A sliver of federal stimulus money will go to train school councils in San Diego Unified, foreshadowing a move towards decentralizing decisions in the massive school district. It is the second time the school district has tweaked its stimulus spending plans, reflecting disagreement and uncertainty about what are best — and legal — ways to use the money.

San Diego Unified is now opting to also use more than $700,000 out of its $16 million in federal stimulus money earmarked for disadvantaged students to train school site councils, which consist of parents, community members and employees, in school planning. The plan is vague, with details like who will do the training and which schools will be involved still unknown.

This was not a popular idea with the parent group that oversees the federal funds. The group’s leader,David Page , pressed the school district for more oversight of the funds, not more training, when the idea was first introduced to parents.

But Deputy Superintendent Chuck Morris said that it would help San Diego Unified roll out the decentralized mode of making decisions that the new school board majority is pressing for that would give more power to individual schools. Failing to train parents and teachers properly before giving them more power, he hinted, would be disastrous.

Tuesday, the school board approved the idea unanimously. Other stimulus plans have not changed: San Diego Unified is still planning to use the remainder of the funds to create smaller classes in a select group of schools and to expand mentoring programs for high school freshmen.


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