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Handley to lead #036;7 million grant

Ironton High School teacher Jeff Handley will leave the classroom next year to direct the school system’s new $7 million-grant-funded college readiness program.

Friday, December 03, 1999

Ironton High School teacher Jeff Handley will leave the classroom next year to direct the school system’s new $7 million-grant-funded college readiness program.

"There are a lot of challenges students face today but everybody has the ability to continue education after high school," Handley said. "This grant will better ensure that."

The U.S. Department of Education’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant awards Ironton schools $7 million for six years – all to eliminate barriers that hinder students from moving on to college or technical schools.

"The industrial age is gone and we’re now in the information age they say," Handley said. "The jobs in the information age are jobs that require much more education.

"The steel mills are no longer here and schools must move to meet this new need and tie parents in with it."

The grant will bring academic improvements like tech-prep programs and funds for teacher training, as well as help parents work with teachers, Handley said.

It can help students with financial aid counseling, pair them with businesses and on-the-job instruction, develop advanced math classes, provide extra counseling and bring more teacher resources and materials into school buildings, he said.

Grant monies also will create scholarships, but details are limited for now.

Handley is meeting with officials in Columbus today to learn how the grant money will be divided among the different components of the GEAR UP program, he said.

Basically, the grant will enable the school system to follow an entire class from junior high to senior status with support services, literally gearing them up for success then and after graduation.

Sometimes students say they don’t want to take this math class or that science class because it’s too hard, and so they don’t, Handley said.

"That’s a career choice right there," he said.

With assistance from parents, educators can point such things out, assess students’ needs and help them find a path to success, Handley said.

That might involve offering students advanced chemistry so they can become pharmacists, for example, he said.

Or, it might mean tech-prep to students who want to begin a technical career in their junior year and have an associate’s degree four years later.

The grant will help schools get parents on board, ask businesses on types of future employees they will need and start preparing students from the seventh grade on up, Handley said.

"If we create a partnership for the benefit of the students, everybody wins out in the end because we’ll have a better educated community with better jobs," he said.

And, Handley has a personal goal to encourage enough businesses and community members to support the GEAR UP programs so that the scholarships will continue after the grant runs out in six years, he said.

Ironton officials will kick off the GEAR UP programs in January or February at a school- and community-wide meeting.

Meanwhile, Handley looks forward to beginning his directorship at the first of the year.

"After teaching in the classroom for 30 years, it’s a new and interesting challenge," he said.

However, Handley will continue directing the annual Ironton High School spring musical.

"I couldn’t get out of that one," he said, laughing. "No, I enjoy the musicals and am delighted to continue that at the high school."