Montgomery County

Grant to give Amsterdam school new look, new effort

Tecler Arts Elementary in Amsterdam will look a little different when students come back this fall.

Tecler Arts Elementary in Amsterdam will look a little different when students come back this fall.

Even returning students won’t likely remember where to go, as the school is planning a full classroom location redesign. A few adult faces will be new as well.

All the change comes courtesy of a nearly $4 million state intervention grant.

“I was notified Wednesday at 3:10,” said Greater Amsterdam School District Superintendent Tom Perillo. “We got the grant. We’re all very excited.”

The district applied for the grant once before, unsuccessfully. “When the state turns you down, they tend to give you some feedback,” Perillo said.

They reworked their application and reapplied in the spring, this time with much better results.

Tecler is one of four elementary schools in the Amsterdam system and the only one to qualify for the grant. Perillo explained Tecler falls on the state’s priority list. The priority list may sound relatively positive but actually, “it means it’s basically failing as far as state testing is concerned,” he said.

With average scores of the 470 Tecler students falling below state benchmarks in math and English language arts, Perillo said much of the money will go toward those areas.

It’s too early yet to know exactly how the grant will work, but he said some of the money will go toward hiring math and English coaches to teach current teachers how to be more effective in the classroom.

Included in the grant are two additional order-maintaining positions, an assistant principal and a student support monitor. Amsterdam middle and high school principals have assistant principals to handle misbehaving students, and “get them on the right track,” Perillo said.

The new Tecler hires will do basically the same job.

Beyond new staff the grant includes money for a student traffic redesign.

“Tecler was built on an open-school model,” he said. “Which means most of the walls were put in later.”

Those walls cause inefficient traffic patterns between classes, wasting valuable teaching time.

“Students have to file through classrooms to get to other classrooms,” he said.

One condition of the grant is a redesign. Currently, students are grouped by grade in different parts of the building. Three classrooms of each grade are clustered. This fall they’re going to a “house” model, with three groups of kindergarten through fifth-grade students occupying different sections of the school.

Younger students will see more older students, which should calm things down a bit, but mainly traffic patterns will be optimized for efficiency.

“It will be more conducive to learning,” Perillo said. “I’m looking forward to watching the changes.”

The $3,891,406 grant will be spread out in installments over three school years from Sept. 1, 2013, to Aug. 30, 2016.

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