WCSD to Appeal 21st Century Grant Denial

May 7, 2024

RUSSELL, Pa. – With its budget deadline rapidly approaching, the Warren County School District Board of Directors approved a letter of appeal Monday regarding the 21st Century Grant denial for the upcoming cohort.

The board voted 8-0 (Stephanie Snell was absent) to send a letter of appeal to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The district has provided 21st Century after-school and summer programming since 2011.

If the district is unable to secure grant funding, it’s likely the 21st Century program will not continue. Based on the list of budget items the board ranked earlier this month, funding the program would result in cutting a special education teacher and instituting a 4-day week.

WCSD Superintendent Gary Weber said during the April committee meeting that it’s “getting late in the game” to effectively implement a 4-day week.

The district was notified in April that it was not among the programs approved for the 2024-2029 cohort. The appeal letter focuses on three main points: discrepancies among the raters, late notice of a deadline extension, and rural vs. urban funding equity.

“Reviewing the point totals and reviewer comments for the WCSD Cohort 12 application raises concerns regarding fairness and consistency in the evaluation process,” the appeal letter reads. “While the difference between the ratings of Rater 1 and Rater 2 is relatively small at 60 points, the gaps widen significantly when comparing Rater 1 to Rater 3 (158 points) and Rater 2 to Rater 3 (204 points).”

Nov. 9, 2023, was the original deadline to file the grant application. The district said it was notified on Nov. 8, 2023, that the deadline was extended to Nov. 30, 2023. According to the letter, the district employees responsible for the grant application were unable to take advantage of the extension due to previous commitments, thus putting the district at a disadvantage.

“The district is concerned that other applicants were able to take advantage of that additional time, penalizing the WCSD for having scheduled and prioritized appropriately based on the original deadline,” the letter reads. “In a highly competitive grant competition, every additional hour can potentially yield points in the review process. Additionally, one day of lead time is inadequate to make alterations in plans that would have allowed district staff more time to work on the Cohort 12 application.”

In awarding funding, PDE should “to the extent practical, PDE will award grants equitably among geographic regions within the state to include rural and urban communities,” according to the Request for Proposal.

The distribution of awards for the latest cohort shows that most programs awarded funds were in urban areas in the state’s southeast corner.

“Given the distribution of awards and awardee locations, it appears that the commitment to equitable distribution of awards carried little weight in the award process,” the letter reads.


In other business, the district approved some staffing changes.

  • Certificated Personnel: three people were added to the Extended School Year program staff, two internships were granted, one leave of absence was approved, and one resignation was accepted. Additionally, two dozen teachers will receive a stipend for serving as a Mentor.
  • Support Personnel: one new secretary at Central Office was hired, six people were hired for the summer food service program, two were added to the Extended School Year staff, two leaves of absence were approved, six resignations were accepted, and three took a voluntary transfer.
  • Athletic Personnel: David Rose was approved as an assistant baseball coach at Youngsville. Warren Swimming Head Coach Russ Beyer resigned, as did Eisenhower girls’ soccer assistant coach Emily Rickerson and Youngsville JH girls’ basketball assistant coach Jesse Benton.

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