WARREN SCHOOLS Confusion causes officials to reconsider plan
The district could pursue the KnowledgeWorks grant again in the future.
By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Concerns of confusion and deadlines led school officials to rethink pursuing a grant to convert to smaller schools, though they've not abandoned the project altogether.
A grant-writing team from the schools was working to meet an Aug. 4 deadline for a grant from the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation to convert to four smaller schools. Youngstown schools received a similar grant in May, but Warren's funding request was denied then.
William E. Mullane, principal of Warren G. Harding High School, said confusion among staff and community members between the Ohio High School Transformation Initiative and work related to the Ohio Schools Facility Commission's process for building new schools led team members to rethink their efforts for now.
"The terms were confused in people's minds," he said. "They are two projects that have nothing to do with one another."
The OHSTI initiative is a plan to turn larger, more impersonal inner-city high schools into smaller, more personalized ones. The Warren plan focuses on how smaller learning communities will help improve attendance, performance, graduation rates and more.
The OSFC's Classroom Assistance Program provides money to districts to help renovate and construct school buildings and awarded funding earlier this year to the local district.
Warren's plan calls for construction of five kindergarten through eighth-grade buildings and a high school, as well as the demolition of 13 elementary, three middle and the existing high school.
The estimated cost is nearly $170 million, with the state kicking in 81 percent. The Warren board of education is expected to borrow its share through a bond issue that will likely show up on the November ballot.
Mullane said team members were concerned the confusion between the projects might be detrimental to the bond issue.
Mullane said the team was also concerned about funding for the OHSTI plan. If approved, the district would receive a three-year grant, and is expected to provide matching funds of $100 per student. With the state of school financing so uncertain, Mullane said, it would be hard for local officials to make the commitment to pick up the tab and continue the program when the grant runs out.
"It's just so hard to do that in this climate, especially when we have 23 teachers who have not been called back yet," he said.
Despite the decision to not pursue the grant now, Mullane said the team will immediately begin meeting to seek alternative funding sources, as well as concentrate on what areas of the program can be implemented now, such as mentorship.
The district could decide to apply for the KnowledgeWorks funding in the future, he added.