MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

December 10, 2012

Districts to pool efforts again

Initial failure to win grant hasn’t discouraged officials

— After their joint application for a $25 million federal grant was denied, area school officials plan to work together on future grants.

Seven area school districts joined to seek a grant through Race to the Top-District, a federal program focused to help graduates be ready for college and careers. The districts were Braggs, Fort Gibson, Hilldale, Okay, Oktaha, Sequoyah and Wainwright.

However, the group was not among 61 grant finalists announced by the U.S. Department of Education. No applicants from Oklahoma were among the finalists.

“We’re disappointed because many hours went into this,” said Fort Gibson Superintendent Derald Glover, who helped lead the group effort. “When you have so many schools applying for the program, you’re going to get competition.”

Glover said he expects the schools to work together to reapply for the grant in its next cycle, or maybe apply for other types of grants.

“Hopefully we will get a leg-up next time,” he said. “Potentially, we have a collaborative plan of working together. It’s more appealing in the grant process.”

Districts involved in the joint application said they benefited from working together.

“The information we gathered by working together will not go away,” said Oktaha Superintendent Jerry Needham. “We got information on student bodies, scores. It’s information we can use on further endeavors. Are we disappointed about not getting the grant? Yes. Are we through? No.”

Fort Gibson Board of Education member Larry Sand, who helped with the group’s application, said the application sought money for a Teacher Leadership Evaluation academy, a Reach Up effort to help low-performing students, improved monitoring and improved data systems. Sand said the seven districts also sought funding to improve programs in science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Hilldale Superintendent Dr. Kaolin Coody said not being among the finalists was unfortunate.

“We knew it was a long shot,” Coody said.

A media release from the U.S. Department of Education said the 61 finalists were selected from 372 applications in November. Applications were randomly assigned to three-person panels who independently read and scored each application. The Department of Education rearranged the application in rank order from high to low scores, then decided which were the strongest competitors.

Among the other Oklahoma grant applications was a group effort of 44 school districts from all parts of the state, including Porter, Beggs and Stilwell school districts. Other Oklahoma grant applications were from Oklahoma City, Lawton and Western Heights public schools and a joint application from Purcell and Noble public schools.

The U.S. Department of Education expects to select 15 to 25 winning applications for four-year awards ranging from $5 million to $40 million. The announcement is due before the end of the year.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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