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District's state grant could be worth $1.6M

The Sherwood School District was selected as one of three districts throughout the state to participate in a program that could result in up to $1.6 million in grants to support the professional development of teachers and reward those who meet student goals.

On March 12, The Chalkboard Project selected Sherwood, Tillamook and Forest Grove school districts as recipients of a Creative Leadership and Student Success Project grant as part of a pilot program aimed at giving teachers new leadership roles and expanding training opportunities.

In addition, districts will be given money by the organization to reward those who meet school goals by improving student achievement.

Erin Prince, Sherwood School District director of human resources, said in her 22 years in education, the Chalkboard grant was one of the most exciting ventures she's experienced.

"I'm very excited and very energized," said Prince.

The grant will provide up to $30,000 used by a design committee as part of the project's planning phase. That is expected to occur between March and August.

"Once the design is complete and we're ready to implement ... we could get $200 to $400 per student for multiple years," said Prince.

Some of the ideas expected to be discussed include bringing in mentors, offering professional development for classified staff or possibly looking at sabbatical opportunities for the district's staff, 40 percent of whom have joined the Sherwood district within the last four years.

"We are going to be looking beyond what is the norm," said Prince.

Prince said the district might have to fend off those who consider the money that will be given to teachers who improve student achievement as merit pay or pay for performance. That isn't true, she said.

"This is all about enhancing development and increasing leadership opportunities," said Prince.

Likewise, Terrel Smith, who teaches at Sherwood High School and is president of the Sherwood Education Association, told the board that the union is taking a risk in embracing the grant because of a public perception that it amounts to merit pay.

"It is not without political storm," he said.

Still, he said he's ready to go to battle to overcome that perception and that most of the money will go to teachers for learning projects.

Prince credited Kate Dickson, education policy specialist for the Chalkboard Project, as the inspiration for moving the district to achieve the grant.

At the board's March meeting, Dickson said Chalkboard representatives have spoken to more than 100,000 Oregonians since 2004, asking them for ideas to strengthen the state's public schools.

As a result, Dickson said the Chalkboard Project came up with a list of priorities that included aiding career enhancement for teachers, administrators and classified staff.

Dickson said Sherwood had an "absolutely outstanding grant application."

"It is really an honor to be a part of this team" Dickson said.

The Chalkboard Project's five founding foundations include The Collins Foundation, the Ford Family Foundation, Jeld-Wen Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust and The Oregon Community Foundation.

During the board's March meeting, board members Kevin Noreen and Kevin Henry praised Prince and Superintendent Dan Jamison for securing the grant.

"I see a lot of energy coming into this district," said Noreen. "I'm really excited about that."

Jamison said he was ecstatic about the Chalkboard Project funding, saying it's a wonderful project that will bring rich resources to the district.

"This is a big deal on the big deal-o-meter," he said.