Large grant will fund tutoring in New Albany, Shannon

Education stockBy Chris Kieffer
Daily Journal

A $1.7 million grant will provide tutoring for students in New Albany and at Shannon High School.

“I think it will be a tremendous help,” Lee County School District Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said of the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. “…I am confident with this grant, we will be doing everything Shannon High School can do to provide students every opportunity to receive additional help and be as successful as they can be.”

The funds were awarded to the New Albany School District, which is partnering with Shannon High on the effort. They were chosen by the Mississippi Department of Education, which is administering the state’s portion of the U.S. Department of Education’s program.

“We will use this to target struggling students and try to catch them up,” said New Albany Superintendent Jackie Ford.

The money will be provided over a five-year period. It includes about $500,000 in each of the first two years, with the amount scaling back after that as districts provide in-kind matching funds. Shannon will receive a quarter of the funds.

In applying for the grant, New Albany had to partner with an at-risk school, and chose Shannon, designated a Priority School by the MDE because of its low graduation rate.

New Albany will implement its portion of the program at each of its three schools. It will include 10 hours of enrichment and tutoring per week for 26 weeks during the school year, with an additional four weeks during the summer.

The elementary program will focus on language arts and reading, Ford said, and will feature a tutorial class for each grade level. On the secondary level, it will emphasize the four core content areas, with particular help for high school students trying to pass the state tests required for graduation.

New Albany’s program will target students making D and F grades, Ford said.

“Hopefully with the tutoring and enrichment, we can help at-risk students and get them back on grade level,” he said.

Shannon will have both an in-school program and an after-school program, also over 26 weeks. Tutors will include both teachers and high-performing students who will help peers. There also will be a summer component, as well as boot camps to help prepare students for state tests.

Shannon teacher Jana Comer will be the lead tutor at the school.

“The sole purpose of the program is to provide students with tutorial help based on specific needs and areas where they are not academically as strong as they need to be,” Weeks said, noting it won’t merely be time for them to do homework.

“In the long run, that will help in passing the Subject Area Test.”

The grant will allow districts to pay tutors and also to provide transportation for students to or from enrichment sessions. Both districts will likely begin some time in September.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com