Fresno Unified seeks $40 million from 'Race to Top'

Board split on Race to the Top grant application vote.

The Fresno BeeOctober 24, 2012 

Fresno Unified trustees approved an application for $40 million in federal "Race to the Top" funds Wednesday night, but not without dissent.

The application is the third try for federal education improvement funds in the past three years.

Trustees Larry Moore and Michelle Asadoorian objected to submitting the application without the board having a chance to review it.

"In my entire history, this is the first grant I won't vote for," Moore said.

Superintendent Michael Hanson said it had not been trustees' policy in the past to review grant applications.

The application, which is due Oct. 30, also must have the signature of the Fresno Teachers Association. The FTA has been working with the district on the grant but continues to review the 191-page document, said FTA President Eva Ruiz.

And it's unclear who would sign off on the application for the FTA. Mai Summer Vue told board members she had not seen the application. Vue is in a contested election with Ruiz for FTA president, and it has yet to be resolved.

If the district is successful, the funds would support preschool to third grade education with an emphasis on literacy and personalized learning.

The application goes hand-in-hand with the Early Learning and Graduation Task Force recommendations, Hanson said Monday at a state of the district luncheon. The task forces recommended more early intervention to help children be prepared to start school. The grant also would support the district's implementation of common core standards in math and English.

But Moore objected to the district not addressing the needs of students in higher grades.

While this is the third time the district has applied for federal education improvement funds, it is the first to be submitted solely by the district.

In 2010, the state submitted an application, and in 2011, a group of districts jointly applied for funds. Both times, the applications were denied.

In other action:

  • The district will hold a community meeting at 6 p.m. on Nov. 1 at McLane High School for residents to receive information about applying for the open board seat in the McLane area. The deadline for applications also was extended to Nov. 5.
  • One application has been received for the seat vacated in September by Tony Vang, said Board President Valerie Davis, who attended an informational meeting Tuesday at the high school.

    The board will hold a special meeting on Nov. 7 to interview applicants for an appointment by the board.

  • The district has received a grant from the Bechtel Foundation to begin a teacher residency program at Fresno State. The residency will emphasize math and science and concentrate on grades four though eight, Hanson said.

The grant covers a two-year period and will train approximately 20 "teacher-residents" each year for a total of 40 new teachers. Residents will make a commitment to teach in the Fresno Unified School District for at least five years after completing the program.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6310, banderson@fresnobee.com or @beehealthwriter on Twitter.

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