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Delta Bridge Project announces $161,502 grant to enhance Teach for Arkansas program in Phillips County
Program enhancements will address shortage of highly qualified K-6 teachers in county by providing college scholarships in return for two-year teaching commitment after graduation
HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark.—The Delta Bridge Project has awarded a $161,502, two-year grant to enhance the Teach for Arkansas program and address the shortage of highly qualified kindergarten through sixth grade teachers in Phillips County, Delta Bridge Project Steering Committee Chairman Elijah Mondy announced today.
In Phillips County, local school superintendents point to a lack of certified teachers as a primary cause of low student achievement, forcing local administrators to fill many teaching positions with long-term substitutes or not fully qualified teachers. In 2006, 80 percent of the math and science teachers in Phillips County public schools were not fully qualified.
The enhanced Teach for Arkansas program will provide scholarships to a group of 12 nontraditional students for the final two years of the Early Childhood Bachelor’s of Science in Education degree, which will be offered at Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas (PCCUA) through the University of Arkansas at Monticello. In return for receiving the scholarship and degree, students will commit to teach in Phillips County for at least two years upon graduation.
In addition to funding tuition and fees for the group of 12 students, grant funds will be used to fund tuition for the Grade 5/6 Endorsement for 10 additional candidates. This additional certification allows teachers with Early Childhood degrees to also teach fifth and sixth grades—an area of acute need in Phillips County.
First year funding under the grant will be $82,758 and year two funding will be $78,744. The project’s total two-year cost, including in-kind contributions from PCCUA and UA-Monticello, is estimated at $253,522.
PCCUA successfully managed the first implementation of Teach for Arkansas, which was a partnership among PCCUA, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and Phillips County public schools to offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Childhood Education. PCCUA began a partnership in 2003 with UA-Monticello to continue offering the Early Childhood bachelor’s degree. The program is still in place and has a 70 percent placement rate of teachers in local school districts; however, the lack of tuition assistance among other factors has limited enrollment in Teach for Arkansas in recent years.
“Teach for Arkansas has a demonstrated record of success in Phillips County,” Mondy said. “The funds provided by this grant will help take the program to the next level and give prospective teachers the financial and other assistance they need to get their degrees and start making a difference in the lives of students in our county’s public schools.”
“The Teach for Arkansas program is a proactive initiative that will provide incentives to local traditional and non-traditional students to teach in Phillips County,” said Rudolph Howard, Superintendent of the Helena-West Helena School District. “Local residents have ties to the community and are more likely to remain in the area than teachers recruited from outside the region.”
“We are encouraged by the efforts of the Delta Bridge Project to help address the teacher shortage need in our area,” said Lee Vent, Superintendent of the Barton-Lexa School District. “While recruiting teachers from outside the area will bring in new ideas, reality shows that we must try to grow our own, especially in the critical areas, such as mathematics, science, special education, and foreign language.”
The Delta Bridge Project is a comprehensive community development initiative in Phillips County. The goals of the Delta Bridge Project are outlined in the Phillips County Strategic Community Plan, which was developed by more than 300 Phillips County residents during an 18-month strategic planning process.
The Strategic Community Plan is a blueprint for community development with 46 strategic goals and nearly 200 action steps—workable plans of action that provide organized community engagement in a comprehensive process involving each of the five fundamental pillars of community life: economic development; housing; education; leadership development; and health care.
The Strategic Community Plan specifically names teacher training as a goal under the Delta Bridge Project, and the grant announced today will help meet Strategic Goal Number Six, Action Step D.
The Delta Bridge Project has achieved unprecedented success bringing projects to reality and leveraging a total $59 million in investments to Phillips County since the first edition of the Strategic Community Plan was released in August 2005.
Contact: Dominik Mjartan (501) 372-4201 ext. 27 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Delta Bridge Project is spearheaded by Southern Financial Partners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit lender and community development organization founded in 1986. Southern Good Faith Fund, Southern Financial Partners, and Southern Community Development Corporation are affiliates of Southern Bancorp, a $575 million rural development bank holding company with banking operations in Arkansas and Mississippi working to transform rural economies by stimulating investments in people, jobs, businesses, and property.