MANATEE COUNTY — A $28.7 million funding request to improve technology education in Manatee County schools has taken a seat at the front of its class.
The U.S. Department of Education announced Nov. 26 the district was one of 61 finalists in the Race to the Top District Competition, which will dole out close to $400 million to support locally developed plans to personalize and further student learning.
The DEP is expected to select 15 to 25 grant winners no later than Dec. 31. Four-year awards will range from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan.
“We’re all waiting on the edge of our chair here (to find out if we get it),” said Doug Wagner, the district’s director of Adult, Career & Technical Education. “We’re hopeful it’ll come though. It’ll be a great 2013 when it does.
“The great news is we broke out of the crowd,” he said. “We broke out of the 900 who submitted an intent. Hopefully, it’ll go to the next set of readers for the next round of competition.”
Districts named as finalists represent 30 states. In Florida, Manatee County joins the Broward, Charlotte, Miami-Dade and Seminole County school districts for grants.
Called “Manatee County is F.I.R.S.T. (Fully Integrated Reading Science Technology) in the Race to Student Success,” Manatee’s grant request asks for: $11.23 million to create STEM labs at up to 41 elementary schools, including funding for teacher staff positions, training, equipment and supplies; $3.29 million for elementary personalized learning environments, which incorporate digital learning with project-based learning, classroom libraries and other options; $9.29 million for elementary teacher leadership learning to provide school professional development and district-wide curriculum alignment and redesign employing core curriculum; $1.09 million for creating program sustainability through community partnerships and evaluations; and $3.88 million for establishing a Technology Zone for students at Manatee Technical Institute’s east campus off State Road 70.
“Everyone who worked on the grant was very excited,” Wagner said. “We’re very excited about the possibilities this will provide the teachers and students in our schools. It did validate the concept that we have, to make it to the final room. It validates what we’re doing in (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. That’s very important. It’s tough to be in the top tier of a national competition. It’s great for Manatee County.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].