A whopping $3 million was recently secured through the School Redesign Grant (SRG) with the assistance of Barbara Cannon from Monte Alto ISD and Maggie Rodriguez by Educational Research Institute (ERI). Monte Alto High School and Jose Borrego Middle School will receive these funds from the Texas Education Agency (TEA), equally split between the two campuses, to develop a school redesign plan that will enable each campus to create new and improved learning environments that substantially increase student achievement.
During the 2016-17 academic school year, Monte Alto High School and Jose Borrego Middle School were identified as Focus/Focus (Progress) campuses. This status is assigned based on the reading and mathematics assessment results and/or graduation rates for each campus. Each campus will implement the Transformation Model designed to assist in making comprehensive changes in the staff and instructional model, which will lead the campuses to exit Focus status.
Monte Alto ISD’s newly appointed superintendent, Dr. Richard Rivera, stated that there are numerous challenges the targeted campuses will have this school year in increasing students’ academics.
“This SRG grant will be instrumental in establishing new academic programs that will help meet the needs of our students,” he said. “I want to thank Ms. Barbara Cannon, who worked very hard over the summer to acquire these funds that will assist our boys and girls.” Rivera has more than 50 years of experience in an educational setting and has assisted other districts in improving student academics, including Edcouch-Elsa ISD and Weslaco ISD, where he served as superintendent.
The grant funds will be utilized to increase the effectiveness of teachers and campus leaders, improve instruction through targeted professional development, create community-oriented schools, and provide operational flexibility to schools. Moreover, the campuses will each contract with an external School Redesign Partner to assist in the planning of the redesign, as well as provide guidance and support throughout the implementation process of the grant.
The following elements will be incorporated into the program design:
- A project director will be hired to ensure that activities and strategies being implemented are of sufficient quality and scope for the continued commitment of all stakeholders;
- A teacher facilitator will be hired to research and create lessons that complement/supplement the curriculum, observe teachers and provide feedback, and track and assess student academic progress and attendance;
- An incentive program will be initiated in which teachers and campus administrators can receive a stipend based on students’ increased academic scores, receipt of micro-credentials, attendance of trainings, increasing parent engagement, and improved attendance and behavior;
- Workshops and professional development trainings will be provided to all targeted school personnel with an opportunity to actively develop improvement plans, review current school data, and determine next steps. Teachers will also be allotted time for joint planning across all grade levels;
- Various initiatives will be implemented to ensure students remain committed to the program and are academically prepared for the next phase of their education. For example, each summer, students will have the opportunity to take part in a Summer Robotics Program, in which students will utilize STEM skills to build robots that will be entered into local and state competitions;
- Tuition reimbursement will be offered to eligible English language arts (ELA), math, and science teachers who are interested in continuing their education and obtaining their master’s degrees;
- Ongoing support will be provided by the selected school redesign partner/managing entity, district/campus administration, and other contracted trainers and consultants;
- Quarterly surveys will be designed and administered to solicit feedback from stakeholders, to include teachers, parents, students, and community-based organizations; and
- Bi-annual updates on the progress of the program which will be sent home with students and posted on the campus website. This will detail any existing and new strategies that are being implemented and how these strategies will affect students’ outcomes, as well as, the success each strategy is having.
If these elements, carefully selected for the School Redesign Grant (SRG), are successfully implemented, each campus will be eligible to receive additional years of funding from TEA.
“I am excited to be partnering once again with Monte Alto ISD for these grants,” said Linda V. Alaniz, ERI president. “My staff and I previously submitted the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN), which was also awarded; however, it was a much smaller grant in comparison to the SRG. The SRG will provide many resources for the awarded campuses that will allow them both to improve students’ academic performance, attendance, and behavior; teachers’ proficiency; parental involvement; and ultimately, school climate. I’m truly excited to see this grant unfold and witness the great outcomes that it will have on the district.”