Grady County Assistant
The Georgia Department of Education has awarded a $5 million grant to the Grady County School System that will be used to improve literacy learning for local children from birth to 12th grade. The grant will be spread over a five-year period as part of a “Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia” (L4GA) grant. Grady is one of 23 school districts in Georgia splitting a total of $22.1 million in grant funds.
“I’m eager to see the progress made by our new grant recipients in the coming years. Making sure students are reading on grade-level remains mission-critical, top-priority work for the Georgia Department of Education and we continue to seek all possible opportunities to support that work at the school and district level,” says State School Superintendent Richard Woods.
Janet Walden, assistant superintendent of Grady County Schools, says a literacy team made up of representatives from each local school, worked together to research and write the grant application, often working into the night.
“We’re elated, and so thankful,” Walden says.
Dr. Kermit Gilliard, superintendent of Grady County Schools, says, “I thank Mrs. Walden and her team who helped write the grant. They spent a lot of time putting together our plan.”
In addition to working with traditional students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the grant will also help the school system target children from birth to age five.
“We will go out into the community to help support new parents of infants on things you can do from infancy into the first couple of years of life to increase the potential for school readiness and, ultimately, reading,” Walden says.
In addition to reading to children from the time they are born, Walden says parents should talk to their infants and toddlers using a variety of vocabulary words, and play music.
“Continually talking to your child makes a huge difference,” Walden explains.
The school system will have a point person who will work with local medical providers, businesses and civic organizations to make the birth-5 part of the program successful.
“I’m anxious to see what all we can do with our birth to 5 year olds who do not have formal training until they reach school. I think we will see great gains for these students,” enthuses Dr. Gilliard.
Using the grant funds, the school system will also put specific emphasis on making sure students are reading on grade level in the elementary school grades.
“Statistically, the goal is to have students reading on grade level by third grade,” Walden says.
Grant proceeds will allow the school system to purchase programs to help support this goal, and teachers will have resources, strategies and skills to help them close the performance gap for students in need of extra assistance.
There will also be components for the middle and high school levels.
Introduced in 2016, L4GA is an approach to improving literacy that pairs community-driven action with research-proven instruction. This is the second round of grants announced.
Georgia was awarded a total of $179,174,766 over five years to continue the L4GA initiative. Ninety-five percent of that amount is being competitively awarded to local school districts and their community partners. The awards take into account the poverty level of a community, the percentage of students reading below grade level, the recent rate of growth in the number of students reading above grade level, and whether a school is identified for support from the Department of Education’s School Improvement team.
The department will run another grant competition in late 2020 to award additional funds.
Members of the local literacy team that successfully applied this year were: Jenny Harrison, Cairo High School; Jessica DeVoursney, Whigham School; Erin Simpson, Shiver School; Lynne Arline, Washington Middle School; Jennifer Willis, Eastside Elementary School; Michael Singletary, Northside Elementary School; and Kelly Joyner, Southside Elementary School.
Other counties earning grants include Burke, Butts, Charlton, Clayton, Cook, Elbert, Glascock, Haralson, Lanier, Liberty, Newton, Paulding, Pike, Pulaski, Rockdale, Terrell, Toombs, Treutlen, Troup, and Union. Vidalia City Schools, Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, Georgia Academy for the Blind and Georgia School for the Deaf.