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RCPS will continue to develop district plan

CONYERS -- Officials at Rockdale County Public Schools are not backing down from plans to evolve the school system, despite not winning a $30 million federal grant.

Earlier this month, the system learned it would not be awarded part of the $400 million Race to the Top grant.

"We were the highest scoring application in the state of Georgia," said RCPS Superintendent Richard Autry in an update to the Rockdale County Board of Education last week.

The system was up against the Fulton County Board of Education, Haralson County School System and Morgan County Charter School System in Georgia and more than 50 other systems across the nation.

"We were seven points short of the threshold" to get the grant, Autry said. "It's almost like a football game -- you're not sure if you want to get beat by 100 points or a field goal. I don't know what hurts worse."

The plan could have helped RCPS develop more speciality options, like it already has with the Rockdale Career Academy and the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology. The district developed a plan, called Personalized Learning Assures College/Career Empowerment for Students, or PLACES, to have options for all students in schools and programs and some criteria-based academic programs.

Autry said the district will continue to develop that plan.

"It may take us a little longer to get there -- resources do matter," Autry said. "We are still moving in that direction. We just have to be a bit more creative in financing that."

Other Race to the Top grants and other funding have helped develop and will continue to develop programs that fit into the mix -- next year, a feeder program already is being developed at Honey Creek Elementary School and Memorial Middle School to eventually get students to the Magnet School, focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM.

The system employs a grant writer, and officials will continue to look for other grants and special funds, like educational taxes when possible, to continue to develop the plan.

"We are always searching for creative and innovative ways in which to provide resources to our schools and our classroom," Autry said. "The use of grant funding for our academic programs and the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for capital improvements have allowed RCPS to continue to expand opportunities for our students. With the ongoing support of our community, the investment in our schools will continue to allow for such positive growth."