$64K in grants help fill school budget gap | SierraSun.com

$64K in grants help fill school budget gap

Truckee Elementary will get money for its new playground. Tahoe Truckee High will get funds for a traveling art gallery. Tahoe Lake Elementary will get money for accelerated math materials.

Even though public schooling in California is in a state of fiscal crisis, educators have found routes to provide their students with tools to enhance – and sometimes create – a quality education. One such way is through grant writing.

“Basically, we don’t have enough funds (from the state) to provide a rich environment,” said Carolyn Keigley, who had just found out that she received a $3,000 grant for a permanent and a portable art gallery at Truckee High.

“There’s no place to display art in our high school at all, and there’s no place in the community,” she said. Now art students at Truckee High will be able to display their art in the school library and in various places around town.

Keigley and several other teachers in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District were granted more than $64,000 from the Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation this fall. The foundation is independent of the school district (i.e. the district doesn’t determine how the foundation spends its money) and provides semi-annual grants to teachers in Truckee and North Tahoe.

“It used to be that we were providing the icing on the cake,” said Lisa Bagan, allocations chairman for Excellence in Education. “Unfortunately, because of the budget cuts and everything, we see needs that aren’t being addressed and we try and take care of that.”

Excellence in Education, a nonprofit public-benefit corporation, has been around for some 10 years. With fund-raisers – like the Dining for Schools card and Skiing for Schools – and donor-directed donations, the foundation focuses its funding on items that enhance existing programs in the district.

“The foundation tries to give grants with the most significant impact for the most significant period of time,” said Ann Holmes-Delforge, president of Excellence in Education.

Excellence in Education does not fund consumable or non-reusable items, such as field trips, nor does it fund teacher conferences.

In the past few years, the foundation has distributed many grants focusing on literature programs in the classroom, like the elementary-level Accelerated Reading Program, which allows students to work with reading comprehension at their own pace.

This year, Excellence in Education funded a similar program for math.

“We really started seeing an increase in grants in math,” Holmes-Delforge said. “The (standardized test) scores in math are an area with opportunity for improvement for students.”

Truckee High special education teacher Diana Whitten received $500 from Excellence in Education to help teach survival math skills to her special needs students. Though Whitten applied for roughly four times the funds she was allocated, she will still be able to buy some texts, visual aids and hands-on materials to suit her students’ learning style.

“The funding we receive in the classroom is so minimal, so Excellence in Education is an excellent way to have teachers take the extra time to try and get more money for their classroom,” she said.

Whitten said she will try to get the rest of the funding for her special education students in the foundation’s next grant cycle in February, when Excellence in Education plans to give away approximately $65,000 in grants.

In addition to seeking Excellence in Education grants, parent teacher organizations, individual classrooms and teachers have been fund-raising to fill the gap in state funding. This year’s TTUSD budget estimated that the district would need to make $1.9 million in cuts and reallocations for the 2003-2004 school year.

For more information on Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation, call 550-7984. For questions on Truckee High’s portable art gallery, or to have student art displayed at your business, call 582-2600, ext. 3119.

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