MANATEE COUNTY — The good news never came.
After waiting with baited breath, officials of the Manatee County School District learned Dec. 11, their grant application for the federal Race to the Top District Competition fell short, placing 22nd overall.
The U.S. Department of Education had enough money to fund the top 16 finalists.
Manatee County’s application, titled “Manatee County is F.I.R.S.T (Fully Integrated Reading Science Technology) in the Race to Student Success,” sought $28.7 million to bring Science, Technology, Engineering ad Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) education programming to every Manatee County elementary school, to provide teacher training for the program and to construct a “TECH” zone at the Manatee Technical Institute’s new East County campus.
Manatee’s application received a mean score of 193.67, or 92.2%, after it earned 173, 200 and 208 points out of 210 possible from three judges.
The grant that placed 16th, securing the last portion of available dollars, received a mean score of 196.33, or 93.4%.
“We have a lot to be proud of, because the predetermined range from the beginning of this grant competition was always 15-to-25 funded grants,” said Doug Wagner, director of Adult, Career & Technical Education for Manatee County Schools. “Even with such a low score from one of the three judges, we still fell in the funding window, being ranked 22nd. However, because of the size of the grant awards, they only had enough money to fund up to 16 grants.
“This grant was a team effort that encompassed many people from the schools, community, staff, board, other government agencies and, most importantly, our students who are doing great things every day,” he said. “Everyone should be proud of how our almost 400-page grant finished.”
Manatee County’s ranking also placed it second in the state, out of 31 districts that submitted an intent to apply for the grant, Wagner said. In Florida, only the School Board of Miami-Dade County earned funding for its grant request, placing fourth of all applicants.
Wagner said the Manatee County School District, after reviewing results, is puzzled why one judge scored Manatee’s application low, while the other two judges gave it perfect or nearly-perfect scores in several categories. The district has sent a letter to the Department of Education, requesting that the scoring is reviewed to ensure results were tallied correctly.
“It’s hard for us to believe there can be such a disparity (in scoring),” Wagner said.
The school district, he said, will continue to look for alternative funding sources to implement its large-scale STEM program, or at least portions of it.
“The difference between winners and losers in the world of grants is that winners keep applying and never give up; we’ll get them next time,” Wagner said.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].