The Merced Union High School District didn't make it to the finalist list for federal Race to the Top grants to be awarded next month.
Scott Scambray, district superintendent, said they received notice from the federal government earlier this week. Only 15 to 25 school districts nationwide will get four-year awards from a $400 million fund.
There were 372 applications from 1,189 school districts for money from federal stimulus funds. Sixty-one finalists were named and winners will be announced by the end of the year.
"I'm hoping we can try again," Scambray said. "Only four districts in California made it to the finalist list."
Race to the Top grants promoted by the U.S. Department of Education seek to personalize and deepen student learning, improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness, close achievement gaps and prepare students for college and careers.
Kelly Bentz, the district's program administrator for child welfare, attendance and safety, spearheaded preparing the 70-page grant application sent to Washington in late October.
She said Merced educators knew that they faced pretty stiff competition. Federal educators will forward formal feedback to the Merced district in a month or two to guide future application efforts.
George Sziraki, assistant superintendent for educational services, doesn't believe the concepts embodied in the Race to the Top program will go away, and that there's a high probability other competitive grants will become available.
Sziraki said it's unknown if there will be another round of competition for Race to the Top money. The feedback the district receives should help strengthen future application efforts.
The district plans to pursue some of the proposals listed in the grant application.
Bentz said districts had to plan the grant for a four-year period. She examines grant possibilities to see if they are a good fit for the district and looks for ways to supplement the budget.
Fifty-seven California districts applied; Galt and Lindsay school districts from the Central Valley made the finalist list. Individual grants ranged from $10 million to $20 million.
Key components to Race to the Top grants include implementing national common core instructional standards, collecting research data on educational improvement, supporting intervention programs that reduce student failures, partnering with community agencies and building an evaluation system for teachers, principals and administrators.
The Boys and Girls Club of Merced County and Atwater's Police Activities League were signed on as the district's partners.
The district's teachers association supported the grant, along with mayors in cities served by the district.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.