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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Huntsville City School Board is considering spending federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund money to implement a Professional Learning Academy for district employees.

The Huntsville City School system got $60 million dollars in federal cares act money through ESSER. The federal money was given to school districts to address student learning loss. Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley is asking the school board to consider a Professional Learning Academy for the 2021/ 2022 school year.

“When you look at who this benefits it will be all our school employees. It is just supporting our staff and I think our ultimate goal is to have a well trained staff that lives beyond the ESSER funds we are going to receive so really a return on our investment,” says Superintendent Finley.

Finley says the Huntsville City School Professional Learning Academy would offer training so employees could better address impacts of the pandemic on learning.

“It will be addressing the very parts of ESSER, of our consent order, and strategic plan which includes serving diverse populations, addressing student learning loss student acceleration, learning gaps, learning disparities, student mental health issues, safety in our buildings, and COVID-19 mitigation that we will continue to address to make sure our students and our staff are safe,” says Finley.

Superintendent Christie Finley hopes the professional learning academy will be a recruitment and retention tool for employees in the Huntsville City Schools District, but it isn’t a done deal yet. The school board still has to vote and approve the PLA at a future meeting.

Huntsville city schools employees nearly 3000 people. Superintendent Christie Finley says the professional learning academy would be offered to all employees, certified and classified.

“At the end of the day what we know is the single most important for a child to be successful is highly effective teachers and support systems in every single school building,” says Finley.

Certified employees would have the chance to earn an extra $2,000 to $3,000 dollars by attending monthly training after school hours. Classified employees have the chance to earn around $1,000 by attending two monthly training sessions on weekends.

“Every time they attend it would work out to a total amount that we want to give out whether it be at the end of the semester or upon completion of those modules if you will,” says Finley.

School Board President Elisa Ferrell says the ESSER funds are temporary and believes a professional learning academy is the best way to get a return on their investment.

“People always think if we get more teachers it will make a bigger impact but those teachers would have to be let go in two years because this funding goes away so this is a way for our teachers to become more qualified to help with the learning loss but also to reimburse them for their time,” says Ferrell.