Local News

Wake schools focuses some stimulus funds on pre-K

Posted September 17, 2009 6:53 a.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2009 10:37 a.m. EDT

— The Wake County Public School System has $46 million in federal stimulus funds to spend, and Gail Pengelly’s pre-kindergarten class is part of that funding.

Her class at Barwell Road Elementary School is one of 19 new pre-K classes in Wake County schools. The goal is to add a total of 26. Previously, the school system had 12 pre-K classes, which were funded with Title I money.

Barwell Road Elementary is a Title I school, meaning 35 percent or more of its kids are on free and reduced lunch. Title I is a federal program, so Title I schools are getting federal stimulus dollars. Wake County has 45 Title I schools.

Stimulus money also bought each Title I school a math coach. Tamika Bryant is the point person on all things math at Barwell. She works with every teacher in the building.

“I sit down with them, go over the curriculum (and) talk about planning the lessons,” Bryant said. “My main responsibility is to the teacher, to make sure they have as much support as they need.”

Federal support for the new positions will be cut off in two years. Pengelly said she hopes the pre-K classes will prove their worth to ensure student success in kindergarten.

Wake County school officials said 75 percent of their stimulus money went to saving or creating jobs for 558 positions including classroom teachers, teacher assistants and instructional support staff. The money will be used over the next two years.

District leaders said they would have liked to use more of that money to hire the 1,500 teachers who were cut in June, but the money came with restrictions. The funds could not be used to save teacher jobs and some money had to be used to create new positions.