The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has been awarded a five-year federal grant that will expand the current mentor program.
The grant is an expanded research effort from the Alaska State Mentor Project Urban Growth Opportunity to increase the number of early career teachers receiving mentoring in urban areas.
The expansion will start next school year and build upon the mentor program the district already facilitates but is currently limited to the smaller schools, KPBSD assistant superintendent Sean Dusek said. The grant will allow the district to employ two full-time mentors and a part-time supervisor that will be available for first-year teachers that are new to the profession or the district.
“The big benefit is that you have somebody that’s brand new to the profession that’s going to have an extra set of eyes that are in a non-evaluation type situation,” Dusek said. “They’re going to be able to work with a veteran and improve their instructional skills.”
Dusek said the mentor program will help with the district’s retention process.
“It’s like an induction type program so that we don’t lose people after one or two years and then go out and retrain people,” he said.
The program, Dusek said, also assists with helping those teachers that may have an assortment of different experiences to understand what is expected by the district.
“It helps us make sure that people get very familiar with what is expected in the Kenai in a rapid fashion and that they rise to that level,” he said.
Cyndy Curran, program manager for the Alaska State Mentor Project, said the mentors’ job is to work with early career teachers to give them the support they need.
The KPBSD currently receives limited resources provided from the ASMP because Kenai is considered to be more an urban district than rural, Curran said.
“But with this grant, (the district) will receive targeted mentoring resources from the ASMP,” Curran said.
The funds the district will receive over the five years of the grant total $1,120,387.56.
“This is all from grants, so it’s not a general fund program,” Dusek said.
The biggest years of awarded money is in years two and three — $383,221.28 and $384,816.18, respectively. In year five, there will be no money awarded.
“Typically with large grants, you have a sustainability plan,” Curran said. “So your first few years you have the most influx of cash, then you’re supposed to have a way to sustain it. That’s why the money drops off by the time you get to year five.”
The money will cover the three positions, as well as training, travel and supply costs, Dusek said.
Dusek said the district is in the process of hiring for the supervisor position and hopes to hire the two mentors later this spring.
“Their training will begin before school starts, early August, with the state and we hope to identify the teachers that will be working with these mentors in either early August or late July and proceed from there,” Dusek said.