Morehouse College, Clayton Schools named grant winners

Gov. Nathan Deal recently announced the second round of winners for the $19.4 million Innovation Fund grant, that was created through Georgia’s Race to the Top plan. A total of 11 “partnerships” won education-enhancement grants including, those involving Clayton County Public Schools, and a four neighboring school districts in metro Atlanta.

According to the Georgia Department of Education’s web site, The Race to the Top fund is a $4 billion federal grant program funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 –– commonly called the federal stimulus act. It’s purpose is to support new approaches to school improvement. The funds are made available in the form of competitive grants to encourage and reward states that are creating conditions for education innovation and reform.

Deal said through the Innovation Fund grant, the state awards partnerships among local education authorities or charter schools, institutions of higher learning, businesses and non-profit organizations, who are developing or implementing innovative programs aimed at producing positive outcomes for students.

Morehouse College is partnering with Clayton County Public Schools to offer an initiative, entitled: “Student Applied Learning New Teacher Induction and Staff Leadership.”

“We are excited and looking forward to working with the school system.” said Crystal James, director of Morehouse College’s WISE Initiative for Sustainable Energy.

James said the program will have two primary goals: To implement a high school student academic summer program, and establish a program that will “empower” science teachers, who are working to becoming leaders in their field.

“The Race to the Top Innovation Fund provides a unique opportunity for communities to collaborate and leverage their expertise to develop innovative solutions in education,” said Deal. “We set the bar high in the first round, and the applicants selected for round-two awards rose to the challenge.”

He added that these projects provide large-scale potential for developing the state’s greatest resource –– its children –– and ultimately, ensuring Georgia’s competitiveness.

Morehouse’s James said the partnership with the school system came as a result of her relationship with Malakia Wright, Clayton Schools’ science coordinator. She said she attended Clark Atlanta University with Wright and the two had already collaborated on other projects, in the past.

One of those, said James, was the school district’s science fair held in February 2011. Currently, James said, as a part of the partnership, 47 Clayton County high school students will attend Morehouse College’s Innovation Expo, Feb. 14-15.

“These students will be able to get some ideas of how they can improve on their science projects at [the district’s] science fair,” she said, adding that the grant will provide the transportation and other costs for the students and three faculty members to attend.

If it were not for the grant, James said, Morehouse would not have been able to provide such services, including working with the school districts on other science projects and events. “We were really hoping we would get awarded the grant, and we’re so happy we did,” said an elated James.

The following metro-Atlanta schools and/or school districts also received the second-round federal grants: Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School is partnering with Georgia State University’s College of Education to address fundamental flaws in the traditional new teacher induction model; The Symrna Educational Alliance is partnering with Georgia State University’s Institution of Technology and Lockheed Martin Corp., to open a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) charter school serving students in south Cobb County; Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University will work with Cobb County Schools to create a charter school in south Cobb County; Gwinnett County Public Schools, through a partnership with Gwinnett Technical College and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, will implement a career pathways program that will serve at-risk –– or “over-age” –– eighth-grade students.