G-A in line for another sizable literacy grant

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot
Bags of books, organized by category and reading level, are available for elementary school teachers to borrow for their classrooms. Grant project manager Molly Moran said they have been well received by the students.

School personnel worked hard to obtain a Keystones to Opportunity Grant last year. They are working just as hard to implement the associated programs, and apply for a second round of funding.

Greencastle-Antrim School District was notified last April that it would be awarded $996,048 in federal funds, to be distributed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, for literacy initiatives. Molly Moran, director of reading and federal programs, applied for the grant with assistance from other educators. The money has been used for books, digital readers, professional development, supplies, and administration. Teachers Jen Faith, LuAnn Skutch and Jenelle Wagner were trained as literacy coaches, and middle school assistant principal Missy Shuey became a part-time data liaison. Ann Small, KtO Central Regional Manager, visited the district in July and November to see how the funds were being spent.

"We met all expectations," said Moran. "She said we were light years ahead of some other schools."

Fifty-six Pennsylvania schools split the $38.6 million grant.

Moran, middle school principal Mark Herman, and elementary school principal Chad Stover accompanied Small on her inspection.

"Ann was very pleased with the impact of the literacy coaches, and saw the middle school teachers conference with their anchor students on their independent reading," Moran continued.

Literacy

The fourth through eighth-grade students are the focus of this year's money.

The classrooms in all disciplines have new or enhanced libraries.

Smart Boards were installed in each room and 160 e-readers are on order. The teachers have learned strategies from the coaches.

"We want to improve our instruction and see test scores go up," Moran said, "but still see our kids excited about reading."

So far they were enthusiastic about the thousands of new books.

KtO goals for next year include more consistency in student writing, improved literacy in specialized subject areas such as social studies and science, more technology use by the faculty, maintaining the literacy coaches, and evaluating the core reading programs in grades K-6. The federal program behind the grant lasts five years, but money is only guaranteed to be available for two years. Greencastle is seeking $857,597 for 2013-14. The school is fairly confident it will be awarded the grant again.

Moran has a 29-member committee developing a Comprehensive Literacy Plan for children ages birth to 12th grade. Teachers, parents, administrators, and early childhood professionals have met in six full-day meetings to lay it out. It will be submitted with the grant application, due in April. So far 180 pages have been written. The groundwork is done; the material just needs to be organized according to grant parameters.

"It's been great, but very extensive," Moran said.

She wanted the entire community to understand the importance of reading, and why so much of the money went into teacher training.

"The $1 million will go away, but you can never lose the learning of the teachers."

Small will make a presentation at the March 7 school board meeting.