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Grant targets academic improvement of at-risk middle schoolers

Dr. Howard Walters, an education professor at Ashland University, discusses his role as external evaluator of the 21st Century grant’s effectiveness, with Dr. Holly Christie, district director of student support programs, and Stephen Rizzo, the district’s chief academic officer.

      An after-school partnership between Mansfield City Schools and the North End Community Improvement Cooperative (NECIC), funded by an $850,000 federal grant, has a goal of improving the academic performance of at-risk middle school students over the next five years.

      “We will help the NECIC and they will help us with family engagement. Our combined goal will be academic improvement for at-risk seventh- and eighth-graders,” said Holly Christie, Ed.D, the district’s director of student support programs.

      Dr. Christie explained the elements of the grant during Tuesday’s board of education meeting. She said the goal is to have the program underway by Oct. 15.

      The 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant will provide $200,000 in each of the first three years, $150,000 in the fourth and $100,000 in the final year. It will be administered by the Ohio Department of Education.

      Students will be referred to the voluntary program by their teachers.

      “We will provide certified teachers for after-school tutoring at the middle school from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday,” Dr. Christie told the board. “Two teachers also will be available during breakfast at school from 6:50 to 7:20 a.m. to monitor homework.”

      Also during breakfast Mansfield UMADOAP (Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program) will have mentoring counselors available through its All Stars program.

      The district also will provide teachers to lead academic clubs – math, science, social studies and a book club – from 2:45 to 4:45 p.m. each week day. Buses will take students home after tutoring and club meetings.

      “Our support for the NECIC will allow them to double their ROAR modules to fall as well as summer,” Dr. Christie said, “including another production of The Black Cyclone and a five-day summer manufacturing institute.”

      ROAR, which stands for Real Opportunities for Achievement and Readiness, is a mentoring program designed to help students learn new skills and expand their talents in a variety of areas.

      Dr. Christie introduced Dr. Howard Walters, a professor in Ashland University’s Dwight Schar College of Education, who will serve as the grant’s external evaluator.

      “He is someone who will make sure we are doing it well,” Dr. Christie said.

      Dr. Walters explained his involvement.

      “I have done about 300 of these for universities and school districts during 30 years of studying education,” he told the board. “My specific role will be to advise Dr. Christie on what is working and what is not. I will write my reports from my perspective as a data manager.”

      Board member Renda Cline praised the goals of the 21st Century grant.

      “We are meeting the needs of our students,” she said. “After-school programs are important because many of our students need something positive to do. I will be excited to see this through.”

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