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Schools make plans to spend federal funds
Hall County, Gainesville systems consider how to use Race to the Top money
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There are changes ahead for Hall County Schools and Gainesville City Schools as $400 million in Race to the Top funding is forecasted to enter school districts this fall.

Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said while no formal priorities have been set, there is talk of directing federal money toward high schools.

"We want to put some resources at the high school level for students that might not otherwise graduate," he said.

Last month, the state was named as one of 10 winners for the second round of the Race to the Top grant competition for school reform. As part of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, the project rewards states for vigorous reforms and achievement.

However, the specifics of how much money will be infused into districts is still unknown, Schofield said.

"We do know that of the $400 million, the 26 participating districts will receive half of that," he said.

The other half will be used by the state to create new tests, implement new teacher and leader evaluation systems and develop a longitudinal data system to track students' progress throughout their education.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said she plans to recommend that a large portion of the funds should be used for personnel salaries and benefits as well as instructional technology.

"We've increased the amount of technology we have and have not increased our personnel to support it," she said.

Schofield said in the last two years of economic slump, federal funds have served as a lifeline to the schools.
Last month, the county was awarded $5 million from an emergency $26 billion jobs bill.

Of the 823 teachers in the Gainesville school system, 180 are funded by federal funds, Dyer said.

"If we did not have federal funding, we'd have to cut Advanced Placement courses, foreign languages, reduce career technology offerings and increase class sizes at the elementary and middle schools," she said.

This September, Schofield will recommend to the board that funds from the jobs bill should be used to add an extra instructional day into the calendar and provide teachers with money for classroom supplies. Dyer will recommend the same to her board on Tuesday.

"Teachers are notorious for going to the store and buying supplies for their classroom," Schofield said. "In these times, they've been doing it even more."

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