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National foundation has eyes on Frazier

| Friday, March 4, 2005

Fayette County has attracted the attention of the ICLE/Gates Foundation, which could bring millions of dollars to local school districts.

Frederick Smeigh, Frazier School District superintendent, said the foundation is interested in examining Fayette County as a possible site to incorporate best practices in secondary education. Representatives from the International Center for Learning will visit Frazier Thursday to study the district's educational practices.

Smeigh said Fayette County has attracted the group's interest because of demographics and test scores. All the school districts in the county have a large number of low-income students and "extremely low high school achievement, with the exception of one district." And that district is Frazier, Smeigh said. Smeigh told directors Frazier's high school achievement test scores were comparable to the wealthy Fox Chapel School District and only slightly less than Bethel Park. That made Frazier one of the highest achieving districts in the state.

The ICLA took an interest in Fayette County after seeing a presentation by Frazier administrators at a national school conference. "They're looking for an area to invest a large amount of money," Smeigh said.

Having a high-performing district among low-performing districts works to Fayette's advantage in attracting the ICLA and the potential for millions of dollars to improve education, Smeigh said. That is because the county's schools offer both ends of the spectrum.

"Economically, the whole county could benefit," Smeigh said, adding any decision to include Fayette County in the best practices program and information about money for each district will be months in the future.

Directors yesterday also discussed donating $2,000 to the Perryopolis VFW, which is coordinating the rehabilitation and update of the Perryopolis Area Honor Roll. The honor roll, built in 1945, needs repairs that will cost at least $30,000. Perryopolis has already donated $1,000, Perry Township has donated $1,500 and state Sen. Richard Kasunic and state Rep. James Shaner have each secured a $5,000 grant. William Vargo, school board president, expressed strong support for the project, adding that it would "enhance our facility." The honor roll is located between the high school parking lot and the middle school.

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