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New grants for Clayton schools total more than $41 million

By Johnny Jackson

Clayton County Public Schools announced it has received a total of $41,898,456 in state and federal grants for the fiscal year 2006, some improvement from years past, while some school district officials say funds used for a compensation study to determine employee benefits looks better than initially imagined.

”I believe that we are doing much better in terms of our grants. I'm excited about what's coming in,“ said Rod Johnson, member of the Clayton County Board of Education.

Johnson outlined a few areas he believed needs particular grant-writing consideration. He said that students directly affected by special education and the ”No Child Left Behind Act“ are among several groups in the school system that stand to benefit from the grant awards.

”We have to work on making them better prepared,“ he said. ”There's a whole population of people we address through these grants. We always need more facilities because our current situation is busting out at the seams.

”But I think, across the board, there are some needs. All of the grants have a specific purpose and focus on which they are being used in our schools. Every grant is targeted for a specific group or population.“

Board member Lois Baines-Hunter added that supporting middle schools with middle school grant initiatives was important.

In fact, millions of dollars have been awarded in grants to the district's middle schools, including a $1.3 million Comprehensive School Reform Grant for Title 1-F, Making Middle Grades Work.

”I do feel that our middle school is most hard hit in all of this,“ Baines-Hunter said, commenting on dropout rates. ”We need to see why we can't retain (students) more in high school. We need to be proactive. We have taken a generation's childhood. We must remember that these are children, and that's what we're forgetting.“

Sharon Brown, the school district's director of federal programs, said that the district has increased the amount it has been awarded, in part by application.

”We've done more competitive grant writing to go out and find more resources that we need to be competitive,“ she said. ”We're getting $187,070 each year for three years for seven middle schools: Jonesboro, Kendrick, Lovejoy, Roberts, Mundy's Mill, North Clayton, and Riverdale middle schools.“

This year, the district received $5,973,951 in competitive grants and $35,924,505 in formula grants. Formula grants are awarded by state and federal agencies based on enrollment and identified needs of the school district. Competitive grants are those the district applied for based on local needs assessments.

Brown said the services paid by the grants awarded to the middle schools will provide several services, including technical assistance and parent orientations.

Baines-Hunter also made reference to the school district's funding of a compensation study done through the consulting company, Deloitte.

As with the grants for middle schools, she said, the compensation study is a way to improve circumstances for potential district employees. She said she views the compensation study as a supervisory tool to determine fair, competitive benefits and treatments of the district's employees.

”At first [I] had my concerns about the study,“ she said. ”But at this point, I'm convinced that it's going to be a good study.“