- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Parents are voicing concern about a grant that would bring new federal money to Wakonda Elementary in Omaha, but would require that half the school’s teachers and its principal to be replaced.

Omaha Public Schools’ administrators are applying for the federal school improvement grant that would give the school, which is listed as one of the state’s lowest-achieving, about $1 million over three years for student improvement.

Superintendent Mark Evans told parents at a meeting Thursday that the principal has decided to retire, and that a replacement would be hired if the grant is approved. Teachers would also have to reapply for their jobs, but only half of them would be rehired.

The Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/1x07TUh ) reports that many parents, including those with special needs kids, are worried their children will have trouble adjusting to new faces and teaching styles.

“There are teachers here we love,” said parent Jason Gentry.

Some teachers outlined to the school board possible uses for the grant money. Some suggested purchasing tablets and laptops for every student and the creation of more parent engagement and education programs.

“Some kids - no it’s not some, it’s most - they’re three and four grade levels behind,” teacher Melanie Anderson said. “This is not something that’s new at Wakonda. This is happening year after year. We can’t keep doing the same thing and hoping for a different result.”

Fewer than 40 percent of students at Wakonda Elementary scored proficient in math and reading last year, which led to its eligibility to apply for the grant.

Several board members and parents said that the answer to the school’s problems was not more technology, but higher standards and more rigorous lessons.

“We have to take ownership of our children,” grandmother and PTA member Stephanie Tillery said. “In order for this school and program to be successful, parents have to be active and support the school and its students.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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