and his departments have done to respond to the action steps, as well as their efforts to ensure that systems are in place to achieve compliance going forward,” he said in a statement.

dsolomon@unionleader.com

Education
State Government

Normandale Community College receives federal grant

The Normandale Community College World Languages Department received a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The $118,037 grant, awarded through the department’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program, is for the Accessible Global Immersion Learning Experiences project. The project will allow Normandale faculty to develop courses in Senegal, Costa Rica and China that are designed to maximize the impact of the study abroad experience on student learning.

Faculty members will develop relationships with institutions in the host countries for immersive learning during study abroad and establish ongoing communication with 18 on-campus language courses through telepresence and social media. The new and revised curricula will be designed to increase engagement and the number of students pursuing foreign language studies.

Building on new and revised courses, Normandale will develop an international experience certificate that includes a study abroad course, a foreign language course and two other courses that meet learning outcomes related to intercultural and international studies. This 12-credit certificate will be eligible for financial aid, providing students with additional resources to pursue the credential.

Hennepin County’s teen birth rates decreased last year, but federal cuts will impact programming


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Education dollars: $3m in jeopardy after audit

By DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau


October 16. 2017 10:02PM


CONCORD — The federal government is not happy with how New Hampshire accounted for millions in educational grants since 2014, and could demand that some of the money be repaid, depending on the result of an audit to be conducted early next year.

“Our estimate is that a little more than $3 million is at risk,” Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut said. “Obviously we know a good bit of that was spent correctly, but can we substantiate that? We don’t know what will be clawed back or not clawed back.”

The programs in question support low-income families, English learners and disabled students through portions of education law known as Title I, Title II and Title III.

In 2017, those three programs, along with School Improvement Grants, brought nearly $55 million to local school districts, with 1 percent allowed for administration at the state level.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued new guidance on how state education officials should account for the distribution of federal education dollars to local school districts. Several states, including New Hampshire, were audited to determine how they were complying.

The review concluded that the state did not adequately monitor federally funded programs at the local level or have accounting systems in place to ensure compliance with federal requirements by local school districts.

“This lack of fiscal oversight creates a significant risk that (local school districts) could mismanage federal programs, resulting in potential unallowable expenditures or instances of waste, fraud, or abuse,” according to the “Pilot Fiscal Review” from the federal Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The report was presented to the state Department of Education in July but not publicly released until late September. The state has until Oct. 18 to respond with a plan that addresses the most serious concerns.

Could prove costly

The practice that could prove most costly to the state is the method that was used to calculate how much of the federal money could be used to pay personnel in the Department of Education for administration of the grants.

The department determined a fixed amount from each grant for administration in its annual budget, and deducted the funds accordingly, in violation of the federal guidelines.

“Part of this uniform guidance clearly established that all personnel expenditures must be supported by records that accurately reflect the work performed,” said Edelblut. “It clearly says that budget estimates alone do not support the charges.”

Each pay period, NHDOE would allocate the total salary charged for each employee to individual programs according to the pre-determined percentages, with no after-the-fact evaluation as to whether the charges accurately reflected the actual time worked by the employee on activities related to any single program.

Edelblut, a CPA with extensive background in financial management, has since changed the accounting method.

“Employees now keep track of the hours they work on programs; we charge the programs for the level of effort expended; and we support that with the underlying documentation for the time claimed,” he said.

Claw back coming?

That’s going to depend in large part on an independent audit of the expenditures from fiscal years 2014-16 that the state is required to do as a result of the federal findings.

The accounting firm of KPMG has been retained and is expected to launch the $25,000 financial review some time after it completes the audit of the state fiscal year due by the end of December.

Gov. Chris Sununu said he found the results of the Pilot Review “disappointing and troubling.”

“I appreciate the work the commissioner and his departments have done to respond to the action steps, as well as their efforts to ensure that systems are in place to achieve compliance going forward,” he said in a statement.

dsolomon@unionleader.com

Education
State Government