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Sun, Sept. 19

Title I grant gives WEMS $188,000 to help teach struggling students

Williams Elementary-Middle School (WEMS) students are getting extra help in math and reading, thanks to the Title I grant.

Title I is a federal program designed to increase achievement for underprivileged children. WEMS has a school-wide program, rather than just serving students that fall within the poverty level. Williams High School does not receive any Title I money.

In the current school year, WEMS received about $188,000 in Title I money, according to Williams Unified School District Business Manager Melissa Ellico.

The school uses the money to pay for three highly qualified staff positions: an elementary-level reading intervention specialist and a kindergarten through eighth grade and sixth through eighth grade math intervention specialist. These teachers pull out students from their regular classes who are struggling in math or reading. The intervention has been successful, said Chad Scott, the district's special services director.

"It's not something that the district could provide without the Title I funds. There's not enough money within our general budget to pay for those positions," Scott said. "So I think we're getting a lot of bang for our buck."

Part of the Title I money also helps pay for the district's parent and homeless liaison, Sandy Roe. Roe identifies students who may be, for example, sharing housing with relatives temporarily because of economic conditions.

"They don't have a permanent, stable, nighttime environment," she said.

The district has about 153 of these students.

Roe helps make sure these children receive free lunch and breakfast, and may also provide them with clothing, school supplies, or school activity fees.

"It might be special fees for different things, an after-school program or something they want to get involved in to make them feel like they're just like everybody else in school," she said.

Schools must use Title I money in specific ways, said Scott.

"We have to go above and beyond what we're already providing," he said. "We can't take these monies and say okay we're going to pay for something that already exists."

Title I is part of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, under which parents have several rights. Parents may contact their child's teachers about concerns, request the qualifications of their child's teacher, request regular meetings with staff to make suggestions, participate in decisions relating to their child's education and submit written comments about the school-wide Title I program.

Scott hopes a parent will join the Title I team to give comments about the program.

"That's one of the big components is we're really trying to get these parents to see that they're a partner and not be intimidated by the school system, that they have a say in what happens here," he said.

More information is available from Scott or Roe at (928) 635-4428.

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