Groton school district lays out plan for $600K Alliance funds

Groton — The Groton school district has come up with a plan for spending a $600,000 grant to improve performance on the factors that got it named an Alliance District.

The grant is from the state Department of Education and must be used by the end of June.

Assistant Superintendent Susan Austin said the district is just awaiting state approval, which is expected any day.

Austin and Superintendent Michael Graner presented the plan to the Board of Education at its meeting Wednesday evening. The plan lays out priorities, goals and expenditures under four larger priority categories: talent, academic, culture and climate, and operations.

The largest line item is $200,000 for the integration of iPads or Chromebooks.

Some of the other expenditures are:

  • $200,000 for math, literacy and science software, supplies and equipment
  • $65,000 for the salaries of a middle school literacy specialist and middle school math specialist
  • $32,500 for the salary of a social worker at the high school "to monitor attendance and work with students and families"
  • $22,200 for curriculum writing
  • $6,000 for in-state professional development and travel
  • $5,000 for minority recruitment
  • $5,000 for staff for after-school homework clubs

Each salary is a half-year salary, considering there are fewer than five months left in the current fiscal year.

According to Graner, the state Department of Education has stressed that the majority of Alliance District funding should not be tied to salaries. If Alliance funding decreases, districts could be forced to cut positions that rely on that funding.

In each of the four priority categories, the proposal lays out subpriorities and goals before delineating costs.

For example, from 2016-17 to 2017-18, the goal is to increase the math performance rate from 63.3 to 64.2 percent, and to increase the average percentage of target growth achieved in math from 58.7 to 61.9. Targets also are laid out for English Language Arts performance and growth.

For 2016-17, the district was above state averages for each of those four categories except math growth.

The math and literacy specialists hired to meet these goals will provide instructional coaching, professional development and model lessons, and they will work with the district data team, curriculum and instructional council, and school principals.

A culture and climate goal is to decrease chronic absenteeism from 11.3 percent in 2016-17 to 10.8 percent in 2017-18. The statewide rate in 2016-17 was 9.9 percent, according to data from the state Department of Education.

The cost implications for this goal include increasing the hours of community coordinators from 10 to 15 hours a week, and hiring the aforementioned social worker, whose task will be to come up with a plan to address the absenteeism.

Graner said as a first step, he has asked the principals to identify the students who have had more than 10 absences this year, and then the district will work on categorizing the reasons for their absences.

The Board of Education is now working on the 2018-19 budget, and Graner noted that the social worker is not in next year’s budget.

 e.moser@theday.com

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