Archive for Thursday, August 30, 2007

Grant ensures SES programs continuation

August 30, 2007

Starside Elementary School principal Paula Hill has a sparkle in her eye.

She knows she won't need to worry about finding money for the Sparkle After-School Program or summer school funding for the next five years.

Starside received a $416,903 grant from the Kansas State Department of Education to be used during that time period to help fund both programs and make Starside a 21st Century Community Learning Center.

"This grant seemed to go along the lines of many things we already had in place but from year to year we didn't know if we were going to be able to support it," Hill said.

The Sparkle program has been offered at Starside for seven years and it is a way to help students in grades second through fifth who are struggling academically work toward improving their achievements in reading or math.

Students are identified for the program based on their course work and assessments and they are then put into groups with a maximum of six students to one teacher.

Hill said the Sparkle program helps increase students' academic performance, which is important since the school did not achieve adequate yearly progress in 2006.

This year, Hill said the preliminary AYP results are promising.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we will make AYP," she said.

However, that does not mean that programs like Sparkle go to the wayside.

Since Starside opened its doors 10 years ago the number of student receiving free or reduced lunch has went from 21 percent of the school to 44 percent, and Hill said she expects that number to continue to climb. The school also has gone from a 5 percent population of English as a second language students to 18 percent.

When Sparkle began, it was funded by a two-year grant, and in the years up until this year, the district has found other ways to fund the program, although some years, Hill said, she would like it to be able to offer more help to more students.

"Sometimes we had to turn down kids because we didn't have money to provide the staff," she said.

About 10 to 12 teachers stayed after school until 4:30 p.m. for the Sparkle program, which also incorporates enrichment and recreational activities like the running and the science clubs.

The grant also will guarantee the teachers offering their time for the program will be able to be compensated, especially with the club activities.

"We've had teachers doing these for free," Hill said. "Now we know we have money to pay to help continue these clubs."

Starside counselor Paula Henderson said there also is funding to add a homework side to that.

Henderson said being able to keep Sparkle not only helps the students improve academically, but they have fun while doing it.

"The kids love it and the teachers really like teaching it, too," she said.

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