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Manassas Mayor, State Receive Draft Grant Application From Schools

Federal grant could net the district $10 million.

Racing against a looming deadline, Manassas City School officials will deliver for review a draft version of the district’s Race to the Top grant application to state education officials and Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish, school board members were told.

At a Tuesday night school board meeting, Michaelene Meyer, deputy superintendent for curriculum for Manassas schools, said state and local review of the application was one of the requirements by the federal U.S Department of  Education, which is conducting the $400 million Race to the Top grant competition.

State education officials will be looking at the application to make sure that the district isn’t making promises that it can’t legally fulfill and Parrish’s office will be asked for local input, Meyer said. All comments on the draft will be closed well before the Oct. 30 application deadline, Meyer said.

Although more than 800 school districts have indicated that they will participate in the competition, Meyer said she thinks the school district has a good shot. Twenty-four awards are anticipated.

The district’s relatively small size of just 7,100 students and broad cultural diversity—53 percent Hispanic, 24 percent white and 14 percent black—can work in its favor, Meyer said.

In other education department grant competitions, scale matters because the judges are looking to impact the largest number of students possible, she said.

But this competition seems to put a priority on classroom education reform that can be sustainable, Meyer said.

“We are a smaller district and projects like this are successful in smaller districts,” Meyer said. “This type of change can get buried under the minutia of a larger district.”

And, the district already has efforts underway that seem to fit into what the grant is asking for, she said. For example, this year Osbourn High School launched a reorganized Freshman Academy to help in the transition for incoming high school students. Plus, the district conducts various literacy programs to bring  at-risk students up to speed.

Board members were generous in their praise.

“If we are graduating students to the unemployment line, we are creating a moral sin,” Board Chairman Scott Albrecht said. “This application is a good start. We are driving the change forward. This is great.”

Comments will be accepted to the draft application until Oct. 19, according to the timeline presented to the school board. The final application will be posted online on Oct. 24; on Oct. 26, teachers at the impacted schools (Metz Middle School, Mayfield Intermediate School and Osbourn High School) vote on the application. If the application wins the vote, it will be presented for final approval at an Oct. 27 school board meeting.

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