Section 55. The board of education shall establish a program entitled Recognizing Educational Achievement, hereinafter referred to as REACH. The purpose of REACH shall be to recognize and reward public schools for noteworthy improvement and achievement in a variety of categories consistent with the goals for education established by the board of education. The board shall promulgate regulations for implementation of the program.
Subject to appropriation in fiscal year nineteen hundred and eighty-nine, and in each year thereafter, the board shall award cash grants to elementary schools, secondary schools or to school districts which demonstrate significant improvement in any area of educational achievement, including but not be limited to, the following:
(a) the increase in the percentage of students passing all three sections of the basic skills test;
(b) the maintenance of at least a ninety-five per cent passing rate on all three sections of the basic skills test for no less than two successive years;
(c) the number of students who previously failed any of the basic skills areas but who succeed in passing upon retesting in grades nine through twelve;
(d) the increase, over the previous year, in the percentage of eligible school age children residing in the district and attending the public schools;
(e) the decrease in the school's or the district's dropout rate;
(f) the promotion of physical and emotional well-being and a positive school environment that fosters self-esteem;
(g) the improvement of critical thinking and communication skills;
(h) the recognition of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society;
(i) the cultivation of shared values and mutual respect;
(j) the appreciation of the arts and the encouragement of creative expression;
(k) the understanding of history and the humanities;
(l) the comprehension of mathematics, the sciences, and the uses of technology;
(m) the mastery of foreign languages and interest in foreign cultures;
(n) the development of occupational and vocational skills; and
(o) the stimulation of desire for lifelong learning.
Eligibility for REACH awards shall be defined in regulations for implementation of the program. Said regulations shall include, but not be limited to, provisions to ensure that achievement in one of the foregoing clauses occurs while maintaining appropriate achievement in other such clauses, and provisions to sanction schools or school districts which falsify data or results on which REACH awards are based.
No school shall receive the financial portion of a REACH award in a school district in which (1) the educational portion of local expenditures has declined in any year since fiscal year nineteen hundred and eighty-six, or (2) where any school receiving a REACH award does not receive at least the average per pupil local budget support received by other schools of the same classification and grade level in the district, or (3) where the absolute level of financial support for the public schools in the city, town, or regional school district has decreased. No district shall receive the financial portion of a REACH award if the education portion of local expenditures has declined in any year since fiscal year nineteen hundred and eighty-six. In the case of a school district which fails to meet the aforementioned criteria, the board of education may also consider eligible those schools or districts in which the per pupil educational portion of local expenditures, adjusted for inflation and other factors, has not declined in any year since fiscal year nineteen hundred and eighty-six.
REACH awards shall be in the amounts of not less than twenty-five thousand dollars for an elementary school, fifty thousand dollars for a secondary school, and one hundred thousand dollars for a school district.
Distribution of school awards shall be by the school improvement council for efforts to improve the conditions of learning and teaching and to enhance the educational program, so long as such expenditures do not supplant regular school district expenditures, expenditures from state education programs, and current school operating costs, supplies, utilities, existing building and equipment maintenance, and existing staff salaries and wages. All decisions of the school improvement council regarding the expenditure of awards under this section shall be submitted to the school committee. Said expenditure decision may be vetoed by a majority recorded vote of said school committee. If no such vote is rendered by said committee within thirty days of receipt of said decision, it shall be deemed to be approved. Distribution of district awards shall be proposed by the superintendent and shall be approved by the school committee. REACH awards shall be deposited with the treasurer of the city, town, regional school district or independent vocational school in a separate account to be expended by the school improvement council for school awards or the superintendent for district awards without further appropriation.
Indicators of student outcomes, based on data submitted to the board, shall be the primary determinant for awards under this section. The board may appoint distinguished panels of experts to review candidates and to make recommendations to the board for REACH awards and recognition.