County might seek Race to The Top funds
by Lindsay Field
October 12, 2012 01:09 AM | 2932 views | 10 10 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Cobb Schools has an eye on millions of dollars in federal Race To The Top money that the district intends to put toward improving its middle schools.

The school board will decide at its Oct. 25 meeting whether to officially apply for the money, though the board gave district staff permission in June to work on a grant application.

The application for a portion of the $400 million, four-year grant is due to the U.S. Department of Education by Oct. 30.

Grants of between $5 million and $40 million are expected to be awarded to up to 25 districts, and about 200 districts are expected to compete for the cash. Winners will be notified by Dec. 31.

Cobb’s Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Judi Jones, said if the district wins the grant — which it is calling R.E.A.C.H., for rigor, excellence, attitude, challenge and hope — the money would be used at 10 of the district’s middle schools. Specific schools have not been determined.

It would pay for professional development for teachers and administrators as well as for projects to improve students’ transitions into and out of middle school. The school day could also be restructured and individual graduation plans developed.

“As long as I’ve been in the central office … middle school has always been one of those areas where we struggle,” Jones told school board members on Wednesday.

Jones hopes to implement the middle-school focus even if the district does not win this grant. But that would mean seeking money elsewhere.

“Much of what we’re doing is professional development,” Jones said. “We’re working to restructure the middle school to change what we’re doing over the course of four years. We hope to put it up in such a way that there won’t be any continued costs afterwards. We’re investing some money in personnel in the beginning, but much of that is instructional specialists so that we can coach teachers.”

And if the district does not get this grant, “we still have a good plan for how we’ll help middle schools,” Jones said.

Board member Alison Bartlett, who represents west-central Cobb, asked Jones how the district will sustain whatever is implemented after the money goes away.

“The way we’ve worked the budget, there will not be a cost,” Jones said. The district may be able to hire 10 “coaches” whom Jones hopes to absorb as teachers after four years.

Board member Kathleen Angelucci, who represents north Cobb, asked what will happen if President Barack Obama, who implemented the federal grant in 2009, is not reelected.

“Is there a Plan B?” she asked. “I’m just trying to think down the road and how this will impact us financially.”

Jones said the winners will be announced after the election.

Hinojosa also said that if the grant were “undone” by the presidential election, he doesn’t believe the cash flow would stop right away.

“We would have due notice — if we were lucky enough to get the grant,” he said. “There are 200 districts our size competing for the same dollars, and under competitive grants, you have very few winners and a lot of losers.”

The Cobb school district and school boards have had a rocky relationship regarding RTTT.

Earlier this year, the district had to pass up an award of $50,000 in RTTT money that it had sought to create a STEM charter school when no other entity was willing to run the school. The district itself is prohibited from starting new charter schools. District executives also applied for RTTT money to help pay for Teach For America teachers.

The school board did not debate, let alone approve, either of those grant applications in open session.

Dr. Hinojosa’s predecessor, Superintendent Fred Sanderson, urged a previous school board away from seeking any of the RTTT money, but that also was not discussed in public.
Comments
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anonymous
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October 15, 2012
The following is taken directly from Scott Sweeney's 2010 campaign webpage when questioned about Race to the Top (question 18) by the MDJ in a candidate Q&A:

"The following are my responses to 22 questions submitted by Marietta Daily Journal News Editor Kim Isaza to each Cobb County Board of Education candidate:

18. Do you think CCSD should, in the future, apply for federal Race To The Top funds if they are available? Explain why or why not.

No. With federal dollars, you know there are long, strong strings attached and at what cost. You give up what makes this community so special; local control. We need to set our goals, launch our initiatives and measure our results. We have the capacity and the intelligence to do what it takes to improve student achievement while reducing federal government interference. Besides, local control isn’t the only expense. Federal programs are usually proven to be very inefficient. The costs for Race To The Top funds from a dollar, resource, administrative and time perspective are likely to outweigh the proposed program cost benefits. This is especially true when considering the unfunded mandate costs the Cobb County School District will realize by adopting Race To The Top initiatives."

Anything other than a vote against RttT makes Sweeney a liar.
Kennesaw Resident
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October 12, 2012
It's not just the US that is on "budgetary crystal meth," now it's the CCSB.
CobbFanBoy
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October 12, 2012
It's funny...the teachers I talk to don't want RTTT funds themselves! The thought of "more coaches" taking up their already limited planning time is terrifying and a "restructured school day" means more hours. Although that most likely comes with a pay bump the cost/benefit trade-off just isn't worth it. Instead of leaving at 5:30 to go home and grade/plan for another 1.5 hours you are leaving at 6:45 to go home and plan for another 1.5 hours. The increased instructional time doesn't add extra hours to the actual day. The teacher still has to do a lot of planning and grading on their own time. Nothing in RTTT funds addresses student apathy and lack of focus or parents that are too overwhelmed with other life duties to address their child's curricular needs outside of school. Glad I stayed in the medical field instead of education!
Florida1975
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October 14, 2012
Don't worry, the children you would have taught with that lackluster perspective on what they are capable of are glad you stayed in the medical field too!
necobbmom
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October 12, 2012
Who is running this district? Judy Jones? We should all be very wary of any of her ideas. No wonder a good group of CCSD employees have left. The RTTT is a bad thing for Cobb Co. schools. It will leave us holding the bag on funding and only measures students against the lower performing ones. Cmon Cobb Co. Parents... get involved. So glad we are almost done in this school district.
totally amazed
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October 12, 2012
If Dr. Jones is would to agree to resign when her next and greatest idea again fails; then I would have more interest in her foolish concepts.

VFP42
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October 12, 2012
Obama's taxes are bad and are ruining the country and hold the economy back ... UNLESS WE CAN GET OUR HANDS ON SUMMA DAT MONEYYYYYY!!!
Even-handed
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October 12, 2012
Mockery and racism are not productive or helpful.
@even-handed
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October 13, 2012
I concur. VFP42's comment reflects his ignorance-nothing helpful or productive there.
VFP42
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October 13, 2012
Dear Even Headed,

Why not mock the Republicans for constantly whining about Obama and taxes destroying America, but then wanting some Obama tax money?

But racism? What in the heck are you talking about? Some MDJ Op-ED? Laura Armstrong perhaps? Been looking in the mirror again? WHAT?
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