Marion-Walker Elementary School gets grant, mentor challenge

Marion-Walker Elementary School strives to be the kind of school others look up to.

On Sept. 16, the school was awarded $25,000 through the Pennsylvania Department of Education Governor’s Expanding Excellence grant. It’s designed to “create a culture of innovation and achievement in Pennsylvania’s public schools to increase student achievement,” according to a news release from the state.

But with it comes more than just a dollar amount.

Marion-Walker is also responsible for being a mentor school for Moshannon Valley Elementary School in Houtzdale, which didn’t make the cut this year.

This month, Principal Sharlene Yontosh and other representatives from Marion-Walker will create a way to work with Moshannon Valley and help it develop an “action plan,” Yontosh said.

“We want to create a training module that would provide the type of professional development that will be linked to their school and so others can tap into that,” Yontosh said. “We’re working to unfold a system we think will work.”

Public schools with a 2012-13 School Performance Profile score of 90 percent or higher were eligible to apply for the grant, distributed at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

School administrators were required to analyze strategies, processes and techniques, and design research-based models or training tools that could be used by schools across the state to improve student achievement.

Grant recipients then partner with — and mentor — a public school that had a 2012-13 performance profile score of 79 percent or lower to assist in implementing strategies to improve student achievement.

According to a news release from the Department of Education, the district in which the low-performing school is located would receive up to $10,000 to assist in replicating the research-based strategy designed by the mentor school.

Money from the grant will go to improving programs at the school, Yontosh said.

“It’s exciting and it’s always an honor to be recognized for the work our staff and community does,” Yontosh said. “We live in a community where it takes a village to raise a child, because everyone contributes to their academic success. ... We’re dedicating the time to make sure our students are growing.”