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Proper use of student funds is discussed

Should student funds be used to pay the salaries or stipends of adults needed for various school activities, including modified sports or staging a play?

That question was posed to the Akron Central Board of Education on Wednesday by interim Superintendent Dennis Ford.

He said he wanted the board's opinion because recent voluntary support for restoring some activities that had been cut from the 2011-12 school budget "has sparked another discussion of restarting things with student funds."

Allowing the use of money from student funds, which are audited by the district but controlled by the students, Ford said, is a different issue from the recent fundraising by a group of parents to restore the cheerleading program.

Also Wednesday, the board accepted an anonymous donation of $6,000 to restore modified lacrosse.

Items cut from this year's budget included modified sports, a number of clubs and the middle school play.

Cynthia Tretter, district business administrator/treasurer, said the district's auditing firm has cautioned that using student funds to pay salaries or stipends "which are contractual" could be a "slippery slope."

Board president Daniel Caprio asked Ford to check if other school districts in the state "are dealing with this" and to get a legal opinion on the issue. Ford said he would have the information for the board meeting Sept. 28.

In other business, the board heard a request from several parents for an online "parent portal," which they said would be a communication tool between parents and students that could lead to better study habits and grades.

Many school districts have a parent portal -- accessed by a parent with a protected password -- where they can view teachers' postings of assignments, scores and grades, and more.

Middle school principal Anthony Panella said the teachers union "initiated exploring the parent portal" last fall, and a committee met over the summer to discuss "a voluntary launch."

Panella said a letter would be going out Monday to district parents explaining several things, including how it works, how to access it and how to create a password. The portal would be accessed through the district's website.

The board also approved a civil service position for a year-round, permanent, full-time senior clerk typist at 7.5 hours daily during the school year and six hours during the summer. The post is one of several cut from this year's budget that could be restored either with a surplus at the end of 2010-11 or by reallocating funds from other accounts.

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