Grants are for $150,000 for each school
The Catalyst Academy and the Next Generation Academy charter schools in New London each received a grant of $150,000 for the 2014-15 school year.
The Catalyst Academy received an Initial Implementation Grant, while the Next Generation Academy received an Implementation Renewal Grant.
Last year Next Generation Academy received a $175,000 implementation grant.
Kathy Gwidt, district administrator for the School District of New London, said the district had to apply for the grants, and there was no guarantee it would receive any grant money.
“It was a very competitive grant,” Gwidt said. “We are just thrilled that we were funded.”
“There is definitely some relief because there is never a guarantee, and we feel so strongly about the programs that we put together for both of these charter schools that the dollars really allow us to provide the best services for those students,” said Laurie Schmidt, director of pupil services for the School District of New London.
Gwidt added that the district is fortunate to receive the implementation grant for the Catalyst Academy this year.
“It makes a world of difference for us, a district our size,” Gwidt said. “We are a low spending district. There is no way we could have sought this type of endeavor without funding outside of our taxpayer base.”
The district did have a plan in place if it would not have received the grants. Receiving the grants mean the district will not have to seek Fund 10 dollars for the charter schools.
“We were committed to funding this, but at what level? This is what makes a difference,” Gwidt said.
Gwidt added, “We had a plan to utilize our own school district’s budget but that also does put a strain on how it is used district-wide. This really builds us some flexibility on building sustainable practices for our charter schools so when those grant dollars are not available this is something that can be extended without those additional funds.”
The Next Generation Academy charter school is located within the New London High School, and is in its second year of operation. The Catalyst Academy charter school is an off campus school, and will open its doors this year.
Schmidt said the grant money for the Catalyst Academy will be used to outfit the off campus facility. This includes furniture and technology.
“It helps support our endeavors to help us set up with wireless internet connections, phone lines, all those standard operating pieces that we need,” Schmidt said.
Those are the types of items the Next Generation Academy purchased with the grant money it received last year.
Gwidt said the Next Generation Academy is currently paying for online course work through Wisconsin Virtual School and other vendors. This year’s grant money for Next Generation Academy will be used to allow more opportunities for New London teachers to serve in the role as online educators. That means the district won’t have to pay an outside source in the future.
“It beneifits both the Next Generation Academy student, as well as our traditional students who would like an enrichment to a traditional course online,” Gwidt said.
Gwidt said the district still needs a referendum to obtain funds to pay for other projects in the district. She stressed the grants are very focused on what the funds can be spent on. The grants are also audited and monitored.
“If there is any indication you have spent it anywhere else other than what the grant was targeted for, you would pay that back and then some,” Gwidt said.
Some of the criteria for the grants require the district to provide a summary of the mission of the charter school, major accomplishments during the implementation phase, what challenges were met, how challenges were addressed, and prove that students are achieving.
“Both our charter schools require us to have a governing board,” Schmidt said. “We have a governing board made of community members as well as a lead advisor that sits on that board to make sure and monitor that we are spending those funds appropriately. These grants don’t allow us to tackle some of the facility pieces specifically that we are looking at in that referendum.”
“Even though we have a roof with a hole in it we can’t use these grant dollars to fix things like that,” Gwidt added.
Gwidt said there is an additional $25,000 for each grant that can be applied for soon.
Jo Collar is the lead advisor for the Catalyst Academy. Anne Ferge is the lead advisor for the Next Generation academy.