By Denise Dick
The city school district plans to pursue state grant funding to determine whether students are leaving the district because of a lack of transportation.
Treasurer James Reinhard said the district plans to seek two grants from the state’s new Straight A Fund, a $250 million program that promotes programs to help modernize Ohio’s education system.
Districts must notify the state by today of their intent to apply for the grants. Application deadline is Oct. 25. The amounts sought will be included in the applications.
Reinhard said the transportation study is to determine if transportation is a factor in students leaving the district and “look at additional cost if more kids are transported.”
For years Superintendent Connie Hathorn has said he believes many parents choose to send their children to charter schools rather than city schools because the children can get transported to the charter schools but not to city schools.
State law requires school districts to transport only kindergarten through eighth-grade students to a district school if they live more than a mile from that school. It requires those same districts to transport students to charter and community schools.
Hathorn has said that he believes some parents pick a charter school so their child gets transported to school.
Reinhard said the district is seeking another grant from the Straight A fund to examine district business processes to find out if more efficient methods could be implemented.
The Straight A Fund is a new program this year.
“Sometimes in Columbus and Washington, we make prescriptions for what local schools and teachers should do to achieve success, when really we should be focusing on student outcomes and empowering schools to do what they need to do to get those outcomes,” Richard A. Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a news release. “The Straight A Fund does that.”
The fund is intended to allow educators to raise student achievement, reduce spending and target more resources to the classroom.
Other Mahoning Valley districts are working collaboratively to seek grant funding.
In Trumbull County, 19 school districts, led by Liberty and Howland, are seeking money for a reading program focused on elementary grades. Pam McCurdy of Liberty schools said the effort includes professional development as well as programs for students.
“It will support the third- grade reading guarantee,” said Liberty Superintendent Stan Watson.
The Mahoning County Educational Service Center is seeking grants on behalf of a consortium of all schools in the county.
Ron Iarussi, MCESC superintendent, said one of the grants deals with transportation and the other is blended learning.
“There’s been a lot of discussion across the state about transportation,” he said. “There’s been a lot of discussion about regional transportation. Three or four school districts are looking at the possibility of shared responsibility whether its administration or substitute drivers or transportation to out-of-district nonpublics.”
Iarussi said availability of substitute drivers has been an issue.
“Blended learning is a mixture of online courses and traditional classrooms,” he said.
One of most important skills right now is how to find information using technology, Iarussi said.
“One of the barriers or obstacles we have is that not every kid has the same access to technology,” he said.
Struthers, Austintown and Boardman are seeking funding for the formation of a radio and television broadcasting group. Boardman and Austintown both operate TV stations while Struthers has a radio station.
Linda Ross, Boardman’s director of instruction, said the plan calls for an online student-produced digital film network.
Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca said his district will also pursue a grant for teacher professional development and technology. One potential use is allowing teachers to Skype with the Bio-Med Science Academy, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics high school on the campus of Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown.