School systems continue plans despite missing grant

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Although neither Tupelo nor Corinth received a Race to the Top District grant, both school systems will continue to attempt ideas developed through the grant application process.
The United States Department of Education recently announced 16 districts in the country had received the grants. They will split nearly $400 million. None of Mississippi’s seven applicants received one.
Tupelo and Corinth were the only Northeast Mississippi districts to attempt to win the grant, which required a lengthy application explaining ways districts would personalize and deepen student learning, improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness, close achievement gaps and prepare students for college and career success.
Tupelo had planned to use the money to expand early childhood education, offer dual-enrollment options at the high school and add more technology.
Superintendent Gearl Loden said the district will continue to move forward with plans to create a dual-enrollment partnership and to enhance its GED program. It also will continue its PD 360 teacher training program and expand early childhood education.
“Race to the Top encouraged advancing best practices for school districts,” Loden said.
Corinth had worked with the South Panola School District on a plan that would have had several components. Superintendent Lee Childress said the district will explore ways to continue with some of those ideas, such as introducing iPads into fourth- through 12th-grade classrooms and creating a center for distance learning.
“We are in the process of developing a new strategic plan, and some of those things will be in that plan,” Childress said. “We are trying to find local funds or take parts of the grant and submit it to others.”
Childress said the Race to the Top application process was helpful to the district.
“The opportunity to compete for it allowed us to collaborate both within the district and with others outside the district as to how we could look at reshaping education here in Corinth,” he said. “There was a lot of synergy that resulted from that collaboration that will enable us to work toward some of those efforts in the future.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com