There's money out there, and the Hernando County School District wants to make a serious run for it with the addition of grant writer Eric Williams.
He already has one grant so far this school year: $25,582 to help recently arrived immigrant students with English proficiency.
Williams has about a dozen current projects and intends to work on resource development and partnerships with local businesses.
"We can do a lot through community partnerships," he said.
One of Williams' plans involves using the tower near Brooksville Elementary School to provide wireless Internet access to schools and district buildings within a 6-mile radius by 2011.
He would like to develop a youth bicycling program at the high schools that would include road bikes and indoor "spinning."
He wants to find a way to have exceptional education students produce print communication within the school system. And he just finished a grant for student-managed anger reform training.
Williams was a language arts and reading teacher at Parrott Middle School before moving to Wyoming to teach for eight years. He attended the University of Nebraska, where he studied journalism and mass communication. He returned to Florida to teach at the University of North Florida in 2004.
He moved back to Hernando County and taught at Hernando High School before applying for the grant-writing position.
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District ESOL curriculum specialist Jeff Yungmann's department was the beneficiary of Williams' first grant. The department serves recently arrived immigrant students and their parents.
The $25,582 grant will help 122 English language learners overcome language and cultural barriers who face language and cultural barriers. When students register, Yungmann said, they fill out home language surveys.
"They are given a test for proficiency," he said. From there the need for English Speakers of Other Languages services is determined.
Yungmann hopes to involve parents with a techno-cultural night.
"The district will host a parent involvement night and will purchase software designed to improve recently arrived immigrant students' English proficiency this fall," he said. "The comprehensive new program will increase cooperation between parents and teachers and will give teachers new research-based tools to address immigrant students' particular needs."
The software tracks students and helps them make key sounds, build vocabulary and establish reading fluency while helping with English language proficiency. It is designed for kindergarten through ninth grade, but has some high school potential.
Yungmann hopes the grant will be ongoing.
"Through evaluation of the initial grant, I want to determine the effectiveness of the strategies and objectives toward meeting the needs of immigrant students in Hernando County," he said. "Collaboratively, through student, parent and teacher input, we can revise goals for effective continuation of the grant. Following this evaluation, we'll adjust our program objectives in an effort to improve immigrant student achievement."
Williams, the grant writer, says the program should help increase ESOL students' performances on standardized tests and help ease their transition into American society.
"I think this is a great opportunity to have something available for these students in their classrooms," Yungmann said.