For about ten years, I had the great fortune of learning from Dr. Susan Witten, former HLS Director of Teaching and Learning. As my curriculum mentor, Susan taught me much about teaching, learning, and assessment. Some of her greatest wisdom regarded grants and the necessity to be extremely discerning about the grants toward which we aim.
Dr. Witten wisely explained, “We do not chase money (grants) for the sake of chasing free funds.”
A key word in that statement is “free.” No grant money is free. Stipulations attached to the grant are sure to be the strings capable of restricting our district’s pursuit of our goals.
Dr. Witten made this point especially clear by continuing with, “We evaluate each grant opportunity prior to application to determine if it aligns with our district’s operation, need, and mission. This allows us to remain steadfast in our educational path without needing to add unnecessary programs just for the sake of getting monies attached to specific grants."
Competitive Grants Don’t Pay the Bills
One component of my work as Director of Standards and Federal Programs is to work with our treasurer and Director of Teaching and Learning to manage our Comprehensive Continuing Improvement Plan (CCIP) and how we direct our state, federal, and local funding in support of our instructional and academic goals. The CCIP is a unified grants application. Together, the treasurer and I work directly in the CCIP to ensure that we achieve a necessary balance of using our federal, state, and local funding to achieve our district’s goals. Most of our funding comes from the state’s per-pupil foundation formula based on a district’s size and need. Essentially, the treasurer uses the foundation money to pay the bills. The foundation funding, although we operate with the lowest budget in Franklin County, amounts to millions of dollars. Competitive grants, on the other hand, do not pay the bills and often necessitate more spending.
Competitive grants, whether made through application to the state, federal government, or private grantors come with specific designations for how the money must be used and, if not vetted with intentional scrutiny, will change how you can or cannot accomplish the district’s goals. An example may help clarify the point.
In recent years we have strengthened our approach to nonfiction reading as some 70 percent of the reading curriculum, according to the Ohio’s model curricula, is supposed to be devoted to nonfiction reading. If we apply for a grant that gives us $30,000 a year for three years to provide partially for the salary of an additional reading specialist and $10,000 for the one-time purchase of novels of American classic fiction, we would be straying from our educational path. Also, we would need to cover the remaining portion of the salary and benefits. Due to the grant’s sustainability requirement, we would be required to change our five-year financial forecast to reflect how we would keep the additional reading specialist employed after the grant ran out. We may also need to replace damaged or lost books at our cost. What looked like a $30,000 gift actually serves as a serious departure from our mission and costs us money.
Our Recent Grants
Sometimes competitive grants are made easier to secure by virtue of having a talented individual attached to its application. For example, we won two such grants through our work with two outstanding teachers, Jessica Wills and Phil Borkow. Jessica Wills was a George B. Chapman, Jr. Teacher Award for Excellence in Mathematics Education finalist. Phil Borkow was an Arthur S. Holden Teacher Award for Excellence in Science Education finalist. We were able to secure funding for creative projects and honor these two teachers by constructing applications that celebrated their talents and creative projects that enhance our students’ learning. I selected these grants because these teachers’ talents and commitments to their students made them worthy applicants and the thousands of dollars attached to the grant came with stipulations that fit our district goals.
Exceedingly rare is participation in a competitive grant that results in the ability to offset a person’s salary, but that is exactly what we have been able to do by joining and winning an i3 Innovation in Education grant with Columbus State Community College. The i3 grant provides Hamilton Local hundreds of thousands of dollars for personnel, goods, services, and professional development for our teachers, counselors, principals, and district administrators over a few years. Working with Columbus State, I secured $45,000 a year to come to Hamilton Local for my service as our district’s i3 Grant District Coordinator. While I also serve on the i3 cabinet and the executive cabinet for the i3 Grant, I have taken on this role in addition to my duties as Director of Standards and Federal Programs because it directly benefits our students’ ability to participate in College Credit Plus and it develops our Ranger Pathways Program which creates workforce credential opportunities for our students to secure immediate employment after graduation. This doubling up of my roles for the district and i3 saves the district $45,000 a year.
To the school and community I love, I commit to not chasing money that risks compromising Hamilton's goals and success. Further, I will continue to work with our treasurer to ensure that we are devoting as much funding as possible to our students’ learning success. While competitive grants always will be considered, our potential for greatest success in securing additional funding is through the community partners who can contribute to our curriculum and improve the financial success our students and their families.
We will pursue opportunities "that align with our district’s operation, need, and mission.” We will discern the grant opportunities that support our goals. Rather than blindly chasing money for the sake of the chase, we responsibility will develop deep, cooperative community relationships that often surpass grants in both worth and scope. Following Dr. Witten’s wisdom, I will remain steadfast in our educational path by responsibly choosing only the pathways that clearly contribute to our students' learning and our community success.
- Research, design, develop, plan, implement, analyze, and guide programs that affect curriculum success and community involvement
- Work directly with Director of Teaching and Learning and be familiar with that Director’s responsibilities and assist the Director’s continual efforts
- Advise and assist district administrative team
- Data Collection and Accountability Analysis and Reporting
- Collect and organize data for use
- Post-secondary action planning
- Identify Relevant Research
- Federal Grant planning, submission, and administer with Treasurer
- Competitive Grant writing and oversight
- Seek grants/funding opportunities in addition to state and federal
Testing, Assessment, and Data
- Analyze short cycle assessment design, administration, and efficacy
- Research, design, develop, plan, implement, analyze, and guide all data programs throughout district, including a single, district-wide data program
- Lead district instructional and learning data analysis
Lead Standards-Based Education and Maintain High Performance Standards
- Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment alignment
- Direct grading as an accurate measurement of what students know and can do
- Co-coordinate, with Director of Teaching and Learning, hardware and electronic instructional resources with Director of Technology
- Coordinate new student transition program
- Work with Director of Alternative Programs to align learning objectives and ensure challenging, legitimate opportunities for credit recovery and dropout prevention
- Determine professional development needs
- Facilitate district and building professional development
Higher Education/Career Planning
- Central Ohio HS/Higher Ed Compact representative
- College Credit Plus
- Develop internship opportunities between high school CBI and local industry and skilled trades
- Direct the Ranger Pathways program
- Attend meetings and work with various community groups to promote cooperative efforts between the school and community groups
- Affect curriculum success and community involvement
- Monitor all district learning efforts and communicate those efforts with the Director of Public Relations and community
- Promote district successful practice by presenting at conferences