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August 30, 2010

City gets $700k in fed school dollars

Gloucester's share of Massachusetts' $250 million federal prize in the Obama Administration's Race to the Top competition — which spurred state education reforms this year, including expanded spending on charter schools — has been pegged at $413,347 over four years.

Combined with a $332,402 federal stimulus boost for teacher salaries announced last week, the contest money, which can only be used to pay for state-approved school innovation projects, should provide at least some relief for Gloucester's school budget, which is forecast to see significant cuts over the next few years.

The Race to the Top dollars were apportioned to public school districts and charter schools across the state based on the severity of their problems and their numbers of low-income students.

By comparison, the Manchester Essex Regional School District was awarded $62,179 over four years in Race to the Top money, North Shore Regional Vocational School $62,348 and Essex Agricultural and Technical High School $52,901.

The only public school serving Cape Ann that didn't get any Race to the Top money is Rockport, whose leaders decided to forego federal dollars from the program and focus on innovation measures they are putting in place with private grant money.

"I just thought we could not take on any more projects," Rockport Superintendent Susan King said Monday. "We want to stay focused on what we already have. I think we will benefit in the long run by not being signed up as a district.

"The funding is really being used toward overhauling failing schools," King said.

To become eligible for Race to the Top money, a school district or charter school needed to sign a pledge to use the money for — and work with the state toward — goals such as increasing teacher performance evaluations, turning around the lowest achieving schools and making greater use of student test data to shape teaching.

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