Aug. 26, 2010
The Garrett County commissioners have allocated $110,000 to help keep a portion of the Local Management Board (LMB) Partners After School Program going for another year. Garrett County Health Department budget carryover funds will be used for the allocation.
The after-school program is a collaborative effort between the Garrett County Partnership for Children and Families, Health Department, Community Action, and local Board of Education.
“The commissioners’ designation of these carryover funds to support elementary- and middle-school children’s academic enrichment through the LMB’s Partners After School Program (PAS) is extremely important to families utilizing these services,” said LMB member Rodney Glotfelty, Garrett County health officer. “We are deeply appreciative of their support in providing bridge funding again this year.”
The commissioners decided to allocate the money after hearing an update report Tuesday morning from Partnership and LMB representatives.
The nonprofit group’s director, Crystal Stewart, informed the commissioners that 21st Century grant funding was not available again this year. This U.S. Department of Education initiative has been the primary funding source for PAS for numerous years. The partnership, therefore, issued a press release about two weeks ago to inform parents that after-school activities would not be available this year at PAS sites, which are located in Accident, Friendsville, Grantsville, Kitzmiller, Loch Lynn, and Oakland.
The Partnership and LMB have been working for more than a year to find ways to fund the program. Shortly before school started last year, Stewart learned that her FY 2010 21st Century grant request had been denied. The grant is federally funded, but the State Department of Education oversees its allocation in Maryland.
In FY 2009, the state allocated the Partnership $260,000 in 21st Century funding to support PAS in Friendsville, Grantsville, Kitzmiller, and Loch Lynn, and at Southern Middle School and the Judy Overlook Center. Accident activities were funded through a Community Partnership Agreement.
To help keep the program going in FY 2010, LMB member/Community Action president Duane Yoder was able to secure an emergency $125,000 Community Development Block Grant, which the commissioners matched with another $125,000.
As a result, about 250 children were able to participate in PAS last year, according to the Partnership’s projects coordinator, Sherri Padovini.
The commissioners noted the importance of PAS in helping students achieve academic success through tutoring and homework assistance. Students also take educational and cultural field trips, and learn about nutrition and drug/alcohol abuse issues.
“There is no doubt about the value of the program,” said Commissioner Ernie Gregg.
Padovini presented the commissioners with data that shows local after-school students are “maintaining pace” with the three-year Maryland Student Assessment (MSA) averages for Garrett County in both reading and math.
Additionally, after-school students who are eligible for free and reduced meals (FARM) “did a little better” than other local FARM students on the three-year MSA average for math. Results in the reading component were about the same for both FARM groups, Padovini noted.
Ironically, the fact that PAS is so success may be the very reason why the state did not award it 21st Century funding, Health Officer Glotfelty indicated.
“I think we’re a little bit of a victim of our own success, over the last number of years, when you look at our school system and the great results that we get out of it, with our test scores and everything,” he told the commissioners.
Glotfelty explained that the state looks at “system needs” and moves money to needy areas, even though children in successful places still need funding for their services.
“That’s just the way funding is in the state of Maryland,” he said. “When you succeed, you usually have your money taken away from you. And when you’re in really bad shape, that’s where they put the money.”
Yoder agreed. He apologetically told the commissioners that when the LMB asked them for emergency after-school funding last year, he really believed that the next 21st Century grant application would be funded.
“We didn’t walk in last year thinking that wasn’t going to happen,” Yoder told the commissioners. “I don’t want you to walk out of here [today] believing that we were just playing a game a year ago.”
Padovini reported that the Partnership recently secured a $40,000 Governor’s Office grant, which will enable one after-school program site to continue, which mostly likely be the Grantsville one. Other local grants may be available to help augment the governor’s funding.
She indicated the northern site was chosen simply because more students participate in PAS there than in the southern end of the county.
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