TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

September 14, 2012

Corbin Schools approve ‘Race To The Top’

Seeking $120M grant with three other school districts

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer

Corbin Independent Schools, along with three other school districts in Southeastern Kentucky, will apply as a group for a federal grant from the “Race To The Top” program.

If they get the grant, the four districts will receive $30 million a year for four years.

That’s a total of $120 million over the four-year period.

The Corbin Board of Education voted to approve the memorandum of understanding for the Race To The Top district grant, and to apply for the grant, during a special board meeting Thursday night.

The group applying will be called the “Southeastern Kentucky Race To The Top Consortium.” It’s made up of Corbin Independent, Whitley County, Williamsburg Independent and McCreary County school districts. Corbin Independent will be the fiscal agent for the project.

The news had everyone at the session ecstatic.

“The districts have made changes for the better, and if we get it, it’s the biggest grant we’ve ever had. It would change the culture. We’re excited about it. We’re hoping to get it,” said Corbin Independent Superintendent Ed McNeel after the meeting.

The grant is due in Washington Oct. 30. The decision will be made in December.

“If we get it, we would start this in February 2013,” added the district’s Director of Pupil Personnel and Grants, Mark Daniels.

If the four school districts get the grant, it would provide six critical attributes of next generation learning, which would help prepare students to be ready for college.

Information from the Race To The Top program said first and foremost, it would provide personalized learning — data driven with goals and progress assessment. Second, the grant would provide comprehensive systems of learning support — addressing social, economic, physical and cognitive development. Third, world-class knowledge and skills — required for success in a global marketplace. Fourth, it features performance-based learning — putting students in the center of the learning process and leads to mastery. Fifth, it provides anytime, anywhere learning — promoting learning beyond the classroom and typical school day. And finally, a student voice/agency — deepening student engagement by encouraging the student to direct and own their own individual learning.

“We’ll have as good a chance as anybody,” Daniels said.

Board members also learned the completion date on the Phase 2 Renovation project at Corbin High School is set for mid March-April 2013.

David Jackson of the Hacker Brothers construction firm discussed the recent work done on the school renovations, saying the work has been amazing.

“We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from everybody there. It’s a good feeling. The expected completion date is six to seven months from now,” Jackson reported.

“We’d like to have the cafeteria finished before the seniors graduate. They’ve spent four years around work and dust from the construction. We’d like to have a dinner for them there in the new cafeteria,” McNeel added.

Food Service Director Ben Chitwood told the board the situation with school lunches has been a little bit easier.

“We met with a group of parents, students and teachers last month. We’ve formed committees in all but one school in the district. In August, we had 13 percent not eating lunch, but in September, it’s gone up so far,” said Chitwood.

He added the biggest issue with parents and students about the food remains the quantity — portion sizes.

When Board Member Angela Morris asked what can be done about students eating more protein, Chitwood replied the food service is “looking more at ‘bumping up’ the sizes in the cafeteria’s main dishes. And they can go back in line, within reason.”

Enrollment in the district is on the rise, according to McNeel, who said over 2,900 students are now enrolled district-wide “for the first time ever.” He added 651 students are enrolled at Corbin Primary School, with other schools in the district at or near capacity, except Corbin High School, which currently has 848 students.

Among actions taken at Thursday’s session, board members approved 15 change orders on the Corbin High Phase 2 Renovation Project. The orders are primarily for the cafeteria expansion and art complex, and come up to a total of $1,748,695. The board added the approval of the change orders would complete the work.

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