ROCKLAND, Maine — Knox County education organizations are putting in an application for a $500,000 federal grant to help improve the area’s social services and schools.
The U.S. Department of Education is offering up the cash for local organizations to research what social issues affect students’ educational performance and come up with solutions to those problems. The same organization then may apply for a multimillion-dollar implementation grant from the Education Department.
Alan Hinsey at Many Flags One Campus Foundation isn’t sure what problems most affect children’s learning in the Rockland area but he wants the chance to find out. Many Flags — an organization that aims to combine high school, community college and vocational schools under one roof in Knox County — is pairing up with Penquis and two local school districts to apply for the Education Department’s Promise Neighborhoods Grant.
“We think it’s a good opportunity to look at the possibility of pulling together social services and health services to combine with work we’re doing to make cradle-to-career education most successful in our region,” Hinsey said.
According to the federal Education Department, more than 400 applications will be filed for about $30 million in grant money.
“Many Flags did such a wonderful job in Knox County bringing people together and looking at the needs of the region that it seemed to me when I read the information on Promise Neighborhoods, Knox County was uniquely positioned to be successful in this national competition,” said Charles Newton, executive director of Penquis, an organization that serves low- and moderate-income families in Maine.
Newton told Hinsey about the grant and the two organizations have been working with Regional School District 13 and Region 8 Mid-Coast School of Technology — along with a dozen or so other organizations including the local Chamber of Commerce, YMCA and hospital — to apply for the money.
“There might be nutrition, health and safety issues we’re not aware of yet. We want to identify these things to get a good view of the region to see what’s affecting educational success from cradle to career,” Hinsey said. “That’s what the whole year would be about: finding gaps and working together to figure out how we would fill those gaps. For instance, if the data shows there is a drug or alcohol problem in our region the question might be: What does that mean in how parents participate in their children’s lives and how does that affect education attainment?”
Or, Newton said, if access to health care is a problem keeping children from doing well in school, perhaps a health center for low-income families should be built in Knox County.
One stipulation of the grant is that the money must help a school that has a large low-income population or that is underachieving. Last year, Georges Valley High School in Thomaston — now called Oceanside High School West — was listed as an underperforming school.
The grant application is due July 27 and Many Flags One Campus should hear back from the U.S. Department of Education by December.