Lisbon joins other districts in seeking grants

LISBON – The Lisbon school district has joined with others in Columbiana County to file group applications seeking some of the $250 million in state money set aside for grants to fund innovative education initiatives that also save money.

Superintendent Don Thompson reported at Tuesday’s school board meeting Lisbon joined with other districts rather than each one filing a separate application to increase the chances the county will receive some of the money.

Gov. John Kasich announced last month that $250 million had been set aside in the recently passed two-year state budget to fund the Straight A Fund to award grants to applicants with innovative ways to improve education in a cost-efficient manner.

The program rules required applicants to notify the fund’s governing board by Oct. 4 of their intention to seek a grant, with applications to be accepted online from Oct. 14-25.

Thompson said the school superintendents from around the county recently met at the county Educational Service Center and decided to join forces in seeking funding with a joint application instead of each district going it alone. The superintendents expect this approach will increase the chances their applications would be funded and for more money than if the districts applied individually.

“We didn’t want it to be sitting here when the state has $250 million to hand out and then we didn’t even apply,” he said.

Thompson declined to say how many districts were involved, leaving it to each district to make the announcement, but he said funding will be sought in the following areas:

– Enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education.

– Expand and share online curriculum as a way to save resources for each district.

– Expansion of the One-to-One initiative, which puts laptop computers into the hands of all high school students for use in school and at home.

Thompson said they are still working out all of the details, including how much funding will be sought. He said the grants will be judged on innovation as well as the applicants’ ability to save money and sustain the program over the long term.

According to the rules, any proposed project must meet the criteria of “a verifiable, credible plan for the sustainability of the project” or it will be rejected before the second phase of the review process.

Thompson said it is anticipated the savings would come from the districts sharing resources and in other ways.

Competition for the grants is expected to be considerable. Thompson said there were more than twice as many notifications of intent to apply than there are school districts in Ohio.