Area schools to share $1.6 million for instruction upgrades

FORT EDWARD - Area school districts will be divvying up nearly $1.6 million in federal Race to the Top grant money to more effectively stretch their budgets in improving instruction, BOCES District Superintendent James P. Dexter said this week.

"This is a perfect opportunity for BOCES to offer professional development, technical assistance and follow-up support," Dexter said. The area BOCES, or the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex Board of Cooperative Educational Services, will be providing services involved in the reform measures.

New York State will receive nearly $700 million in Race to the Top money that is earmarked to prompt reforms that include adopting new standards and assessment procedures, building data systems to support teaching, boosting leadership among teachers and administrators, and improving instruction at the lowest-achieving schools. Revising teacher and principal evaluations is among the initiatives funded.

About 70 percent of the federal funds dispersed in the state will go to the New York City area. The remainder is headed for qualifying upstate districts. Funds will be dispersed over a four-year period and can only be used for approved activities.

Before the federal funds are awarded, however, school districts are required to establish three-person teams to implement the Board of Regents reform agenda. Also, 25 percent of each district's allotment must go toward devising ways to improve teacher and principal evaluations.

Due to the scope of work that needs to be completed over the four years of the grant, school districts are not allowed to add these duties to existing staff members job descriptions - they must create a team to conduct this work. Dexter said his agency created one single team to study and pursue the reform measures over 29 area school districts.

BOCES staff noted that the federal money was allocated to the districts in sums from $3,600 to $192,000 based on formulas, but pooling the grant money and divvying it up was more equitable and efficient.

"By sharing resources, BOCES has created a team that will support the districts in meeting the grant initiatives and Regents policy directions."

Bolton Central Schools Superintendent Ray Ciccarelli praised the collective approach. "Implementing an initiative of this nature can only be most successful by collaborating with our neighboring school districts," he said. "BOCES provides the avenue to efficiently make that a reality."

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