Magdalena Schools awarded $1.2 million

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Magdalena Schools was awarded a $1.2 million Demonstration Grant for Indian Children from the U.S. Department of Education in September. The grant funds programs addressing the needs of Native American pre-school and high school students, according to Keri James, federal and state programs coordinator for the district. But all Magdalena students will benefit from the funding boost.

Magdalena Schools was awarded a $1.2 million Demonstration Grant for Indian Children from the U.S. Department of Education in September. The grant funds programs addressing the needs of Native American pre-school and high school students, according to Keri James, federal and state programs coordinator for the district. But all Magdalena students will benefit from the funding boost.

The district will receive approximately $300,000 per year for four years to run a program for Alamo preschoolers and a college preparatory program for high school students, she said. The award announcement was two months late.

“We were supposed to be notified in July, but just got the word the last week of September. We could have saved some jobs,” she said, referring to the district’s budget crisis.

Magdalena’s pre-school program for Alamo children had been funded by the state of New Mexico, but not sustainably.

“The state funds only $28,000 per year for the whole (pre-school) program at a school the size of Magdalena,” she said. “We just have ten kids in the class, but our Level II teacher is at a $40,000 per year salary base. As a result, our preschool program has been on the chopping block for the last two years because of the budget crunch.”

To cover the gap, James has had to support the program with Title I funding, but sequestration has slashed Title I funding across the country. Title I is a federal program allocating funds to schools based on poverty rate as measured by free and reduced school lunch rates. At Magdalena, 95 percent of families qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Now the district has all the pre-school funding it needs for four years.

“We don’t have to worry about cutting preschool for four years,” James said, adding that pre-school has a high pay-back value.

“All the research on early childhood education shows a seven to one return on investment,” said James, referring to U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s statements.

The demonstration grant funds “school readiness projects” designed to enrich Indian preschooler’ language and skills so they can be successful kindergartners, according to the U. S. Dept. of Education website. At Magdalena, all families of preschooler will be invited to participate in monthly family nights, where caregivers will engage their children in age-appropriate hands-on activities and listen to stories.

“At those parent nights, we will do activities with students to engage them, but it’s all about modeling early childhood literacy practices for the parents and students,” James said.

The demonstration grant funds can only be used for programs benefiting Indian children, but James said she will use Title I money to pay for the expansion.

The first early childhood parent night is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 28, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Magdalena school cafeteria. Activities will include pumpkin carving and a Halloween-themed story time. Participating families will receive a free Halloween book.

Because of the grant, the district will also offer a special summer program in 2014 to help pre-school Alamo children transition to kindergarten.

“We’ll bring those pre-K kids in for two weeks in the summer to work with their kindergarten teacher,” James said.

The grant funds college preparatory programs serving secondary level Indian students, but other funding sources will support all eligible students.

The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program returns this fall, with Ms. Nancy Brown-Cortner at the helm.

“It’s a program that reforms high school by increasing rigor and raising expectations, effectively preparing high school students for college,” James said. “There are criteria — students have to be minority students who are first generation college goers in their family or students who show academic potential because of test scores that doesn’t translate into the classroom.”

The grant supports Indian students taking online classes available through the E2020 program.

“Kids that can’t fit certain classes into their schedules can access these classes on line,” she said. “We use it for credit recovery when kids have failed a class they need for graduation. We have lots of kids in E2020, but now we can fund the Native American students through a separate grant.”

The grant will help pay for after-school study sessions and Friday school days as well as summer school programs to help struggling as well as college-bound high school students.

“We’ve had to cut those (programs) over the last couple of years because of funding cuts,” she said. “We’ll reinstate these programs this semester.”

 

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