BULLHEAD CITY — A big federal grant will mean opportunities to boost early literacy in Bullhead City, Benje Hookstra said Thursday evening.

Hookstra, superintendent of the Bullhead City Elementary School District, told governing board members that the grant from the U.S. Department of Education will cover items that include writing programs, pay for high-school students to assist in library summer reading programs, and professional development for media specialists.

The grant is $750,000 a year for three years. It’s going to six school districts, of which the BCESD is the largest (it is also supervising the program).

About $300,000 of the money is earmarked for sending books to students’ homes, Hookstra told board members.

The implementation of the grant programs should be underway by the start of the second semester of the school year, he said after the meeting.

The grant is focused on grades K-2.

Hookstra said the impact could be huge.

“One would hope that eventually, children would come into third grade with a better vocabulary and a better lexile level,” he said.

A lexile level is a measure of how challenging word use and sentence length are. A child with a higher lexile level would be more familiar with larger words, Hookstra said.

He said vocabulary is important beyond language arts classes.

“Our vocabulary every day is associated with social studies or science,” he said. “It’s not necessarily Shakespeare or something like that.”

Also at the meeting, board members voted not to support proposed changes to the Arizona School Boards Association’s bylaws and core beliefs statements.

The bylaws change would have reduced the threshold for amending or repealing a bylaw from two-thirds of the membership to a simple majority of the membership.

The core beliefs statements would add an item reading “every school board has the responsibility to champion and pursue educational equity for every student by challenging systemic inequities.”

Board President Dennis Crane said the statement might obligate the BCESD beyond the sphere of education. He and Doug Lutz cast the “no” votes.

Melinda Sobraske supported the statement, saying she read it to be restricted to education, given that the ASBA is an education group.

Hookstra told board members that the BCESD was chosen for an audit of its federal grant programs and submitted about 1,500 pages of documents to the Arizona Department of Education.

The district has been found compliant in all five areas the audit covered, he said.

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