Big School Grant Requires Input From District Voters

Payson schools could land up to $10 million — if citizens speak up

Payson Unified School District Office

Payson Unified School District Office Photo by Andy Towle. |

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The school board on Oct. 9 directed the Payson Unified School District staff to apply for a federal grant that could bring in up to $10 million — but only if residents help out.

Superintendent Ron Hitchcock said the district needs help from Payson residents to make the grant sparkle.

Hitchcock said the Federal Race to the Top program will only offer the $5 million to $10 million grant to 20 or 30 districts nationwide.

“There will be 400 applications nationwide with 240 coming from Arizona,” said Hitchcock.

The district has teachers, administrators and staff joining forces to write the grant, which could end up totaling over 100 pages as its submission.

The district collaborative effort is impressive, but Hitchcock said any additional comments from the public supportive of the school district’s efforts would aid the grant application.

At the PUSD district offices, Hitchcock and the staff have examples of letters and topics available for the public to comment on school areas such as the Response to Intervention (RTI) program, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) classes, improving the technology infrastructure at the school, and supporting teachers further training.

The district needs the comments by Oct. 22.

“(The grant) lines up with what we need to do for Arizona state standards with a focus on student achievement,” said Hitchcock.

Payson has a fighting chance to land the grant, since 25 percent of the children in the district are classed as homeless and more than 70 percent qualify for free and reduced lunches, said Hitchcock.

In addition, because the Arizona Legislature imposed the deepest proportionate cuts to education in the nation, according to a report by the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, PUSD has an additional compelling argument to add to its grant.

Most of the candidates for school board believe that exemplary schools would draw businesses to Payson and Hitchcock agrees this grant would infuse much-needed resources into the school district.

Joni de Szendeffy, director of technology for PUSD, said she could also receive an additional $2 million on top of the $5 to $10 million for technology infrastructure improvement from the grant with help from the community.

“Just think what we could do with that extra money for technology at the school,” said de Szendeffy.

To request more information, please e-mail Susan Campbell (susan.campbell@pusd. com) or call the district office: (928) 474-2070.

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