McAllen ISD Uses ESSA Funding to Bring Heart Rate Training to Middle Schools
District Adds Technology To Motivate Students to Improve Effort, Time Spent Exercising in PE Classes
Mario Reyna’s ability to quickly identify and apply for federal funding has helped him win back-to-back grants to purchase new PE technology from the McAllen (Texas) Independent School District’s allotment of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title IV, Part A allocation.
In each of the last two years, Reyna, McAllen ISD’s Coordinator for Health and Physical Education, won approximately $45,000 in grants to add new tools to his district’s physical education program. In 2017-18, Reyna used his grant to purchase a music-based exercise kit for PE classes at each of McAllen’s schools. With his 2018-19 funding, Reyna purchased sets of IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors, along with the IHT Spirit System software, for each of the district’s six middle schools.
“Early on I started looking to see what my needs were,” Reyna said. “I knew that our middle school kids are difficult to motivate with physical activity, so I thought now would be a good time to bring on something technology-driven that’s fun.”
After researching heart rate monitors that fit best with P.E. programs, Reyna chose IHT’s technology for several reasons:
- IHT’s commitment to customer service;
- the Spirit System’s ability to create and capture a wide array of assessment data; and
- the Spirit System’s ability to deliver data-based reports to students, parents, teachers and other key stakeholders
“We’d be able to challenge the kids to improve, and hopefully with the IHT monitors we’ll be able to show that the kids are in the zones we want them in for longer periods of time and more days out of the month,” Reyna said.
Students will benefit academically from their improved fitness, as well. Including the academic benefits of physical activity strengthens his proposal in the administration’s eyes as they decide which proposals get funding.
“Wellness will improve the academics without a doubt,” Reyna said. “That’s been proven before.”
Understanding Local Management of ESSA Funding
“I think each district, at least we do in our district, has a federal programs department that runs that money,” Reyna said. “Knowing that, those are the people who you have to lobby that you want to be considered for some of that funding.”
For the last few years, Reyna has been a consistent presence in McAllen’s State and Federal Programs office, working closely with Anjanette Gonzalez-Garza. Reyna makes sure he’s done all of his homework before he submits anything to Gonzalez-Garza.
“You have to do your homework and almost become a mini-lobbyist fighting for your money,” Reyna said. “You have to know the language.”
Reyna also said it helps to show gratitude toward the department managing – and awarding – the ESSA funding.
“I always make sure I include my stakeholder [when we get recognition],” he said. “We were featured in a ‘Momentum’ story by SHAPE America, and I included a quote from [Gonzalez-Garza]. I make sure they see that. I don’t know about other people, but when you give me money, I’m going to show my appreciation.”
Getting a Jump on the Competition
When Reyna first applied for ESSA Title IV, Part A funding, very few teachers and administrators had become familiar with the process, so he didn’t have much competition for funding. As ESSA’s budget grew, so did the spotlight on it.
“This year, our federal programs department told me there was more competition even though there was a big increase,” he said. “I didn’t want to hear that.”
Undeterred, Reyna leaned on his experience and quickly went about putting his 2018 request together.
“They’d already set the stage for me and this is the only way I’m getting funding [for new things],” he said. “I get into it quickly knowing that if I’m going to be competing against other departments and proposals, I need to get my proposal in quickly. That’s why I’m aggressive early.”
Reyna’s seen his last two requests funded, and he’s motivated to seek out more funding. If the data he gets from the Spirit System show that students have become more active and are spending more time exercising in the target heart rate zones, he will likely seek funding to add more sets of ZONE monitors at the district’s high schools. That means more time filling out the appropriate paperwork, but the process is worth Reyna’s time.
“It’s a little bit time-consuming to do the request, but at the end of the day, I keep thinking that this is like a mini-grant,” he said. “I’m getting close to $50,000. It’s not as tedious as writing other grants that take longer and may not be as much money. It is time-consuming, but it’s worth it because once the funding is there and you get the system you need, hopefully, you use it for a couple of years, so it was worth the wait and the patience.”