Fast thinking and teamwork helped McAllen ISD (Texas) Coordinator for Health and Physical Education Mario Reyna fund two purchases through his district’s Every Student Succeeds Act Title IV, Part A allocation.
For the 2018-19 school year, Reyna worked with McAllen’s State and Federal Programs office to secure nearly $50,000 to purchase the IHT Spirit System for each of the district’s middle school PE departments. In 2017-18, Reyna secured similar funding to add music-based fitness tools to every elementary, middle and high school campus in McAllen ISD.
Through Title IV, Part A, the Every Student Succeeds Act allocated a significant portion of funding for each state to distribute for local programs designed to promote Safe and Healthy Schools. To ensure he gave himself the best chance to obtain new tools and technology that would benefit his PE teachers and students, Reyna hit the books.
He made sure he understood several key things, including:
- Which local department distributes federal funding,
- What type of program would qualify for the federal funding, and
- What specific language requirements would he need to include in a successful proposal.
“You have to do your homework and almost become a mini-lobbyist fighting for your money,” Reyna said. “You have to know the language [of the program].”
Most school districts have departments that oversee the state and federal funding they receive, and McAllen is no different. So Reyna became a regular visitor in the McAllen State and Federal Programs office.
“Knowing that, those are the people who you have to lobby that you want to be considered for some of that funding,” he said.
Building a Case for New Fitness Technology
Reyna worked closely with Anjanette Gonzalez-Garza, the director of State and Federal Programs in both cases.
While ESSA advocates for PE as part of a “whole child education,” Reyna knew he needed to demonstrate how the tools he’s purchasing – the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitor and assessment software – impacts students beyond the gym and into the classroom.
“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.
The improved fitness will positively impact students’ academic performance as well.
“Wellness will improve the academics without a doubt,” Reyna said. “That’s been proven before.”
Being an Appreciative Funding Recipient
Reyna understands that as more and more teachers and department chairs within his district begin to learn how to navigate ESSA’s requirements, competition for funding will increase. Even as he sought a second round of funding to purchase the IHT Spirit System for the middle schools, he knew his prior success didn’t guarantee him anything.
“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,” he said. “That’s why I’m aggressive early.”
And he’s appreciative of the funding he’s received. In 2017, SHAPE America profiled Reyna and explored his initial success in landing funding through ESSA Title IV, Part A. He made sure to credit Gonzalez-Garza for her role in the process.
“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.”
He hopes that helps him stay in the department’s good graces when he submits his next proposal seeking ESSA funding.
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