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Pinnacle benefits from stimulus funds

An "Elmo," the device on the left and a laptop computer. Items such as these were purchased with Pinnacle's stimulus money totaling to 32 Elmos and 60 computers for math and writing labs.

Sun Advocate reporter

The Pinnacle Academy in Price has been the recipient of around $533,000 in federal stimulus funding, and has used the funds to buy equipment and initiate educational programs. Although the money was not given all at once (part of it had to be spent by June 30, 2009), the school has been trying to utilize options for the long term.

"What we did with our stimulus money was sit down with our leadership team and try to figure out how we could invest in the future, looking beyond the doom and gloom," said Roberta Hardy, Academy principal.

A certain amount of the money had to be spent which so has been about $138,733. Although no new staff members were hired, Principal Hardy indicated that jobs were preserved and learning options have been expanded. Two new additions to the curriculum resulting directly from stimulus have been computer programs that encourage learning in math, reading and writing skills. Called "My Access" reading and "Accelerated Math," the two computer programs are accessed online, which, according to Ms. Hardy, allows freedom for teachers.

"When we were planning, we looked at tiers of education. We want all three taken care of. Every teacher has a smart board, and we had a huge need for writing and math. Math is a huge problem in the area. With Accelerated Math, we can take a targeted approach," said Ms. Hardy.

While no smart boards were purchased with the stimulus money, other equipment such as 50 computers (total $50,249) and 32 "Elmos" ($498.99 a piece) were part of the expenditures. An Elmo is a machine that allows teachers to project images onto a screen via video camera. It also has a variety of other uses. Other equipment purchases included 20 LCD projectors at $15,000, "E-Chalk" at $17,818, and a Brain Child Curriculum for $10,365 as well as 16 other items under $8,000.

Making the equipment purchases involved a process of considering long term value. "In the future we couldn't continue to put money into a bunch of people, because this was a one- time sum of money, so we looked at how to spend it effectively for the next three to four years. We purchased three-year licenses for the programs. The laptops have warranties and the Elmos should last for years," said Ms. Hardy.

Along with the equipment and the online programs, the school now has two new writing labs which include wireless Internet connectivity. Although the school has always focused on keeping class sizes small, Ms. Hardy indicated that the stimulus has helped provide some freedom for this pursuit.

"There are three math teachers and six aides. No teacher in math has a class with over 15 kids; we've found that we're making leaps and bounds with small classes," said Ms Hardy.

Stimulus money in general has to be spent in very specific ways, which involves a long planning process. Although Pinnacle based their needs on a three-tier educational need system, the tiers are not unique because they are utilized by many school districts nationwide. The three tiers break down in this way: Tier 1: Quality classroom instruction. Tier 2: Focused supplemental instruction. Tier 3: Intensive interventions specifically designed to meet the individual needs of students. With the new online reading and math programs at Pinnacle, the school intends to meet the needs of individuals through continued evaluation with the programs.

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