Also, school board ready to vote on budget
By Michael Turton
The Haldane Central School District has reached the final stage of a national grant program that could result in the high school receiving $10 million over a five-year period. Superintendent Diana Bowers made the announcement on April 11 in a joint press release with the XQ Super School Challenge, an education foundation chaired by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Steve Jobs.
The district is one of 348 finalists. Bowers told The Current that the district will submit its final proposal by the end of May and that the winning schools will be announced in July. Five to 10 schools will receive major grants, depending on the content and quality of applications, and smaller grants also may be awarded.
What may help
Bowers feels Haldane’s chances are improved by the fact that its strategic plan, adopted less than a year ago, formed the template for its application and melds very well with XQ’s goals. The plan seeks to develop “innovative models of learning” that will ensure Haldane graduates are “ready for college and careers with 21st century skills.”
In the press release, the XQ Super School Project was emphatic about the need to improve education. “While the world has changed significantly, our high schools have changed very little,” it said. “They simply aren’t keeping up. The fact is, America is [ranked] number 17 in reading, number 20 in science and number 27 in mathematics. With schools created for a world we no longer live in, we are not preparing students for today.”
Haldane is committed to implementing its strategic plan regardless of whether it wins an XQ grant, Bowers said, but a large injection of funds would obviously speed up the process. The new approach is being enhanced, she said, by the district’s work with the New Tech Network and the Yellin Center for Mind Brain and Education.
“We want to teach students how to discover who they are as learners,” she said, in order to help them develop “strategies for making then the best learners possible.” Teacher training is a big part of that strategy and is reflected both in the strategic plan and the XQ grant application.
All aspects of education at Haldane could benefit from grant funding, according to Bowers. “The goals are the same in each program area,” whether it’s math, science, English or the arts and include “collaborative learning and entrepreneurship” while developing “grit and stamina” in students.
Budget vote ahead
Haldane School Board trustees will vote on a proposed 2016-17 budget on April 19. The plan calls for total spending of $23,098,874, an increase of 0.96 percent over the previous year, which falls within the state-imposed tax cap. District voters will vote on the budget on May 17.
New York state made the task of drafting the budget a bit easier for administration and trustees this year by doing away with the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). “That means the state will not take away about $220,000 as they have in recent years,” Bowers said. While there was again no increase in foundation funding, she said, “we’re happy having flat aid” rather than dealing with the uncertainties of the GEA.