Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hollibrook Elementary May Get ‘Transformational’ Grant

By Annette Baird/Memorial Community Extra
Published 8:47 am, Wednesday, December 2, 2015

While not totally official yet, a low-performing elementary school in Spring Branch Independent School District has been selected for an $8.2 million grant to improve student performance, provide quality professional development for teachers, engage parents and break down language barriers.

The district was notified that Hollibrook Elementary School has been "preliminarily" selected for the five-year federal grant, one of six recipients out of 86 applicants from across the nation.

Julie Hodson, director of grants, and Hollibrook Principal Karen Liska called the award truly transformational.

"This is huge," Hodson said in a conference call with Liska. "We want people to totally transform (the school), so it's not low performing and never will be again."

Rated Improvement Required under the 2014-15 state accountability system, Hollibrook, located at 3602 Hollister Road, certainly has its challenges. Of the 839 pupils in prekindergarten through fifth grade, 95 percent of them are economically disadvantaged, and 91 percent are identified as English language learners. Add to that an almost 20 percent mobility rate.

Hodson said the fact that Hollibrook was in the midst of reform to address low pupil performance through an "early intervention model" gave the school a competitive edge.

Liska, experienced in turning low-performing schools around, came on board at the start of the school year.

Hodson said the purpose of the grant is to add to the national knowledge base on how to turn around low-performing schools, to be used much like a research and development grant.

With the funding, the school will adopt the teacher development program Quality Teaching for English Learners and a new literacy project aimed at Latino families to build family support for reading.

The school will also provide an after-school and summer school program to provide supplemental instruction to improve literacy in English and enrichment in other subjects.

Liska said they expect to fully implement the plan for the grant next school year. They are currently drawing up job descriptions for positions to manage the grant and for school support. They will likely start professional development and after school programming in the spring.

This coming summer, Liska said they will start a three-week camp, heavy on English literacy.

Liska said in years past, students were coming out of Hollibrook unprepared for secondary school and not ready for classes in English.

Liska expects to reverse that trend by building a strong literacy program in English for students and their families, so families can provide support at home. Liska said the staff development component will give teachers the skills they need to teach pupils struggling with the English language.

"This is going to be a real energy booster for our teachers," Liska said of the grant.

"They deserve this, they work so hard and for so many hours. And it's of national significance."

Hodson said all that is left to do is check to ensure they are compliant with the proposal, though she is confident that they are.

Hollibrook is one of five low-performing elementary schools in the district.

The others are Spring Branch, Treasure Forest, Woodview and Terrace.

Hollibrook and Spring Branch, because they are in the second year and third year respectively of Improvement Required status, both presented their improvement plans at a required public hearing during the Nov. 9 board workshop.

For information about the schools' improvement plans, visit https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=37814775


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