East High In Kansas City Gets Multi-Million Dollar Grant For Academics

Jan 17, 2017

East High School in the Kansas City School District just received a $4 million grant over five years to improve academics.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

As Kansas City Public Schools battle to improve academics, one high school is getting multi-million dollar help from the state.              

East High School just got word that it received what’s called a School Improvement Grant (SIG).

It’s federal money that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) distributes to very low performing schools.

East principal Jeff Spaletta, who’s in his first year in the district, says the $4 million grant will be used, among other things, to add classes.

“We’re going to add learning communities, or academies within the school, four to five learning academies so the kids get a career pathway as they’re going through school.”

Those new learning communities will include health sciences, STEM, urban agriculture and business.

"The grant will also assist with student incentives, parent training, counseling, drug and violence prevention, and job-embedded professional development," according to the grant application. Also, the grant will pay for staff training to help them respond "to the high crime in the neighborhood and negative behaviors in the school...and increase students’ resiliency to handle the trauma they have experienced or continue to experience in their neighborhoods and homes."

The money is spread out over five years.

Part of the district's master plan included adding learning communities to enhance job opportunities. “The kids actually said they wanted more classes. So this gives them more classes and more pathways so they can have a viable option after graduation,” says Spaletta.

In addition to East, Hogan Prep also received a School Improvement Grant for $2 million over five years to try and boost academic achievement at its middle school, according to its DESE application.

Eight other grants went to St. Louis area schools.

Sam Zeff  covers education and politics for KCUR and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.