Projects pitched: Schools seek tech grants

Area districts compete for $250M in funds.
Alissa Widman
Nov 11, 2013
About a dozen local schools are vying for a slice of $250 million.

More than 400 districts statewide applied for Straight A Fund grants this past month from the Ohio Department of Education — including six in Erie County, four in Huron County, two in Ottawa County and two in Sandusky County.

The key to success in the intense competition: concoct the most creative, forward-thinking idea possible.

Edison Schools, for example, devised the largest plan in Erie County — an expansive technology and teacher training initiative called “North Coast Technology Integration Program” which would impact EHOVE Career Center and Edison, Huron, Margaretta and Perkins schools.    

The grant-funded initiative would ensure students have state-of-the-art technology, buildings are equipped to support it and teachers are prepared to use it. Edison Schools is seeking $4.27 million to make it happen.

Catherine Puster, the district’s director of curriculum and instructional planning, wrote much of the collaborative grant proposal, which includes support from Ashland University, BGSU Firelands and North Point Educational Service Center.

“We always talk about 21st century skills and what that means for our students, staff and education in general,” Puster said. “But as strapped as we are with our budgets, all those things and the actual training of staff members doesn’t happen with quite the fidelity it should.”

A nine-member state board will select grant-winning districts, which will be announced in mid-December.

The grants — $100 million to be awarded this year and $150 million next year — were included in Gov. John Kasich’s two-year state budget in June to encourage innovation in schools.

In their proposals, applicants must demonstrate how their plans will increase student achievement, reduce spending and target more resources to classrooms. They must also indicate how their district will sustain the plans after they exhaust their grant funds.

The more than 400 participating districts submitted 600 applications requesting almost $868 million, making the grants highly competitive, according to a news release from Richard Ross, Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction.

“We were confident that there would be a great deal of interest in this program, but the overwhelming number of applicants proves that districts, schools and educators are eager to implement their innovative ideas,” Ross said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make the right decisions and fund as many innovative ideas as possible.”

Many districts submitted applications requesting technology upgrades, such as 1-to-1 laptop initiatives and professional development training for teachers. Some, such as Monroeville Schools, asked for infrastructure upgrades. Others asked for funds to pay staff salaries to implement new programs.

In Ottawa County, for example, Benton-Carroll-Salem Schools is pursuing a grant to create a free, “Rocket Ready” after-school program for fourth-graders through high school seniors.

The program would offer mentoring, clubs, career exploration and other educational opportunities and activities, superintendent Guy Parmigian said.

“There would be a lot of planning and involvement from teachers and community stakeholders, and our application states that,” Parmigian said. “Right now it’s a vision, a dream that we have. The grant would allow us to pay some staff to make it happen and a grant writer to sustain it.”

An entire list of Straight A Fund grant applications has been posted below