District receives big news with grant award

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published January 25, 2013


HARPER WOODS — School officials are thrilled about what more than half a million dollars in grant funding will allow them to do for student learning.

The excitement in the air was palpable at the Harper Woods Board of Education meeting Jan. 22 when school officials announced the news.

In a letter dated Jan. 11, the Michigan Department of Education informed the district of its conditional grant award of $431,300 for one-to-one technology (one computer per student) at the high school and $116,000 to provide learning opportunities beyond the regular school year.

“We’re really, really excited about that,” Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said.

He said it adds to the 21st-century learning environment that they have been working to create in recent years, which included previous investments like interactive whiteboards for every classroom.

“We truly are going to have one of the most contemporary learning environments available to students in the state,” Biederwolf said. “We’ve got some really, really great things going on in the district. Truly, truly, great, great news.”

The district’s portion is part of $6 million in funding available to districts across Michigan.

Secondary school Principal Thomas Parker announced the grant at last week’s school board meeting.

“You should have seen the look on the faces of several people in the audience here when you announced that dollar amount,” board President Brian Selburn said to Parker at the meeting. “I saw jaws drop.”

Selburn thanked Parker and others who worked on the grant application.

“You nailed it,” he said. “Thank you very much.”

The first component will allow the district to purchase technology for the students’ use during the school day.

“We will be purchasing a computer, an iPad or a laptop for every student at Harper Woods High School,” Parker said.

It’s an investment of about $1,000 for every student.

“What a great message for kids,” Biederwolf said.

“Each student will have available the most modern of learning accessories,” he said. 

It’s a pretty big endeavor that sets Harper Woods apart from many other districts, he said.

“Not many schools are going to be able to say they have one-to-one technology for their students,” Biederwolf said. “It’s a great, great opportunity.

“This levels the playing field for them,” Biederwolf continued of the ability of lower-income students to have access to the same technology as other students. “It creates quality in educational opportunity.”

The second component is adding more learning opportunities beyond the typical school year.

Adding learning time outside the typical school day isn’t a new concept in Harper Woods Schools. The district has extended the school day in the past and the $116,000 will allow them to extend the school year with more opportunities for students.

“Sometimes we just need to provide additional time and opportunity for students to meet those expectations,” Biederwolf said.

The extended year won’t mean more time added to the typical classroom schedule.

“We will have extended summer programming,” Biederwolf explained. “Our goal will be to get all of our students to participate.

“Our focus will be on development, enrichment and enhancement opportunities,” he said.

Board Vice President David Kien commented on the grant opportunity, saying that the district has had a lot of additional financial resources come its way.

“One-to-one technology in the high school, that’s huge,” he said of the latest grant.

While he’s excited about the opportunities, he is hoping the district can continue to work on boosting parental involvement in the schools, which he called the missing link.

“We really need to investigate other ways to get people more involved in their children’s (education),” Kien said.