June 3, 2009 Edition

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School awarded stimulus funds

Gretchen Hunt

Schools in Lawrence County are prioritizing needs and planning how to use the approximately $4.4 million in federal stimulus money awarded to the county's four K-12 school districts.

Michael Holland, superintendent of Sloan-Hendrix School in Imboden, said the funds will help schools do projects they have wanted to do but did not have the funds for.

"It's just like Christmas morning," he said. "It's really going to be good. It'll be great for the school and great for the kids."

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriated a total of $2.9 billion to the state of Arkansas, with the Department of Education receiving $228.8 million in formula grant funding.

Each district will receive stabilization funding, which can be used in a variety of ways as long as they meet the guidelines of the act and help improve student achievement, as well as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) and Title I (Education for Disadvantaged Kids) funding.

The breakdown by district is as follows:

Hillcrest ~ Stabilization funds, $279,800; IDEA funds, $105,654; Title I funds, $80,784.

Hoxie ~ Stabilization funds, $862,341; IDEA funds, $256,835; Title I funds, $277,712.

Lawrence County ~ (Walnut Ridge and Black Rock campuses combined) Stabilization funds, $961,261; IDEA funds, $266,275; Title I funds, $292,246.

Sloan-Hendrix ~ Stabilization funds, $635,611; IDEA funds, $131,882; Title I funds, $228,535.

The local superintendents say they have been working with their principals, department heads and faculty to develop a plan for how to use the funding.

"It's an excellent opportunity for our district to improve in various areas," Terry Belcher, superintendent of the Lawrence County School District, said. "It expands the budget in various areas with this one-time large sum of money."

Technology upgrades, additional playground equipment, software purchases and facility improvements are among projects planned throughout the county.

"I think it's going to have a very positive impact on our school district," Hoxie Supt. Dennis Truxler said. One thing money will be used for is to realize a goal of having cameras installed at the school.

"I have talked to superintendents across the state who have put cameras in and they say discipline decreased 50 percent," he said. "If you can limit discipline problems, achievement will go up."

The funds are awarded through reimbursement for expenses linked to each district's plan. Both individual districts and the state as a whole must follow guidelines in order to receive the full amount of funding projected.

In addition, the Northeast Arkansas Educational Cooperative, located in Walnut Ridge, has been awarded $166,640, bringing the total federal stimulus money awarded in the county to $4,545,576.

The Arkansas Recover website at www.recovery.arkansas.gov lists how funding in different areas has been designated, as well as federal and state guidelines, frequently asked questions and ideas for use of the money.

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