Spencer schools to benefit from ‘Race to the Top’ funds

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By Mallory Bilger

Spencer County Public Schools will locally benefit from a $40 million award given via the competitive Race to the Top federal grant competition, as the educational cooperative of which it is a part is one of the 16 winners nationwide.
Spencer County Schools is an Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative member. This year, OVEC and the Green River Educational Consortium teamed up and submitted an application hoping to garner funds for the 22 districts making up both consortiums. News came Dec. 11 from the federal government that OVEC and GRREC’s combined application had been selected to receive a portion of the $400 million being offered. According to a U.S. Department of Education news release, the grants were awarded to applicants  “to support locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps and prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers.”
“We are thrilled,” said Dr. Leon Mooneyhan, Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC) CEO. “It was a joint proposal with GRREC, who we had worked together with before. We thought the two of us working together, because the application process is so competitive, would help.”
Spencer County Schools Superintendent Chuck Adams discussed the award briefly at the Board of Education’s December meeting, noting that it was still unclear how much of the $40 million OVEC received, and how that money would affect the district locally. He said any funds received would have to follow strict guidelines and would most likely benefit college and career readiness efforts the most.
The GRREC and OVEC proposal was entitled kid-FRIENDLy, which stands for Kids Focused, Responsible, Imaginative, Engaged and Determined to Learn. It included the four components:
• Students as Leaders: Funds will be used to focus on leadership development, including students building daily goal-setting, teamwork, critical thinking, communication, creativity and problem solving habits.
• Leaders Developing Leadership: This component provides principals’ support in implementing change, improving teacher performance and making data-driven decisions.
• Competency-based Teaching: This component focuses on provided schools support to shift from course completion to standards mastery. The idea is that students will move more fluidly from standard to standard, as opposed grade to grade.
• Personalized Learning for all Students: This component will focus on shifting the places, times and ways students learn. This concept includes online and off-campus work, which an emphasis on students’ learning needs, preferences and responsibility.
According to a Sentinel News article, the majority of the grant money received by OVEC will go toward hiring up to 16 employees to support the above initiatives. The money will be funded over the next four years, according to the article. All the hired personnel will work through the cooperative. Positions being considered include a project manager, student leadership coach, leadership mentor, up to three cognitive coaches, up to six college and career ready counselors and up to four preschool pals.
“We outlined a number of initiatives for all ages, from preschool to college and career ready,” Mooneyhan said. “And a lot of it was research based, like student leadership programs. By developing student leadership, it’s been shown that it enhances a student’s ability to learn.”
Adams said he and the board hoped to soon learn more specifics about how the grant money would benefit schools locally.

— Todd Martin of The Sentinel-News contributed to this report.