ELYRIA — Two Elyria elementary schools will use a revamped federal grant to address issues in homes and the community that are keeping kids from succeeding in school.
Call it the get-to-school and get-parents-involved initiative because that is the hallmark of the federal School Improvement Grant that Elyria Schools won to complete work at Franklin and Windsor elementary schools. There, new employees — Abigail Frasher and Amber Guignette at Franklin and Dametria Corn at Windsor — will develop programs that encourage good attendance, parent volunteering and community partnerships, all aimed at eradicating barriers to education.
School board members approved the temporary hiring of Frasher, Guignette and Corn on Wednesday night. The one-year grants total $115,000 for Franklin and $79,000 for Windsor and will pay for the added positions. Associate Superintendent Ann Schloss said the grant, which the U.S. Department of Education previously tied to Title 1 funding, is now a highly competitive process with schools applying to work in certain target areas.
Elyria chose family and community engagement as the focus.
“We are trying to make those community connections and work with families so they partner with the schools for the education of their own children,” she said. “This looks at the root barriers that come into play for children, whether it is attendance or lack of support in the home or community.”
Attendance is an area that is hard to tackle, said Franklin principal Lisa Licht. Parents think if they get their kids to school they are fine, but if they miss an hour here or an hour there they are behind and face makeup work. This is especially relevant because the Ohio Department of Education requires a minimum number of school instructional hours.
“A lot of the work Abigail and Amber will do will overlap and include working with the district’s home liaison on attendance and putting incentives in place to get students to school,” Licht said. “We need them to be here time. It really affects our kids.”
Frasher, who has been given the title of parent perk coordinator, has a preschool and kindergarten student in the building, something Licht said she thought was very important when writing the grant. Guignette will serve as the attendance and parent engagement coordinator. Licht said she is also a certified teacher.
Frasher is not just a parent, but also an active volunteer in the building.
“It was very important for us to find a Franklin parent who can be that person to say this is what I have done and this is why it is working,” Licht said. “She will be great at building up the volunteer network in the school and matching them to those jobs teachers need done in the classroom.”
The grant will allow for parents to earn gift cards to local businesses for every 25 hours in volunteer time accumulated. The school also will have more after-school programming in fine arts and clubs.
Schloss said attendance in the district has improved with the increase in school bus eligibility in the city. However, Franklin still sees at least a third of its students stay in the building for less than a full school year. Such transiency makes it difficult to work with parents to establish solid patterns, she said.
Schloss said Windsor applied for the grant in an effort to close achievement gaps between the subgroups of students within the building based on state report card grades. Corn’s role as parent engagement coordinator in the building will be about building partnerships and getting parents into classrooms more.