Glendale school district drops its grant application

Glendale Unified will not apply for federal Race to the Top funds — a potential $30 million payout — a decision that avoids a confrontation with the district's teachers union regarding the use of test scores that scuttled the highly-sought grant application last year.

Supt. Dick Sheehan announced that the district had bowed out of the race during Tuesday's board meeting, with 16 days remaining until the application would have been due.

With tens of millions of grant dollars to potentially secure, the district planned to use the money to establish robotics labs at all four middle schools, hire additional counselors and fund after-school enrichment classes for high school students.

But with a deadline for the grant application set one month earlier by the U.S. Department of Education this year compared to 2012, Sheehan said later it was “unfortunate” the timeline was cut shorter.

“We did not feel [we] could get everything lined up in time to put our best foot forward,” he said in an email.

Sheehan had recently been in talks with Glendale Teachers Assn. President Phyllis Miller over the terms of the grant, which would have, in part, tied teachers' evaluations to student test scores.

Glendale Unified's application would have required Miller's signature approving the grant's terms.

Miller said she was pleased over the district's decision to drop out of the race, hopeful that the teachers' union and the district could come to an agreement before potentially applying to the grant next year.

“Our teachers really don't want to have test scores tied into their evaluations. It just changes the evaluations and other aspects of our bargaining agreement, so it's going to take more than just a few weeks of talking to get it to be all figured out,” she said. “We're happy that they're not rushing ahead.”

By halting the grant application, officials have more time to work with the teachers union, said Kelly King, assistant superintendent of Glendale Unified, who also serves as the grant's lead writer.

“We really feel that it's not in our best interest,” she said of applying. “Not everyone's in the same place with the grant quite yet. We'd love to consider it in the future, but this isn't the right time.”

When Glendale Unified applied for the grant in 2012, it did not secure approval from the former union president, Tami Carlson, who voiced concern over linking test scores to teacher evaluations, and to sustaining grant funded programs once the grant money expires.

Glendale school officials mailed the grant application to Washington, D.C. anyway, where it was disqualified because it lacked Carlson's signature.

In recent weeks, district officials had expressed hope over their chances this year to apply to receive up to $30 million in federal funds.

Those plans officially came to a close with brief comments by Sheehan during Tuesday's board meeting. No board member chose to speak at the meeting about the decision.

“It appears at this point we will not be moving forward,” Sheehan said. “However, we are going to continue our dialogue to make sure that we have the ability to move forward next year.”


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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