$1.7 million grant paves way for transformation at McCulloch Junior High

Publish Date: 06/11/2014
Marion Community Schools is excited to announce that it has received a grant worth $1.7 million to fund improvement initiatives at McCulloch Junior High School.

The Indiana Department of Education awarded this 1003(g) school improvement grant, which directs federal funds to specific high-priority schools in the state to fund significant interventions. Seven schools were selected to implement school improvement grants in 2014-15, encompassing about $8 million in grant funds.

The list of high-priority schools is lengthy, the application process is rigorous, and the pool of available funds is limited, so MCS is thrilled to have earned a grant that will fuel continuing improvements at McCulloch Junior High School.

The grant will also grow established partnerships with Indiana Wesleyan University and STI Achievement Services, both of which have proven commitment to improvement at Marion Community Schools.

“The opportunities this grant will bring to our leaders, teachers, students, and families will have a direct impact on student achievement and teacher professional growth,” said Brenda McVicker, MCS Elementary Education Director and Title I administrator.

Here’s a look at some of what this grant will fund at McCulloch in the next three school years:

• A partnership with IWU that will provide mentorship for McCulloch leaders and graduate-level coursework for teachers.
• A partnership with STI that will provide personalized, professional, technological, data-driven instruction to education professionals, and will assist in planning and executing instructional change to improve student achievement.
• New staff positions: a behavioral specialist, a technology coach, a teacher specifically focused on at-risk students, and two educational assistants.
• Before- and after-school tutoring.

“The partnership with IWU is a highlight of the grant. This community partnership will bring McCulloch teachers and leaders together with professors from the School of Educational Leadership at IWU,” McVicker said. “And MCS has an existing relationship with STI that has a proven track record in increasing student performance at Marion High School. We are looking forward to continuing to develop that relationship at McCulloch. Whenever you can bring in partners that have a vested interest in your community, everyone benefits from the relationship.”

The grant proposal was written with sustainability at top of mind, and with long-term change as its focus.

“In order to achieve this type of change, collaboration must take place at every level, with every level,” McVicker said. “It will be essential to bridge the gap between teacher performance and student achievement. MCS will use the grant as a catalyst to bring long-term, transformational change to McCulloch Junior High.”

Marion Community Schools believes the improvements at McCulloch aided by this grant will define transformational change on many levels, from the culture, to the staff, to the community, to the relational bridge between student learning and staff performance. The ongoing partnerships with IWU and STI will be key components of that transformation.

“The School of Educational Leadership at Indiana Wesleyan University congratulates Marion Community Schools on receiving a three-year school improvement grant for McCulloch Junior High School. Indiana Wesleyan University looks forward to providing technical assistance in the areas of culturally responsive teaching and leadership mentoring that will best support teachers, administrators, parents, and students in a transformative process that recognizes positive change is often the direct outgrowth of healthy relational bounds within the culture of a school,” said Dr. Brad Oliver, associate professor of education at IWU. “In our opinion, the partnership model included in Marion’s school improvement grant has the potential to be a national model for school reform.”

One of the required elements of the state DOE’s Transformation Model, which is the improvement strategy MCS has proposed to use at McCulloch, is to promote the use of data to inform and differentiate instruction. The partnership with STI is integral in this effort.

“STI Achievement Services is excited to work in collaboration with the administration and educators of Marion schools to implement a plan of action for school improvement at McCulloch Junior High,” said Davis Brock, senior director for educational innovation at STI. “STI Achievement Services recognizes the unique needs of districts and individual schools, and works to improve academic learning not only for every student, but also for teachers, administrators and the community at-large. The STI team is committed to a collaborative partnership that will provide the McCulloch Junior High School community with the support and professional services that have helped Marion High School and other Indiana districts take their students to a higher level of academic success. The STI team is honored to be part of the Marion Community Schools family and is excited to embark on this new opportunity to continue our work with Marion Community Schools students, teachers, and administrators.”

Another element of the Transformation Model is new leadership at the school involved. At McCulloch, Marion High School alumna Jennifer Donald is returning home to take the lead at the school.

Donald most recently served as assistant principal at Haywood Middle School in Brownsville, Tenn. She has previously served in various leadership and administrative roles at the secondary level, and she also has a background in literacy instruction. She is set to start at McCulloch on June 16.

“The school improvement grant for McCulloch Junior High is going to be a tremendous component toward the success of our scholars. I am excited about opportunities that are going to be made available through these funds to jump start a comprehensive program that will offer instructional supports for our performance coaches, academic initiatives for our scholars, and a means to keep our parents and community involved in the academic growth of our school,” Donald said. “Most important, I am impressed with the built-in supports that will ensure sustainability beyond the three-year grant.”

Marion Community Schools is grateful for this school improvement grant and is confident that it will help propel McCulloch Junior High School to great things and help provide a bright future for our students.

"We are thankful for the tremendous opportunity this grant provides us to make better happen for our students, staff and school community of McCulloch Junior High, and we are excited about continuing our educational consultant partnership with STI and engaging an important community partner in Indiana Wesleyan University,” Marion Community Schools Superintendent Brad Lindsay said. "Our purpose is to develop the type of healthy relationships, culture, and professional focus that transforms lives, schools, and community. Giant things are in store for McCulloch Junior High and Marion Community Schools!"