USD 491 receives $3 million grant
New Eudora USD 491 Superintendent Don Grosdidier had a great second day on the job when the district received a four-year, $3 million grant Wednesday from the U.S. Departments of Education, Justice and Health and Human Services.
The grant was part of $74 million in grants awarded to 27 different states as part of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative.
USD 491 was the only school district in the state of Kansas to receive the grant.
The district applied for the grant in March after discussing it at a meeting in late February attended by about 23 representatives from various organizations, including members of the Bert Nash Center, the Eudora City Council, the Eudora Chamber of Commerce, Douglas County Youth Services, the Eudora School district and the Eudora Police
The grant, which will pay out $745,816 over four years, will address five areas that can detract from quality of life:
¢ safety and violence factors
¢ drugs and alcohol factors
¢ behavioral, social and emotional factors
¢ mental health factors
¢ early childhood and parenting factors
While there wasn't necessarily a community-wide problem in those five areas, those involved with the process found there were areas where Eudora could do a better job if they had the financial means.
"There's always room for improvement, and with greater funding, you're able to do greater things," Grosdidier said. "That's certainly the case with this grant. The great thing about it was that the whole needs assessment process involved the community."
The group looked for deficiencies and found a lack of early childhood resources within not just the school district, but also the community of Eudora as a whole.
The district now will be able to hire an early learning center coordinator to lead the planning process for a new center that will open in the fall 2009
"I'm ecstatic about being able to hire someone to do that this year - help to plan and coordinate all of the different partners who will be part of the early learning center," Grosdidier said.
The job otherwise would have fallen to other staff members who would not have been able to dedicate all their time to it.
The coordinator will become an instructor in second year of the grant.
The group also noticed that there weren't enough before and after school or summer youth programs.
"One of the things that was identified during research was that we have a lot of commuting parents," Grosdidier said. "Many commute east to Kansas City and have to leave early in the morning, and as a result of that, they need some supervision for their children before school."
Eudora Parks and Recreation Director Tammy Hodges was especially pleased to hear the news of the grant because the school district will work with her department to improve non-school hour programs.
"I'm pretty excited, and Don Grosdidier really worked hard on this," Hodges said. "Anything they give us is going to be awesome."
Sustainability of the school district programs is important to Grosdidier, who hopes find permanent funding for the programs made possible by the grant.
"Gradually over time, we would look to assume some of the costs of the personnel positions and we'll try to build those into our general fund based on student growth within the district," Grosdidier said.
All money in the grant was earmarked for specific purposes during the grant proposal writing process and cannot be used for anything but what was specified. However, the district can do a safety audit to figure out if it has any needs that weren't in the grant proposal.
The hiring of a grant coordinator will be the first expenditure of grant funds. The coordinator will direct implementation of the grant, hire personnel,and maintain budget while soliciting further grant funding.
The grant's arrival was a welcome addition to the less than positive economic conditions coming to the surface as the district works on the budget for the 2008-2009 school year.
"It's great timing because budgets are tightening and the feedback that we're getting back from the state is not a pretty picture for this year or for the coming years," Grosdidier said "To have $745,000 dollars coming from outside of the state is a nice little shot in the arm."
Go to eudoraschools.org for more information on the grant and its dispersement.