The Carson City School District is one of 16 to receive the nationally competitive Race to the Top grant, and will receive up to $10 million over the next four years, the U.S Department of Education announced Tuesday.“It's a proud moment for the Carson City School District,” said Susan Keema, associate superintendent. “It's a proud moment for Carson City, the staff, parents, everybody who worked on this. We didn't do it alone. It was a community effort.” Race to the Top, which launched in 2009, offered $400 million directly to school districts this year to support locally developed plans. The winners were the top scorers among the 372 applications received in November.“Districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level, and now these winners can empower their school leaders to pursue innovative ideas where they have the greatest impact: in the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a press release. “The Race to the Top-District grantees have shown tremendous leadership though developing plans that will transform the learning environment and enable students to receive a personalized, world-class education.”Keema said the grant money will be earmarked for specific programs primarily at the district's secondary schools, such as the teacher mentoring already implemented at Eagle Valley Middle School.“That's a model we believe translates well with this new grant,” Superintendent Richard Stokes said.It will also help establish a data collection system to track student progress and align curriculum and assessment, Stokes said.The announcement comes as the district is facing almost $6 million in budget cuts. While the funds cannot be used to fill those gaps, Stokes said, it could ease some of the burden.Under the plan submitted in the grant application, the district would hire 12 staff members. That, he said, will prevent some of the layoffs in the proposed budget reduction plan.“We're expecting the 12 positions will be filled by people already employed by the school district,” he said. “It does mean more people can have the opportunity to stay on with us.”Carson City was the only school district in Nevada to receive the award. Clark and Washoe county school districts also applied but did not make the cut.“This is wonderful news for Carson City's students, teachers and parents” said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a prepared statement. “As someone whose life was transformed by teachers, I understand the importance of providing all Nevadans with the opportunity to receive a quality education. While I wish that other school districts in the state were also awarded this grant, I know these funds will help put Carson's students on a path towards success.”While the school district still faces significant cuts, Stokes said the news of receiving the grant is cause to celebrate. “This is like getting an early Christmas present,” he said. District officials plan to make an in-depth presentation of the plan to implement the grant funds during a school board meeting next month.
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