Wood County Schools’ director of federal programs, John Merritt, is to be commended for helping to secure Title I designations for two more schools – Worthington and Waverly elementary schools. The funding and support will mean each school will get a Title I instructor who specializes in reading, and will qualify for some additional personnel training, technology and funding for “parent involvement” events.
Merritt should also be applauded for recognizing the benefits of focused funding. As he explained, federal guidelines would allow for schools with 35 percent of students qualifying for subsidized meals to be labeled Title I, because the program is intended to give students identified as being low-socioeconomic status an academic boost. But using the 35 percent benchmark in Wood County would allow every school to qualify, and the pool of federal funds would be too thinly dispersed, Merritt said.
Instead, officials here chose to set the bar at higher than 50 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced-price meal participation.
“We fund as many schools as we can, starting with those schools that we can have a significant impact on,” Merritt said.
Changes in district numbers mean that even since the last assessment of subsidized-meal participation, the figures have decreased. That means it is entirely possible the new teachers, technology and funding that accompany a Title I designation will be gone within a year.
Wood County Schools should, therefore, be certain they gain as much as possible from the time they do have with these enhancements to the school system. They must be prepared for it to disappear as quickly as it arrived, and reap the benefits from such support in a way that carries through to students well after the money is gone.