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Columbus City Schools To Apply for Improvement Grant

The Ohio Department of Education was awarded millions of dollars in School Improvement Grant funds to help struggling schools improve academic performance. Hundreds of the state's lowest performing schools are eligible to apply for a share of more than $100 (M) million dollars in stimulus grants. WOSU reports 60 percent of Columbus City Schools qualify for the program.

At least two Columbus schools will have new principals next year - that's if the state awards the district a share of School Improvement Grant funds.

The lowest achieving five percent of Title I schools with a school improvement status or a five-year graduation rate less than 60 percent are considered Tier I and Tier II schools.

Nearly 10 percent of the state's 68 of the Tier I and Tier II schools - the poorest performing schools - are in the Columbus City School District.

Superintendent Gene Harris said the district will apply for the grant money.

"We're excited about the opportunity," she said.

But the priority schools will have more to do than just apply. They'll have to implement one of four intervention models. Some call for replacing principals and closing schools. Scott Blake is with the Ohio Depart of Education.

"We don't really know if that's going to keep districts and schools from applying," he said.

Superintendent Harris said Columbus City Schools are not deterred. The district already has taken what some may call drastic measures by closing underperforming middle schools.

Harris said Columbus City will go with the Transformation Model.

"We think that makes sense for us. And that calls for the replacement of the principal, to implement new and robust reforms and to develop a governance structure that gives the principal and the staff enough operating flexibility that they really can be innovation in the work that they're doing," Harris said.

Champion and Southmoor Middle Schools will get new principals next year. Harris says the current principals will be moved within the district. Other schools affected are Weinland Park Elementary and Linden-McKinley, West, Welcome Center and Alum Crest High Schools.

Harris said the principals at some of those schools will be allowed to stay because they were hired more recently than the other two.

Columbus City has dozens of other schools which will qualify for funds later, including 72 percent of its middle schools.

Again, the state education department's Scott Blake.

"There's a larger list of Tier III schools who are eligible to apply and would be funded once the Tier I and Tier II schools have received funds," Blake said.

Tier III schools currently have a school improvement status.

Hilliard, Dublin, Reynoldsburg, South-Western, Westerville Schools also had schools eligible to apply for the Tier III grant.

The grants range between $50,000 and $500,000 over three years.