Local Project GRAD leaders attend national conference

Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Leaders from Project GRAD sites across America gathered recently in Columbus, Ohio to share ideas and develop new strategies for Project GRAD's mission of transforming the lowest performing schools into high-performing schools.

The Kenai Peninsula last summer became the latest school district to be added to the Project GRAD program and the first rural community in the nation to be included. According to Heather Pancratz, executive director of Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula, a local delegation was selected to attend the conference that included KPBSD Superintendent Dr. Donna Peterson, GRAD Board members Jon Peterson and Jim Hornaday, and Violet Yeaton, Parents Advisory Council in Port Graham. Pancratz said that Columbus, Ohio was selected as the site for the annual meeting because of the striking transformation of its Project GRAD schools from low achieving schools in crisis into high achievement schools that are not only graduating their students from high school but also seeing their graduates winning scholarships and going on into college. The program has now been adapted by the entire state of Ohio. Highlights of the conference included tours of GRAD schools and work sessions on the "No Child Left Behind" strategic planning. "This meeting was stimulating and deeply beneficial for all of us involved in addressing the huge challenges our schools face meeting standards and at the same time addressing the extremely difficult task of stretching to the maximum the shrinking resources we have to get the job done," said KPBSD Superintendent Donna Peterson.

Seven schools in the KPBSD have been chosen to participate in the Project GRAD program in order to strengthen skills in math and reading and to provide strong incentives for students to excel, graduate, and pursue higher education at the college level. The process begins in the kindergarten level and proceeds through all grades to high school graduation. "The GRAD movement on the Kenai Peninsula is the first rural initiative based on the national GRAD model and as such focuses on meeting culturally diverse needs of local communities while working with and helping to transform schools," noted Heather Pancratz.

The programs mission is to ensure quality public school education for all children in the communities it serves so that the high school graduation rate increases and graduates are prepared to enter and be successful in college. Project GRAD achieves this mission by giving teachers training in enhanced ways to teach reading and math, holding a summer institute for math/science/writing enrichment and college learning skills, and employing counselors for teachers, students, and parents, as well as offering scholarships to successful students, added Pancratz. For more information about Project GRAD call 235-5612.

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