Higley USD presents plan for ESSER III funds

Tyler Moore, Dawn Foley
Higley USD Chief Financial Officer Tyler Moore (center) addresses the governing board about federal relief money while Superintendent Dawn Foley (right) watches. (Screenshot from YouTube)

Higley USD Chief Financial Officer Tyler Moore (center) addresses the governing board about federal relief money while Superintendent Dawn Foley (right) watches. (Screenshot from YouTube)

A stakeholder committee presented the Higley USD governing board Nov. 3 with the district’s plan for using the latest federal relief dollars, emphasizing addressing learning loss and retaining staff. The committee pointed to its survey of stakeholders that put those two items at the top of the district’s needs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The district also will use the remainder of the $7.87 million it is receiving in the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds on facilities improvements and technology. Congress passed the funding, known commonly as ESSER III, in March and dictated at least 20% of it be used on addressing learning loss and all of it on items affected through the pandemic. The plan calls for the money to be budgeted this way:

  • $3.04 million on supporting and retaining staff;

  • $2.33 million on learning loss initiatives;

  • $1.51 school facility repairs; and

  • $990,000 on technology to support instruction.

Learning loss initiatives include $1.2 million for three years of free summer school and tutoring; $912,660 for additional counselors; and $213,642 for a % Phonics Core Classroom program that supports a reading loss initiative from the pandemic. HUSD Chief Financial Officer Tyler Moore noted the money more than coveres the requirement to have 20% of ESSER III funds go to address learning loss. In supporting and retaining staff, the district plans to spend $2.2 million on $1,500 stipends for returning employees; $50,000 on professional development, including support on implementing the phonics program; $20,000 for referral and recruitment bonuses of $1,500 on transportation employees; $30,000 to continue COVID-19 leave for affected employees; and $736,916 to maintain and operate the ESSER III grant for three years. The facility repair money will go to heating, ventilation and air condition system upgrades to improve air quality at campuses across the district. The technology money will be spent over two years and includes money for student laptops for growth and for sites to have spares; software programs; document cameras for teachers; and wireless display modules for elementary classrooms. The spending plan will be published on the district website.

Other items

The district will change its certified staff evaluation instrument from Stronge & Associates to Danielson for the 2022-23 school year after three years of committee work to improve certified evaluations. The new tool allows for more specific feedback, Human Resources Executive Director Mum Martens said. The district updated four policies to align with state law. The changes were to policies about professional staff contracts, professional staff hiring, professional and support staff orientation and training, and a deadline change for each school to have at least one teacher for kindergarten to third grade who has received training in dyslexia.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.