Bon Air Elementary receives $893,583 School Improvement Grant

Technology Academy at Bon Air Elementary School was one of eight schools from six districts in Indiana to receive a federal School Improvement Grant Wednesday. According to a release from the Indiana Department of Education, the $893,583 award was granted to Bon Air, in part, because of the staff’s commitment to raising achievement levels within the school.


“We appreciate that Technology Academy at Bon Air Elementary was recognized with the School Improvement Grant award,” Assistant Superintendent Dorothea Irwin said. “Bon Air becomes part of Cohort 6, a group of eight schools chosen from the 39 that applied. This five-year grant is such a boost to Bon Air. Staff, students, and families have worked hard to create a plan that gives Bon Air staff the opportunity to provide quality professional development, programming, and opportunities to our students through additional funding and resources. Congratulations to the team that worked so hard to design this plan and to the staff, students, and families who will continue to work hard to reach their goal of academic excellence and success for all learners.”


Bon Air Elementary Principal Paula Concus explained that her staff spent two months writing the grant, which focused on the following areas within the “Turnaround” Model as prescribed by the IDOE: Leadership, instructional practices, professional development that is aligned with instruction, use of data to differentiate instruction, community supports, and family involvement.


“The teacher leadership piece and family involvement piece are integral,” Mrs. Concus said. “The grant provides Bon Air teachers more leadership opportunities, as well as the funding to compensate teachers for those leadership roles. Teachers will spend more time teaching one another.”


Mrs. Concus believes this camaraderie will create more of an ownership mentality within the staff.


According to Mrs. Concus, teachers will conduct Summer Action Research projects through the grant. The teaching staff will develop research-based classroom projects through the summer and implement them (if approved) during the school year. Teachers will collect data on their project’s impact on student achievement and present their findings to the staff.


The grant, which will be released by the IDOE over the next five years, also provides funding for the use of a videographer to record Bon Air Elementary teachers demonstrating effective instructional practices. In the videos, teachers will show, for example, how to create anchor charts, flip classrooms, or establish an effective reading block. Bon Air administrators then will create a video library as a resource for teachers.


“I’m excited about the support the grant provides,” Bon Air 4th -grade teacher Rita Sale explained. “The video library will help both new and veteran teachers. I’m not new, but I enjoy learning new ways to improve my instruction.”


The grant also provides funding for a parent liaison to support Bon Air families, and Assistant Principal Lyndsi Smith believes that is an essential component. This parent liaison will help connect parents with community resources. The liaison also will be able to organize programs for parents both during, and after, school. In the past, Bon Air has hosted these programs only after school when staff members are available to help. Some parents, however, work in the evenings and weren’t able to attend any of the events, which offered information on topics, such as Internet safety and educational websites to access with your children.


“Parents want to know how to support their children,” Mrs. Smith said. “Our parents want to be more involved. With this grant, we can better help them with that goal.”


Funding from the School Improvement Grant will allow Bon Air Elementary to offer intervention support for its students during the school day, as well as add a Summer Camp and expand its after-school programs.


Mrs. Sale noted that she already offers an after-school Homework Club that focuses on math instruction. According to the 4th -grade teacher, the club is popular… drawing in as many as 30 of her students on a given afternoon. The grant money will allow her to expand the Homework Club.


When Mrs. Sale learned Bon Air had received the School Improvement Grant, she felt like her school had “won the educational lottery” because of the impact the award will have on the Bon Air community for years to come.


“The School Improvement Grant allows us to extend our opportunities to reach students and support them,” Bon Air Instructional Facilitator Jessica Hollingsworth said. Principal Concus knows it will not be easy.


“We are so excited to receive this grant,” Mrs. Concus added. “But to fulfill the dreams we have for Bon Air, it is going to take a lot of hard work. Our staff is prepared for that.”


Mrs. Smith said the Bon Air Elementary teachers are excited for the planned improvements.


“I told the Indiana Department of Education that the passion our teachers have for our students is evident,” Mrs. Smith concluded. “Our teachers want to see our students succeed. This grant will give our teachers and students the tools they need for success.”

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