MARSHALL - With the approval of the Marshall School Board Monday, the Race to the Top grant application process moved one step closer to submission.
Marshall Schools is seeking to apply for the multi-million dollar grant in collaboration with five other school districts in southwest Minnesota, coming together to form the Buffalo Ridge Educational Alliance consortium.
"It involves having personal learning plans for every student and providing a technology-rich environment for them," Superintendent Klint Willert said. "For Marshall, it could mean $7 million over the next four years. It's a highly competitive grant."
Board member Tim Swenson asked if Internet wiring would be one of the components covered in the grant.
"Are these things that we'd like to have done, but just haven't had the funds to do them?" Swenson said.
Willert replied that the grant would likely include wireless coverage and wireless capacity in addition to teacher training.
"It's pretty comprehensive," he said. "And it can be done without going to our voters."
Willert added that technician support and devices would also be embedded as part of the technology integration.
"It reinforces some of the steps we've already taken, and it accelerates where we're going," he said. "If we don't pay attention, we're going to be behind the curve."
The submission deadline for the U.S. Department of Education grant is Oct. 26. Along with the board's approval, the application process also needs to have support from a variety of other organizations and facets. To date, Willert said, district mayors seem to be on board, as well as several legislators, from whom letters of support were received. The superintendents from the six participating districts are meeting with the Minnesota Commissioner of Education today, to review the content of the grant and to ask for her support.
The final step in the process will be acquiring approval and support from the local teacher association. Union president Tom Guttormsson said the local teacher union vote will be completed on Oct. 22. To pass approval, a two-thirds vote is necessary.
"We can certainly supply any information you might need or make ourselves readily available," board member Bill Mulso said to Guttormsson. "I believe this is an important opportunity in front of us. Teachers are our heart and soul."
Willert also reported that Wright County has provided Marshall Schools with a formal invitation into the conference, for football only. A previous offer from Wright County would have allowed the Tiger football team to be a scheduling partner, but refrained from allowing the team or individual athletes from receiving conference accolades. This offer, Willert said, allows for full participation and recognition of awards.
"I envision that at the conclusion of this current football season with the Southwest Conference schools, we'll have a meeting among the superintendents, I anticipate high school principals as well as activities directors, to discuss what we might do as a conference as we go forward," he said. "There's just beginning to be some pretty noticeable disparities within the conference and we think there may be some opportunities to do some things in collaboration with some other conferences in the area. Again, it's just an opportunity to talk about those options and alternatives."
As one of the many personnel items, the board approved the hiring of Bill Swope as interim administrator. Swope, who replaces elementary principal Heidi Critchley, is expected to serve in the position until June. At the board's prompting, Willert said the administration was also pleased to announce that a part-time minority advocate - Faduma Jama Masoliah - was also hired. Masoliah will provide additional support, along with current minority advocate Gustavo Estrada, for the minority communities.
"She used to work with Iftiin in the area," Willert said. "She is going to working with our district for 25 hours a week. Through a partnership we have, United Way is providing some funding to offset the cost of that position, in addition to Community Services funds."
The board also agreed to set Wednesday, Nov. 14, as the date to canvass election results, beginning at 7:30 a.m.