Tri-County Career Center Applies To State’s Straight A Fund

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The state recently announced plans to provide $250 million to schools for innovative projects, and Tri-County Career Center officials are hoping to get a piece of it.

The Straight A Fund, which was created in the new state budget signed this summer by Gov. John Kasich, is designed to spur creativity and innovation in schools. It’s the largest statewide, competitive innovation fund in the history of American education, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

Grants from the fund will provide seed money for the most creative and forward-thinking ideas, states a news release. Participating schools and districts are asked to pursue one of three goals: raising student achievement, reducing spending or targeting more resources to the classroom.

Tri-County Career Center Supt. William Wittman applied for nearly $3.8 million to develop the school’s student achievement through the creation of a new welding program and the construction of a demonstration lab. He expects the program could benefit 240 students.

If awarded the money, Wittman said a new building would be constructed adjacent to the center located in Nelsonville. The building would house the welding facility and the demonstration lab.

The center already has an adult welding program. According to Wittman, welding is a growing industry in Ohio and jobs in the industry are prevalent in other states as well. The jobs vary from the shale gas industry to construction.

“We see welding all around us; we just don’t realize it,” Wittman said. “We know welding is something that will continue to provide opportunities and jobs for people.”

In the demonstration lab, cars, trucks and other equipment could be worked on more easily in a class setting.

“Imagine going under a truck with 15 students around you; you can’t do it,” Wittman said. “This would allow us to have a digital camera and other equipment under the vehicle that projects onto a large monitor that the instructor can teach from.”

The lab would be an expansion of the school’s auto body and auto service technology programs.

Tri-County is one of 420 organizations that submitted 570 applications to be considered for funding. This means the competition to receive funding will be steep, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

The 570 applications are requesting nearly $868 million. The Straight A Fund, however, is a $250 million ($100 million in fiscal year 2014 and $150 million in fiscal year 2015) program.

Decisions on which school organizations receive grants will be made with input from approximately 230 fiscal scorers who will help determine if applicants’ ideas are fiscally sustainable, states a news release. Next, the applications will be rated by three programmatic scorers to determine the value of the proposal. After the fiscal review and after the programmatic review, the scores are reviewed by grant advisors. The grant advisors will issue a recommendation for funding to the Governing Board.

The Governing Board is comprised of nine members, including the state superintendent of public instruction, four members appointed by the governor, two members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives and two members appointed by the president of the Senate.

Final decisions on award funding are expected to come by mid-December. The State Controlling Board must give final approval before funds are distributed.