Geneva gets $2.5M for school innovations

The Geneva City School District received an early Christmas present this month in the form of a $2.5 million grant from the School Innovation Fund. The grant, given to just five high schools in New York State, will provide the money to redesign Geneva High School’s academic program and support adistrictwide continuum to college and career, said Lawrence Wright, the school district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “With this grant, we have the ability to build a program that will rival the very best schools in the area,” said Wright. The three-year grant, one ofthe largest received by the district, consists of federal funds channeled through New York State. “It was an extremely competitive grant.” Wright said the grant is “huge” for the district because it was facing diminishing state aid as it made plans to remove Geneva High School from astate list of under-performing schools. He said the question was: “How do you get better when you have fewer resources.” Now the district will be bolstered by the $2.5 million as it moves ahead with planned partnerships designed to strengthen programs at the local highschool. The district¹s consortium of partners in this endeavor includes Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the University of Rochester, Finger LakesCommunity College, Sylvan Learning Centers, the Boys & Girls Club, Geneva Reads and other community groups. Wright credited Chris Semler, grant writer at the Wayne-Finger Lakes Board of Cooperative Educational Services, with the effort to secure the funds and said the school district would be seeking other grants in the future. Geneva High qualified for the grant because it is in the process of restructuring and because it is showing consistent improvement. Wright is looking beyond achieving good standing for the school to it becoming a school of excellence. “Our vision is to create a prep school atmosphere in a public setting,” he said the Geneva High. This atmosphere would be built on discipline, respectand academic achievement. The school district’s partners will help bring many changes to the high school: More coursework, including more college-level courses, guestlecturers from Hobart and William Smith and other colleges, some additional teaching positions, teaching partnerships between HWS professors and Geneva High teachers and professional development for the instructional staff. The district also plans to offer some high school-level courses in middle school, as well as opportunities for students who want to learn a trade in high school. Extended day programming will include opportunities for both intervention and enrichment. Wright explained that the district will receive a relatively small portion of the grant for planning in the current school year, 2011-12. In the second and third years of the grant, 2012-13 and 2013-14, the district will receive the bulk of the grant money to put the programs in the school. “We’ll have significant resources behind us,” he said. “We want to offer a unique experience that no one else can. It’s exciting to put the vision into practice.”

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