Project Lift Completes Year one

Published: Jun. 11, 2013 at 11:15 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 11, 2013 at 11:16 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Project Lift just completed its first year of implementation. The program will get more than $55 million over the next five years from the community. The money will be used to improve education for about 7400 students learning in nine struggling schools.

Denise Watts is the program's executive director.  She says there were some peaks and valleys this year.

"It's hard," Watts said. "It's that constant reflection about moving forward and how to keep it going. It's difficult work."

Watts said in its first year, Project Lift spent about $10 million.  It was budgeted to spend $12 million the first year.  Some of that money was used to pay for computers for about 400 parents and 2000 students.  Experts say breaking down the technology barrier can help students succeed in school.  Watts now wants to take the use of that technology to the next level.

"With the parents, Watts said. "We just can't give a device and walk away from it and say that made an impact on what we do."

Money was also used to help pay for more manpower.  Counselors were hired to get drop outs back in school. Watts believes that will help with West Charlotte High school graduation rate.

"There are some things I am really proud of," Watts said. "I think graduation rate is one of them."

Watts will be busy this summer.  Summer school will start for several Project Lift Schools.  Banners are already up informing parents school will start soon.

During the first year about 20 Project Lift teachers have requested to transfer to another school.

"I did not go to any teacher," Watts said. "And no principal went to any teacher and said don't show up in August. This is the teacher saying this is not a good fit for me - I am going to seek my own destiny."

The executive director says she wished this year would have been the planning year.  She said working with limited staff from the start on this project was challenging.

"We had to start up fast," Watts said. "Some things got ahead of us and I had to go back and retrack."

After the five years Watts hopes academics will improve so much the state can pick up the cost of Project Lift.

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