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Model school grant at issue

November 17, 2000

Model school grant at issue



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


CASCADE - The federal grant funding the Role Models Academy at the former Fort Ritchie Army base near Cascade is $5 million less than previously announced, a U.S. Labor department official said this week.

Academy administrators had previously said the college preparatory magnet school for high school dropouts was awarded a $10 million grant for this year and they expected four additional $10 million one-year grants.

But the $10 million grant is for two years, not one, said Ira Sockowitz, from the public affairs office of the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration division. And there are no promises of any renewals, he said.

"Our commitment to them is for two years for $10 million. And we will monitor compliance with that, and everything else is forward-looking," he said Thursday.

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Academy Principal Jimmie Jones said Friday he would check on whether the grant was for one year or two. He did not make a return call with the information by Friday evening.

Role Models officials originally said they had a $50 million grant from the Labor Department, but later clarified they had a one-year, $10 million grant and expected the four subsequent $10 million grants.

There was also disagreement between Jones and Sockowitz over the timetable for the academy to reach its full capacity of 535 students.

Sockowitz said the grant requires the academy to reach full capacity by the summer of 2002.

Jones said the grant documents do not specify that the school has to be at full capacity within two years, although they do say the academy must reach that point eventually.

The difference in interpretation appeared to hinge on the issue of a grant renewal.

If the grant is for two years and there is no automatic renewal, that would seem to support Sockowitz's contention the school must have 535 by the time the grant runs out - in the summer of 2002. Jones said his interpretation is based on his belief the grant will be renewed.

The academy started last month with 51 students, Jones said. Fifteen were sent home before classes began.

The number of students will increase to more than 50 by the first of December, he said.

Jones said on Tuesday that the plan is to have more than 100 students within two years. On Friday he said the academy could reach full capacity within two years.

Sockowitz was not available Friday to respond to Jones' comments that day.

Role Models announced in March it was opening the school, with plans to build similar schools in each state.

Founder Robert Alexander said students will have to be nominated by a congressman or senator for acceptance to the school. If the nominees are made quickly the school could reach full capacity within one year, he said.

Role Models has sent letters to all congressmen and senators, asking them to start making nominations, Jones said.

"A lot hinges on how fast they react and how soon they bring their nominees in," Jones said. "It is a variable we have influence in but do not actually control."

Role Models America Inc., a Maryland-based national nonprofit organization, is operating the national demonstration program.

Role Models is leasing space from the PenMar Development Corp. at the Cascade site and has said it plans to make an offer to buy the entire former Army base.

About half of the students, come from Maryland, others come from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Florida, South Carolina, Utah, Louisiana and Connecticut.

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