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Local schools get grants

Al Tahoe Elementary and Bijou Community schools each received a Local Reading Improvement grant for $400,000 to be used over two years.

A Reading Excellence Act subgrant program, the Local Reading Improvement grant is aimed at providing schoolwide literacy planning, professional development for teachers, support for children entering kindergarten, family literacy, kindergarten/first grade transitions and extended learning opportunities.

The Reading Excellence Act is focused on integrating research-based reading activities at high poverty or low performing schools.



As mandated by the grant, both elementary schools must hire an on-site literary coach to work directly with their schools. A half-time district literary coach also will be hired to provide in-class coaching and observation, training and guidance to classroom teachers and the literary coaches at Al Tahoe and Bijou.

“The district’s literary plan has different aspects, but we’ll be working with the schools to help them select scientific, research-based programs to be overseen by the district coach and district’s Balanced Early Literacy committee,” said district Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis, who played a major role in grant writing and application. “And staff development is a wonderful thing to me because the grant provides for a lot of staff development for those two schools but it may also result in some very effective training we’ll be able to use at our other sites.”



The Reading Excellence Act program requires that grant recipients participate in professional development training. Administrators and teachers from Al Tahoe and Bijou plan to attend a five-day California Professional Development Institute seminar July 30 through Aug. 3 in Sacramento. The week’s events include workshops, data collection and program evaluation.

Al Tahoe Principal Karen Tinlin said about 10 of her staff members are attending this year’s training and more will go next year.

“I think so much of making this work just has to do with training for teachers,” Tinlin said. “We really want to do an upgrade for our library and provide services, but so much of it is that teacher component.”

Bijou already selected an on-site literacy coach, Watson said, but must wait for Board of Education approval before hiring. Al Tahoe has not chosen a school-site coach yet but plans to do so after the district coach is selected. Both schools will split the cost of the district literary coach.

“We’re each paying $25,000 to fund a half-time district reading specialist,” Watson said. “It won’t cost the district anything out of pocket because it’s funded through the grant. That person’s primary responsibility will be to interface with the regional reading coordinators and then bring that information to the school sites and work with our teams.”

Statewide, $48 million in Local Reading Improvement grant money was available to fund between 120 and 130 schools. Increases in Academic Performance Index scores at Al Tahoe and Bijou were partly responsible for the schools’ eligibility, Watson and Tinlin said.

Watson recognized his grant-writing team for its hard work.

“I’ve got people on that committee who are going through their National Board Certification and so some of them participated on the team and wow, they really had the skills to put this together,” he said. “We worked very, very hard, put in a lot of time and put together what we thought to be a very honest, aggressive grant proposal and we got it. It was competitive and we did well enough to earn it. Now putting it all into place will be exciting.”


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