Mill Pond School in line for lucrative MDESE grant


Westborough – Joanne Fridley, the director of the English Language Learner program in the district, informed the Westborough School Committee at its Jan. 20 meeting that the Mill Pond School is one of just 36 schools in the state to be recognized for the significant gains made by limited English proficient (LEP) students.

As a result, Mill Pond is eligible for a grant program run by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MDESE) that seeks to discover and support the identification, refinement and dissemination of eff ective and promising practices in the delivery of programs, services and instruction to the schools’ second language learners.

Mill Pond has 48 students in the LEP program, Fridley said. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Marianne O’Connor said at the School Committee meeting that the district has already applied for the grant.

Phase I of the grant begins in March and starts with a review, which will be administered by the MDESE’s Center for District and School Accountability.

The district will be provided $5,000 to cover costs associated with preparing for the review, and as much as another $50,000 to pay for the cost of the review The reviews will be conducted by four- to six-person teams of practitioners from outside the district and will include a twoday on-site review of central offic e an d a two-da y sit e visi t at Mill Pond School. The review teams, Fridley said, will be seeking to discover district and school factors that have led to such a high rate of progress for LEP students.

Just by participating in the review, Mill Pond will receive $25,000 to continue to advance the school’s program improvement eff orts by off ering professional development, providing time for teacher collaboration, and the purchase of instructional materials.

In addition, Mill Pond School will be invited to send its leadership team to a Best Practice Summit later this year, a trip that will be funded by the MDESE.

Phase II of the grant doesn’t begin until August, and follows the finalization of review reports, but in Phase II the Westborough School District may apply for up to $150,000 in additional funding.

Those funds may be used to address the findings and recommendations from the review in order to deepen and enhance the delivery of services and instruction to English language learners to disperse effective practices verified by the review, or to develop a joint project in collaboration with the MDESE.

Mill Pond would also be able to apply for an additional $30,000 to address findings and recommendations from the review, funds that could be used on developing materials documents or videos to support and distribute practices described in the report.

Asked by School Committee member Craig Harris of the likelihood that Mill Pond will pass the review and receive the grant, O’Connor was confident.

“Of the 36 schools to get it we’re the only suburban community,” O’Connor said. “I’ve looked at the grant, we’ll get it. It’s not a competitive grant; you don’t get it over another school. If you qualify for it, you get it. All the schools could get it.”

O’Connor said the grant is an entitlement grant, not a supplemental grant. The funds can be used to improve and enhance the LEP program, not to replace costs of the program such as teacher salaries.

O’Connor pointed out that the mere fact that Mill Pond is eligible for the grant because of their exemplary work is a testament to how far the program has come.

“In six years, district-wide, we’ve gone from 80 students in the LEP program to 346 students in the LEP program, which is 10 percent of our student population district-wide,” O’Connor said. “We have children in the program from more than 18 countries speaking more than 30 languages.”