OGDEN -- Only seven points came between the Ogden School District and a $29 million grant.
The district received word Tuesday that it will not be getting the federal Race to the Top grant. Both Ogden and Salt Lake districts were finalists for the federal grant.
In the past, the grant was awarded to individual states, but was opened up this year to individual districts. Utah never received a state grant.
Ogden was ranked 25th out of the 61 final schools. The district was initially told that grants would be awarded to the top 15 to 25 districts, but only 16 districts received the funding, said Kathleen Bideaux, district grant writer.
Bideaux spent the better part of the fall working on the comprehensive grant application with former district administrator Greg Lewis.
"We were in the top 7 percent. We were so close, and we are so proud of that," Bideaux said.
The district's score of 193.3, was only seven points away from one of the schools that received funding. There were 210 points possible.
Originally, 381 schools applied for the federal funding. Ogden and Salt Lake districts were told a couple of weeks ago that they were finalists, along with 61 other districts. The Salt Lake District did not receive the grant, either, and finished ranked in the 40s.
"It's disappointing, obviously," said Ogden Superintendent Brad Smith.
But it's not all doom and gloom, according to both Smith and Bideaux.
Next week, Smith and the grant writers will sit down and pore over the grant and the comments by the grant reviewers to see where to go next. Because the grant required the district to have a clear plan about how every bit of the money would be spent, the district now has a strong plan for the future, Smith said.
"It forced us to sit down and articulate and say, 'Here's what we think we are about.' We haven't had to do that in that way before," Smith said.
Bideaux felt confident about the plan the district created and said there is now an opportunity to apply for other private grants, or even federal grants, in the future.
"This put us on the map," Bideaux said of the district being a grant finalist.
She noted that the Race to the Top grant was a new grant, so there was no earlier example for the district to go on. The fact that it went as well as it did is something to feel good about, she said.
Smith agreed, saying of the grant, "It is a powerful piece of work."
He said he knew the grant was a long shot, and "I haven't spent any time counting my chickens or spending the money."
But it wasn't taken lightly, either, he said, noting that writing the grant was in no way a wasted effort.
He said the district will continue to move forward with its plans and pay for programs as it can. Some of the programs, such as a task force to examine performance-based pay, are already happening, he said. Now other elements will come together one piece at a time.