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Race to the Top grant to target math education

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By Kristin Beck

Carroll County Schools will be one of 22 school districts to receive about $1.6 million over the next four years as a part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant.

The consortium, led by the Green River Region Educational Cooperative and the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, was one of only 16 grant recipients chosen from 372 national submissions to receive the award. “We are very fortunate to be one of those (school districts),” Superintendent Lisa James told the Board of Education at its Jan. 24 meeting. “Although it was the top award in the nation, it’s also the only award that was awarded to rural districts.”

Overall the group will receive $41 million over a four-year period. James said the per district average is $1,623,783.18 for the next four years. “I’m excited because this is the work we were going to do anyway,” she said, “and the good news is that frees up general fund money that we were going to spend on everything else we’re going to do.”

Carroll, Trimble, Owen, Shelby, Spencer and Henry county school districts represent OVEC, while there are 16 school districts in GRREC.

Overall, 112 schools, 59,300 students and 4,000 teachers will benefit from this grant. “This is going to create a huge network, not only locally in our OVEC area, but we will be working alongside those other 16 districts in the GRREC throughout (these) whole next four years,” James said.

The kidFRIENDLy proposal, which stands for “Kids Focused, Responsible, Imaginative, Engaged and Determined to Learn,” focuses on four key components: students as leaders, leaders developing leadership, competency-based instruction and personalized learning for students.

The entire idea behind the grant is college and career readiness, James said, and to make learning more personalized and competency-based for students.

The grant will help students from pre-school through 12th grade. Research shows there is a direct correlation between goal setting and improvement over time, James said. Students will begin to see the relevancy of what they are learning and how it relates to their future careers, starting at the elementary level. In middle school, students will begin to identify and pursue their personal passions, which is where the personalized learning will come in, the superintendent said. In middle and high school, students will begin focusing on career skills and becoming college and career ready.

The grant also will change the leadership in the school system, promoting personalization and competency-based learning in the district, James said. It will help improve teacher performance and will gather data over the next four years to establish a new evaluation system, she said.

Math was identified as an issue across all 22 school districts, James said, so the districts will work with experts from across the nation and internationally for help.

Another focus will be on helping students to master content rather than spending an hour on one concept and then moving on to something else, she said.

As a benefit of the grant, each school district will have a college-career counselor who will spend nine days in the district and one day with GRREC or OVEC for training or collaboration.

Based on her conversations, James said the counselor will begin full time July 1 and will be housed in the College and Career Readiness Center. The location of the center is currently uknown; she said she would likely have more information at next month’s board of education meeting.

Another benefit of the grant is Pre-School Pals. For every two districts, a Pal will work directly with the early childhood center, James said.

Performance-measure goals will be set according to the Race to the Top program for all goals. Each of the 112 schools will undergo an assessment in the next couple of months to identify the culture of the building and the school district to determine its personalized needs, James said.

The superintendent said GRREC will be interviewing for a main coordinator next week and hired by the end of the week.

Training for all the new changes has already been scheduled for the summer, she said, however exact dates have not yet been set.

The school districts will be evaluated throughout the entire process by an outside agency yet to be hired.

Maiden begins term, board recognized

Attorney Jim Crawford swore in Dru Maiden as the newest Carroll County Board of Education member. She will represent District 1, which encompasses Precinct 1 (county garage) and Precinct two (Westside Fire Department).

January is Board of Education Recognition Month, so Superintendent Lisa James presented the members present – Maiden, Mona Kindoll and Mary Ann Pearson – with a plaque. “They have been very supportive to not only this school district, but to myself as superintendent,” she said. She said she appreciates their hard work and all they do in the community.

Members Carolyn Jones and Rob Spenneberg will receive their plaques next month.

2013-14 school board budget presented

Chief Financial Officer Jon Conrad presented the initial phase of the fiscal year 2013-14 Carroll County Schools budget. The state requires each district to have a board review or approval of the budget three times a year, he said.

The 2013-14 budget totals $20,836,000, with $3.474 million or 20 percent contingency. This includes the general fund, capital outlay, debt service and food service. It does not include grant funds, Conrad said, however they will be included in the tentative budget in May.

The school district will receive about $110,000 less in Support Educational Excellence in Kentucky funds next fiscal year, he said. However, it is Carroll County Schools practice to budget 98 percent of the estimated SEEK funds.