A School District officials favor lobbying the Utah Legislature to either reimburse the state's school districts for costs of driver education or drop the program from the schools.

Superintendent Brent Thorne will recommend to Utah School Board Association officials that they spearhead such a lobbying effort.The Sevier District has long complained about state and federally mandated programs that don't provide the money to operate them. This leaves local school boards and administrators to find a way to come up with much of the funding, sometimes having to dip into reserve funds used for other programs.

Thorne said the driver-education program originally called for the state to pay all costs, but the district only receives 30 percent of the necessary funding. "This is another one of those unfunded mandates that didn't turn out the way it was supposed to," he said.

Fee waivers are also a problem because relief isn't forthcoming from the Utah Legislature. "Raising the fee would be untenable since fee waivers would still have to be given," Thorne told the school board.

The superintendent also voiced concern about student truancy, noting that habitual truancy of many 16- and 17 year-old students could mean modifying attendance policies. "We don't have the manpower to track down truant students, but when they really don't want to be in school, it's hard to make them stay," he added.

Thorne wants to explore plans with principals that would put pressure on students to stay in school. "Many don't realize they can't join the military and some can't even get a job that pays a living wage without a high school diploma," he noted.

The district's dropout rate is also affected by students who leave school and then return later to obtain a general education degree, generally after they can officially be counted as regular students.

The superintendent told board members that increased numbers of teachers who earn higher education degrees through a program now available locally would cost the district more money. But he concluded "in terms of the increase in the quality of teaching that will be going on, it will be worth it."

The district is planning to bring a master degree program into the district for language arts teachers who are interested in advancing their preparation. Special Services Director Duane Bresse said accommodating such a program will be simplified because a branch office of the Utah State University outreach services has opened in Richfield.

"Many teachers holding bachelor degrees have also earned credit beyond that point, and these would be the target group for this activity," Bresse said.

It was also announced that Vice Principal Jerald Tolman has resigned at South Sevier High School, returning to full-time teaching. He is being replaced by Craig Mathie, who will receive a $2,000 annual increase in salary.

Administrative restructuring also gives teachers Brent Hafen and Carol Rowley the additional responsibility of working as attendance supervisor and assisting with staff evaluations, respectively. Their salaries will not change.