WCSD appeals grant decision for program funding

=The Warren County School District has appealed a grant decision that left the district’s after-school and summer elementary programs unfunded.

The funding for the program – which the district has offered for over a decade – comes from the Nita M. Lowery 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant.

An appeal letter, written by Superintendent Gary Weber to the Pennsylvania Department of Education and dated May 2, highlights inconsistencies in the grant scoring system, the impact of a change to the grant deadline and an urban vs. rural equity issue as the basis for the appeal.

The board approved sending that letter during Monday’s meeting.

Inconsistencies in the rating process, Weber asserts, “indicates a lack of alignment in the evaluation criteria or potential bias affecting certain reviewers.”

He also highlights that the deadline for the grant was shifted from Nov. 9, 2023, back to Nov. 30 and states that staffing constraints limited the district’s ability to take advantage of the extra time.

“The district is concerned that other applicants were able to take advantage of that additional time, penalizing the WCSD for having scheduled and prioritized appropriately based on the original deadline,” Weber said. “In a highly competitive grant competition, every additional hour can potentially yield points in the review process.”

Perhaps the most pointed criticism – one Weber raised at a previous school board meeting was the equity in awards between urban and rural districts.

“Based on the published list of awards, the 30 awards given in the three south(eastern) Pennsylvania counties of Lehigh, Philadelphia, and Delaware exceeds the number of awards made to all of western Pennsylvania,” the letter states. “(A)lmost 75% of the $27,217,459 available for Cohort 12 was awarded to what could be classified as urban districts.

“Given the distribution of awards and awardee locations, it appears that the commitment to equitable distribution of awards carried little weight in the award process.”

“Providing after-school enrichment activities to rural students in need is an important service that helps broaden the horizons of our students and expose them to new interests and skills,” Weber concluded. “At the same time, after-school programming provides much-needed academic enrichment support to help student performance in core subjects.”


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