MARIETTA — Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa learned last week that his school district won’t be receiving the estimated $20 million Race to the Top grant Cobb Schools applied for in October.
However, not everyone is disappointed.
Cobb was seeking the grant — which they called R.E.A.C.H. for rigor, excellence, attitude, challenge and hope — to help pay for professional development for teachers and administrators, as well as for projects to improve students’ transitions into and out of middle school.
The grant would have applied to Griffin, Floyd, Lindley Sixth Grade and Lindley middle schools.
Cobb was competing against 222 other districts in their category and about 900 overall for a portion of the $400 million grant, which is expected to be awarded to 25 districts by Dec. 31.
Hinojosa said he never received a notice from the U.S. Department of Education that they weren’t a finalist in the grant race.
“I just heard some news reports of other districts getting it,” he said. “I had to do some research to find out that we did not advance.”
However, Hinojosa never let his expectations get too high.
“Our team put a lot of time into it, but it was a long shot and that’s the nature of competitive grants,” he said.
He also said that while implementing some of the goals outlined in the grant can’t be done because of the lack of funding, the department is trying to figure out what parts of it they can do.
“We won’t be able to do it on the scale that they had planned,” he said. “It’s a shame for the people who got excited about it, for those who tried to do things for those schools.”
Amy Krause, who replaced Judi Jones as Cobb’s chief academic officer in November after she retired, said they would begin implementing what they can in the schools in January.
“I’m mostly disappointed because of the hours and the time and the contribution that the schools made,” she said. “I want to honor that as much as we can, that’s why we are going to move forward.”
Krause’s staff will work with the four middle schools on the curriculum and instructional practices without the grant.
“When you invest people in developing these plans, they become committed at some extent. We are going to do everything we can,” she said.
Krause said she hopes going through this grant process will put the district in a better position next time and give Cobb an opportunity to add those plans that need funding.
Outgoing board member Alison Bartlett, who represents west-central Cobb and opposed applying for the grant, said she was “relieved” that the grant wasn’t awarded to Cobb.
“There are a lot of strings that get attached with the federal government,” she said. “Some is the enormous amount of paperwork.”
Bartlett said she still thought the concept behind the grant was solid.
“They had some great ideas which is why you had incredible staff support,” she said. “I’m hoping with that staff and knowledge, they find ways to implement without the strings.”
Lynnda Eagle, who supported the district applying for the grant, agreed with Bartlett on the need for help in the middle grades but said she was "quite disappointed" that Cobb wasn't named a finalist.
"It will be interesting to see which districts did receive it," said the northwest Cobb board member. "In my opinion, the middle school years are some of the most critical for most students. We had quite a few middle schools who were very excited to be a part of the integrated learning and some of the other grant initiatives, and it is likely that some of these schools will proceed with those plans."