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Gov. Steve Beshear joined other state and local leaders Monday morning at Simpsonville Elementary School to congratulate the Ohio Valley Education Cooperative and the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative on being awarded a $41 million federal grant.
Twenty-two school districts – 16 with GRREC and six with OVEC, including Shelby County – will use the grant for a collaborative effort called kid-FRIENDLy (Kids Focused, Responsible, Imaginative, Engaged and Determined to Learn), which is already being instituted.
The joint effort will focus on closing the gap between those students starting kindergarten prepared and those who are not. OVEC and GRREC already have hired eight Preschool Pals to work with home-based childcare providers, Head Start, churches and daycare operators to help parents and community members teach early literacy skills.
The grant also has funded 24 College and Career Readiness Counselors, who will spend 100 percent of their time working with students at all levels to explore career options and identify the educational pathways they must take to meet their goals.
“I’m proud of the collective vision these two used to come together,” Beshear said. “The leading edge of education is happening right here in Kentucky.”
Beshear noted the progress the state has made recently, including raising the dropout age this year from 16 to 18, becoming the first state in the country to approve the new Common Core Standards and passing new accountability legislation and obtaining a waiver from the federal government to enforce its own standards.
“But Kentucky is not where it needs to be, yet,” Beshear said. “That’s why kid-FRIENDLy is so important. This was the only Race to the Top grant awarded to rural districts, and that’s very important in Kentucky. More than half of the sixty thousand students that will be affected by this grant live in rural areas and are subject to impoverished areas. This forty-one-million-dollar grant gives Kentucky an opportunity to be an incubator of innovation that will serve as a model for schools across the country. Even more importantly we will make a dramatic difference in the lives of Kentucky children while providing return on America’s investment.”
Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday reiterated Beshear’s statement that Kentucky is moving in the right direction but needs more.
“In a few weeks you will be receiving report cards,” Holliday told the assembled fifth-grade and high-school students. “These reports will help tell you and your parents if you’re on track to be college and career ready when you graduate. What’s that mean for you?
“It means that when you’re a senior and ready to graduate, hopefully one hundred percent of you will be ready for a four-year or two-year college, the military or a job that will pay well enough for you to get away from your mom and dad.
“But that’s not enough. What can you do to get better?
“This grant money will help with that, and the key component is the ‘Leader in Me.’ Some of you are not quite ready to take responsibility for your own learning. This will teach you how. And teach you how to become a leader in all aspects of life.”
Those skills will help students as they prepare for life after school.
“My goal is to give you the ability to make great curriculum choices,” Shelby County Public Schools Superintendent James Neihof said. “I want your world to be a better place because you can make better decisions with your lives than we did.”
After the press conference, students got the opportunity to take pictures with Gov. Beshear, and he went through the halls of Simpsonville Elementary, meeting each student and maybe gaining a future opponent.
Students greeted him by holding up signs with pictures showing what they want to be when they grow up.
“A governor, really?” he said to kindergartener Landon McKinney. “Well, I think that’s wonderful.”