Lindsay Unified one of just 14 schools to receive Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program grant to recruit, develop the highest quality teachers
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
LINDSAY – On the day that Lindsay Unified School District saw the sunset of a $10 million grant that helped accelerate its unique performance based system, school administrators announced a $28 million grant to exponentially develop the district’s staff.
Superintendent Tom Rooney, surrounded by a collection of Lindsay Unified administrators and officials, announced the district’s award of the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program. The grant will bring $28.2 million to the district over the next three years to recruit the best teachers, incentivize its existing teachers and pay its high school graduates to get a degree and bring their education back to their hometown. Rooney said the innovative funding rewarded districts who think outside the box in terms of improving education in rural, low-income areas where students struggle with many obstacles to obtain an education.
“This is an opportunity with what is ongoing for our [teachers] and leaders to catapult our vision of learning and give it greater influence beyond the walls of Lindsay,” Rooney said.
Funded through the U.S. Department of Education, the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program offers districts with resources “to develop and fund teacher leadership positions and incentivize teachers to serve in high-need schools.” Lindsay Unified is guaranteed $10.4 million in the first year and is eligible for the remaining $18 million during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.
The grant will provide funding for LUSD to offer signing bonuses of up to $10,000 to recruit the best teachers that fit its system. For existing teachers, referred to as learning facilitators in Lindsay, the district will pay for them to earn their master’s degree online through two private colleges – Wilson College in Chambersburg, Penn. and University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota. Learning facilitators who don’t take advantage of education funding will still benefit from an additional 20 days of paid enrollment into educational institutes and other professional development opportunities.
It will also providing funding to help Lindsay High School graduates obtain their bachelor’s degree if they are majoring in education and agree to return home and teach for a few years in Lindsay Unified.
“We all want high quality professionals and part of this grant is to grow your own by offering more professional development,” said Lana Brown, deputy superintendent. “And we will support our learners all the way through college and then the community benefits from those graduates coming back.”
LUSD Board President Robert Hurtado said the first step in implementing the grant will be establish the policies and procedures for professional development opportunities for existing teachers and funding to help former learners return as learning facilitators.
“It’s a great feeling to know our people will be the best at what they are doing,” Hurtado said.
The grant will fund a few positions within the district including a project director to oversee the incentive programs, learning advocates to track high school graduates who have been selected to have their tuition paid in exchange for teaching in the district.
“Very little of this grant will add new salaries to the district,” Rooney said. “This is about bringing our staff up to our vision of learning in Lindsay.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Lindsay’s application was tied for sixth place among the 14 finalists which included everything from independent districts to the New York City Department of Education across nine states totaling $88 million in 2017, just the second year of program awards. Rooney said LUSD’s track record of successfully implementing and tracking its grant funding helped the district increase its score for this historic grant. Those on the podium mentioned the district’s success in securing and improving its student outcomes through Carol M. White P.E. grants, a 21st Century Learning grant and the transformative Race To The Top, another major federal grant which brought the district more than $10 million over three years beginning in 2013.
“Lindsay Unified School District has a reputation for implementing programs with the highest level of fidelity was what helped us to secure this grant,” Rooney said. “That’s not always seen in some organizations.”
The announcement of the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program grant came on the day that the district’s Race To The Top funding officially ended. Rooney said the timing was somewhat coincidental as most federal funding expires in September and begins in October. However, Rooney did say that Race To The Top funding in Lindsay was extended by one year from its original three-year window from 2013-2016, a testament, he said, to Lindsay’s performance-based system of education and its ability to create a model for other districts to follow.
“We only apply for those grants that we fee are in alignment with what we are doing in Lindsay,” Rooney said.