Recent News & Events
Clare-Gladwin S.P.A.R.K.S. grant not renewed; seven sites to close this summer
The Clare-Gladwin RESD S.P.A.R.K.S. program will be forced to close seven of its 13 sites after the grants that provide the program’s funding were not renewed for the 2013-2014 school year. As a result, the program’s after-school and summer-school opportunities will no longer be available to students at Beaverton Primary School, Beaverton Middle School, Farwell High School, Gladwin Elementary School, Gladwin Intermediate School, Gladwin Junior High School, and Gladwin High School following the conclusion of their summer sessions this June. Additionally, eight full-time RESD employees and approximately 70 contracted part-time employees will be laid off.
“Over the last ten years, SPARKS has produced measurable student success thanks to the work of our dedicated staff, the partnerships formed with the local districts, and the support of the families in our community,” said S.P.A.R.K.S. Director Joe Trommater. “It is with great sadness to see some of that come to end.”
As one of the largest and longest-running 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) in Michigan, S.P.A.R.K.S. (Students Participating in Academics and Recreation for Knowledge and Success) offers students in Beaverton, Farwell, Gladwin, and Harrison school districts homework help, tutoring, and activities that enhance the regular school day curriculum and focus on the development of character and leadership. S.P.A.R.K.S. also provides high school students with free high school credit recovery through their after-school Learning Centers.
Each site of the Clare-Gladwin S.P.A.R.K.S. program is made possible by 21st CCLC grants, which must be reapplied for every five years. According to Trommater, this year’s grant score was actually higher than the score they received last year when they were awarded funding. However, due to the recent sequestration, the federal government had $4 million less than they’ve had in the past to allot to this year’s renewal sites. Additionally, a revised grant scoring system gave preference to applicants named as Priority Schools; Michigan public schools identified in the bottom 5 percent of the statewide Top to Bottom ranking. “These factors made the competition just that much tighter,” he said.
The grants would have brought $1 million per year for the next five years to the S.P.A.R.K.S. program.
“We are proud of our proven track record of helping students in real and meaningful ways and we are committed to pursuing other grant opportunities in the future,” said Trommater, who plans to reapply for the 21st CCLC grants next year in hopes of bringing the programs back. “Ultimately, it’s about the students succeeding and we will continue to do all that we can to provide more for our kids.”
On average, 46 credits are recovered at each participating high school annually through the Learning Centers. In one district last year, 28 percent of the seniors graduated on time because of program. Additionally, research has shown that students who participate in S.P.A.R.K.S. for one or more years miss fewer days of school and have higher grade point averages. Of the sites that are ending, 1,361 students have taken part in the program.
Clare-Gladwin RESD Superintendent Sheryl Presler said the loss of funding will have a profound effect on the community as well. “The impact of S.P.A.R.K.S. on the local communities extends far beyond the school doors. Supplies and materials have been purchased from local merchants, and transportation has been provided by either the County Transit systems or the local school district busses. Field trips to local establishments have taken place, and local teens and community members have had the opportunity to earn income through part-time S.P.A.R.K.S. employment,” she said. “The RESD is saddened not only by the diminished opportunities for students but also by the negative impact that not having the S.P.A.R.K.S. programs will have on our communities.”
The six remaining S.P.A.R.K.S. sites are currently served by other 21st CCLC grants previously awarded to Clare-Gladwin RESD. These sites include, Beaverton High School, Farwell Elementary School, Farwell Middle School, Harrison Middle School, Harrison High School, and Harrison Larson/Hillside Elementary School.
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