Schools seek grant to focus on priorities

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
From talent development and academics to school climate to operations, Bristol Public Schools are applying for a grant that will focus on more than several priorities.
The district will soon submit the Alliance Grant to the state for a total of $3,691,273. During a school board meeting held last Wednesday, Deputy Supt. Dr. Susan Moreau discussed the application in relation to those priorities. In total, funding from the grant covers 36.5 FTE staff in the district.
Bristol is entering its fourth year in the Alliance District program, which serves as a targeted investment in the state’s lowest-performing school districts, according to the Connecticut State Department of Education’s website. Alliance districts serve over a total of 200,000 students in more than 400 schools.
During the meeting, the school board voted unanimously to approve the grant application.
“In the first three years we received significant funding,” said Moreau. “However, this year, there is no significant funding.”
The grant focuses on four priorities: talent development, academics, school climate and operations.
By focusing on talent priorities, the grant has helped the district increase the knowledge of teachers and administrators in the area of literacy development. Through the grant, the district was able to bring in 10 1/2 literacy coaching positions and three full-time administration positions, as well as an extensive amount of professional development, said Moreau.
“It’s really important for us to focus on the number of our staff members whose entire salary and benefit package is funded through the alliance grant,” said Moreau.
By focusing on academic priorities, the district has been able to provide intervention in grades K-3, a high-quality preschool experience, and intervention for students transitioning from grade 8 to grade 9 in math and language arts.
The grant was able to help fund not only 12 kindergarten teaching positions, but also 1 1/2 pre-kindergarten teaching positions and 1 1/2 pre-kindergarten paraprofessional positions, as well as 5.3 instructional support teaching positions.
“It’s critical that we intervene with our students who are not reading on grade level between the ages of kindergarten and third grade,” said Moreau. “We know that by third grade if students are not proficient readers, they will struggle for the rest of their school career.”
By focusing on school climate, the grant also helped the district identify reasons for chronic attendance issues in schools identified as having more than 10 percent of their students as truant.
Moreau said the grant has helped fund the position of a clinical social worker, as mental health issues have become the reason for students with a large number of absences.
“Every single one of our schools has at least 10 percent of our students absent 10 percent of the time—that means more than one day a month during the school year,” said Moreau. “In the grant, we are funding a position of a clinical social worker because we have increasing mental health issues among our students, and that has become a major reason why they’re not attending school.”
Through the grant, the district was able to fulfill its operation priorities by providing technical support for use of classroom technology and online assessment. The grant helped fun one information technology technician, 14 Chromebook carts, and grant office staff.
“Hopefully this grant will be approved by the state to include those Chromebooks,” said Moreau. bristol city seal