07/19/10 — Officials allocate first part of GHS grant

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Officials allocate first part of GHS grant

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 19, 2010 1:46 PM

School officials are contemplating ways to divide up the nearly $2.9 million in grant funding recently awarded to Goldsboro High School over the next three years.

The state portion of stimulus money is less than anticipated -- the original application was for $6 million -- but will target graduation rates and enhance staff development and summer school at GHS.

Twenty-five schools in 19 districts will share more than $65.4 million federal School Improvement Grant funding designed to improve student achievement.

The formula identified the bottom 5 percent of the state's consistently lowest-achieving schools and those having a graduation rate of less than 60 percent.

Goldsboro High School's graduation rate, while up this year -- 53.7 percent from 44.7 percent the previous year -- was still below the targeted rate.

Based on all the grant applications that were turned in, the school had the potential to see the best results, said Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

GHS is one of 18 schools that will implement the Transformation Model, which centers around instituting comprehensive reform strategies, increasing learning time and providing sustained support.

More specifically, that translates to adding 30 minutes to the school day for students, funding more staff positions and enhancing technology.

At the outset, officials proposed teachers work on a year-round schedule and add five student days to the school year. When the funding came in at less than anticipated, though, both suggestions fell by the wayside.

Instead, Mrs. McCullen said, teachers will work nine extra days, starting the school year ahead of their peers -- on Aug. 9 -- and the school day will be extended by a half-hour.

Officials met recently to discuss distribution of the $2,886,144 million, which will be divided equally at $962,048 per year for the next three years.

Everything is still tentative, Mrs. McCullen said, pending such factors as the renewal contract from America's Choice, the school improvement model that has been in place at the school for the past three years.

"America's Choice personnel will be providing personal development for our teachers on-site, general staff development -- what does good teaching look like in our classroom?" she explained. "It's for all teachers, many of them have had training. It will be a refresher for them. New teachers will have extensive training."

The grant is added to the regular budget for the school and will fund hiring of two instructional coach positions -- math/science and English/language arts -- and one America's Choice design coach, who will work with teachers and counselors.

Considering the average salary for a 10-month employee is $55,000 a year, that will account for a large portion of the funding, she said.

Another portion will go to financial incentives -- a $1,000 sign-on bonus for teachers new to GHS, which is in addition to the $2,000 sign-on bonus for those hired from out of the system.

The school's principal, John Twitty, is currently interviewing staff for the upcoming school year, replenishing the needs particularly in the areas of math teachers and counselors, Mrs. McCullen said.

Extended employment -- the nine extra workdays for teachers -- will account for another estimated $136,250 for the year, she said.

Technology expenses come in around $37,000, for the purchase of wireless laptop mobile computer stations that will be transported from classroom to classroom.

And while summer school was not offered this year, provisions over the next three years will be made for two-week summer intervention programs that will serve about 100 students each year, Mrs. McCullen said.

The district also hopes to reinstate the World View program and ultimately make it accessible for students at the school.

"This (2010-2011) will be used as a planning year for our teachers to get involved in the World View Symposium at UNC-Chapel Hill," Mrs. McCullen said. "Goldsboro High School students were the first ones who went on a World View trip, solely provided by former Board of Education member Bill Kemp."

When first introduced, a teacher and four students from the school took part in the travel program. Participation since has been sporadic, primarily because of financial limitations among students at the school.

Mrs. McCullen said she hopes the opportunity will return but certainly in the meantime, funds can be utilized to support global education and purchase instructional supplies and materials.

Part of the grant criteria includes periodic monitoring, both by the state and federal administrators of the funds.

Mrs. McCullen said she sees the potential for GHS to improve and reach a higher level of proficiency and raise the graduation rate.

"There's an enthusiasm for change at the school under Mr. Twitty's leadership, and we're seeing with the faculty and students to continue what has been done in the past with their successes," she said. "We know the emphasis on literacy and math computation will be emphasized more than ever so that our students will be prepared to go out into the world of work ready for the 21st century."

Hopefully, the community will also become more involved, as many did during the past year.

"Even with students at Goldsboro High School, (Wayne County Public Schools is) above average with the graduation rate," she said. "When you look at the system, there's lots of ways to compare data -- I always look at it student by student. We want every child to be successful in whatever their goals might be. ... We want them prepared to go to work, to go to college, to go into the military and whatever their goals are and to help them to be fulfilled.

"I think the word is that these opportunities are going to give GHS students more resources than ever to see the world around them and it's there for them if they choose to participate."

Parental involvement is also critical, she noted. Parents and guardians, as well as the public, need to be aware of what's going on in the schools and to avail themselves to help students reach their potential.

"I'm excited because this gives us an opportunity to not only focus on athletics but academics," she said. "We want our students to be as competitive about academics as they are about athletics."

While the grant funding may be less than hoped, it is still providing the school with additional resources.

"We're not stopping anything," said Mrs. McCullen, who hinted that the district hopes to add specialized academies at GHS in the future. Those are currently in the planning stages, she said.