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Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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District in line for $1.2 million grant

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle Public Schools could get up to $1.2 million over the next five years to help raise academic achievement at some of the city's most ethnically diverse schools.

District officials said the National Education Association (NEA) on Tuesday plans to announce that the district will receive a $250,000 grant, renewable annually for four years, to provide staff training and to enhance the curriculum at Brighton, Dunlap, Emerson, Wing Luke and Rainier View Elementary schools; African American Academy; Aki Kurose Middle School; and Rainier Beach High School.

District and NEA officials said details won't be revealed until NEA Foundation President Harriet Sanford and NEA President Reg Weaver fly to Seattle next week to discuss the partnership with the district.

The Seattle Education Association, which lobbied for the grant, considered the funding a boon for the city, especially in South Seattle, where much of the money will be spent.

The grant will include cultural training for staff members to improve communication and understanding with parents and students from different ethnic backgrounds. NEA will send senior staffers to consult and work with the eight Seattle schools, Seattle Education Association Executive Director Steve Pulkkinen said.

"We need to deal with race and cultural issues if we are to close the achievement gap," he said.

"The NEA recognizes how important closing the achievement gap" between whites and other minorities is to this city, he added.

It's such a priority that under the five-year contract the district signed with the teachers union last year, teachers in struggling schools receive greater protection from layoffs and more training than their peers elsewhere in the district, Pulkkinen said.

The district wants to foster a tighter school community with fewer teachers and students transferring out of struggling schools, which often have a highly diverse student body.

Before the school year started, the district sent 250 teachers, secretaries and other staff members with translators to make home visits to get parents involved.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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