By Michelle Miller
---- — Cooperstown Central School is again getting the opportunity to receive a $10,000 grant to support its Supporting Successful Strategies to Achieve Improved Results project.
Three years ago, according to the district’s special education chairperson Laura Bliss-Lamb, the school was recommended to apply for the grant because of recognized achievements in what was being done in literacy instruction for students with disabilities as well as its response for intervention model for identifying students with disabilities and providing academic support.
Bliss-Lamb said grants are awarded to schools that have been identified as having best practices in one of three areas — special education, literacy or behaviors. She said CCS was identified for best practices in both special education and literacy instruction.
“The idea is, once the state finds schools that are doing things well, they want to help other schools to replicate that. So first we were validated as having effective practices and then the second step was that they matched us up with a mentee school and we became a mentor school,” Bliss-Lamb said.
Bliss-Lamb said once the school was validated it became eligible to apply for the grant funds, which has been done for the past three years.
“What we are supposed to do with that money is to continue to improve our practices,” she said. “We can use the money to support training and professional development for teachers, for materials and supplies and to continue to move forward and support your mentee,” she said.
According to Bliss-Lamb, Norwich was identified as CCS’ mentee school in the middle of last year. She said Norwich teachers come to CCS to visit teachers and observe classes.
“It has really worked out nice because we do a lot of things electronically through email, and teleconferences, so when they are actually coming here there is pretty much no impact. They have been observing teachers in their room providing intervention, but then coming back to talk to me or having teachers come here in their free period to get more details,” she said.
Being a mentor has not been intrusive, she added.
“We just continue to do our things as we do it,” she said. “We basically just allow other teachers to learn through example through video conferencing, classroom observation and sharing forms and procedures.”
Part of being identified as an effective school, Bliss-Lamb said, is to have formal procedures that other people can look at.
Bliss-Lamb said she was happy to when the she learned the grant would be extended into another year.
“It continues to reinforce and validate the hard work and dedication of all the teachers and staff,” she said.
“Although $10,000 seems like a lot, it really isn’t,” Bliss-Lamb continued. “But it really does help in these times.”
The funds allow Bliss-Lamb to continue to provide updated materials needed for special education and academic intervention teachers, she said.
For example, Bliss-Lamb said she was able to purchase books to help with literacy, that she could give to every special education teacher that she would not have been able to afford without the funds.
“It only cost me like a few hundred dollars, but it was still a few hundred dollars we did not have in the budget,” she said.
Some of the money was also used to train teachers last June, which would not have been possible without the grant, according to Bliss-Lamb. She said workshops on reaching the new common core standards were a part of the teacher training.
“Our main focus this year is on getting students to reach the next level. We want to take what we are doing up a notch,” she said.