June 23, 2014 – The Ohio Department of Education announced that Mentor Public Schools, in partnership with Kirtland Local Schools, has been awarded a $13.8 Million Straight A Fund grant titled High School Blended and Online Pathways to Success. Mentor partnered with Kirtland to apply for the grant as a consortium based on aligning visions of bringing innovative instructional practices to the classroom.
“In today’s world where information is available anytime, anywhere and right at our fingertips, we realize a major shift in how we teach has become necessary in order to meet the needs of all of our learners,” said Mentor Schools Superintendent Matthew Miller. “We’ve been working hard to make this change in Mentor Schools, and while it can’t happen overnight, this grant affords us the opportunity to move toward making our goals a reality sooner.”“Mentor has been a leader in infusing technology into the classroom for past couple of years-- what school district wouldn't want to take advantage of their innovative thinking?” added Kirtland Schools Superintendent Steve Barrett. “Mentor has a great deal of knowledge and a willingness to share. In schools, we often duplicate effort. This is a real chance to leverage our resources and share them. We know there's a lot of work ahead, but we couldn't be more excited.”
In Mentor Schools, the change in instruction has begun through an award-winning blended learning program implemented at the middle school level. Specifically, at Ridge Middle School where in phase one of our blended learning rollout, 160 seventh grade students participated in a 1:1 take-home learning environment, meaning one device for every student. The 1:1 environment allows teachers to provide extremely individualized and targeted instruction through small groups, while other groups of students are engaged in meaningful digital curriculum. We found students working in this educational setting also remained engaged and worked on school content after school hours-- on nights and weekends. High School Blended and Online Pathways to Success outlines detailed plans to expand the 1:1 concept throughout the high school. Beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, Mentor High School students will have more classroom choices than ever before, including a blended learning track, an increased offering of fully online courses, and distance learning opportunities as part of our partnership with Kirtland Local Schools. The 2014-2015 school year will be a large planning endeavor, including construction and remodeling. One large construction project that will be funded by the grant at Mentor High School will transform the current library space into an up-to-date media center for students and community use.
“We’re excited to revamp the Mentor High School media center into a space our students want to be and a space that is conducive to student collaboration so they can work on projects or their studies together,” Mr. Miller said. “Also, as we have a community that is extremely supportive of our school district, we will be pleased to eventually open the improved Mentor High School media center to the public as well.”The second construction project that will be funded through the Straight A Fund grant is building a state-of-the-art professional development center. The most important factor in operating a successful blended learning environment is having a well-trained faculty to implement engaging lessons in the classroom. In Mentor, we have a dedicated and hardworking staff that is eager to do just that. Additionally, the new professional development center will give not only Mentor Schools and Kirtland Schools’ teachers a place to collaborate and learn, but also educators from across the state, the country and likely beyond. Already, educators from as far as China have visited Mentor Schools to discuss and share innovative classroom ideas and practices. Educators connected through our partnerships with the prestigious, nationwide League of Innovative Schools and the Ohio Blended Learning Network will also benefit by having access to the new professional development center.
From a financial standpoint, being awarded this grant will ultimately have a positive impact on Mentor Schools’ bottom line. In the latest update to the Five Year Forecast, Chief Financial Officer Daniel L. Wilson projected a deficit of $13.2 Million by the end of the 2016-2017 school year. The grant funding of the MHS Media Center project, along with planned staff reductions, will help contribute to the Board of Education’s goal to balance the budget through 2016-2017. Achieving this goal would mean the emergency levy passed in 2004 will be extended to cover 13 years of budgets, instead of four as originally expected.