Technology InitiativeClaremore Public Schools Foundation
Students from Holly Smith’s fourth grade class at Claremont Elementary School in Claremore use their new LCD projector, funded through the 2011 Technology Initiative sponsored by the Claremore Public School Foundation, to send a message of thanks out to supporters of the project. The Technology Initiative, which provided an LCD projector in every district classroom lacking one, will be recognized by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence with its Outstanding Program Award in October. (Photo provided)
The initiative came about after the foundation had an unprecedented number of technology requests from teacher grant applicants. The foundation decided to meet with administrators, teachers and students and to observe how teachers were using equipment in their classrooms. While white boards and MOBIs (mobile interactive whiteboards) were not appropriate for every age and every classroom, foundation leaders had an “aha moment” when they discovered that LCD projectors could bring enhanced learning to every classroom in the district, Lillie said
LCD projectors are user-friendly and require virtually no special training, she said. They are compatible with classroom computers and can project images, videos, documents and curriculum-based CDs and DVDs. In addition, the presence of an LCD projector in every classroom would mean that each class would have the foundational piece of equipment should teachers later request other enhancements such as whiteboards or MOBIs. Purchasing and installing the projectors in bulk was also more cost-effective.
The demonstrated need for the equipment resonated with board members and foundation donors. A generous donor came forward with an $80,000 matching grant. Donors met and exceeded the challenge, contributing more than $100,000 to the foundation’s fall campaign – almost double its normal total. Districtwide installation of the LCD projectors began over winter break and was completed by March 2012. “The response from teachers and students has been wonderful,” Lillie said.
One elementary teacher sent the foundation a note of thanks, quoting Van Gogh: “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” The teacher also wrote, “The Technology Initiative was an intentional focus of energy and resources to meet an existing need while building a strong foundation for future technology growth.”
The Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation also launched a new initiative after speaking to school administrators and recognizing a critical need in their district. Last year, 1,686 students attending Mid-Del Schools qualified as homeless. The Mid-Del Foundation learned that many of those students had education-related expenses that could not be paid out of federal funds, so the foundation created a Homeless Student Education Fund to help cover school activity expenses.
“School is often the only constant in these students’ lives,” said Sherri Miller, Foundation president. “Yet sports teams require shoes, uniforms and physicals; ROTC requires fees; art clubs require supplies; and the list goes on. Homeless students don’t have the resources to cover even small costs. Caring teachers and staff sometimes help out of their own pockets, but the need is great.”
The foundation’s Homeless Student Education Fund is administered with assistance of the Mid-Del District’s homeless liaison. Teachers and staff who learn about a specific need contact this district staff person with a request, and she verifies the student’s needs and submits the request to the Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation. The foundation’s executive director reviews the request to ensure that it is in line with the fund’s intent and approves payment. Thus far, the amounts requested have been $100 or less.
Miller said foundation leaders have been moved to learn how small gifts can make such a big difference in students’ lives. She described a high school student whose family had been in and out of shelters as the girl’s mother dealt with substance abuse and other issues. The girl tried out for basketball and was lucky to find a coach who cared. With the help of the Homeless Student Education Fund, the student received a uniform, shoes and socks. Her coach provides her with transportation to and from school each day and serves as a positive adult mentor. The student is responding with good grades and behavior.
“We want to ensure that students impacted by homelessness can fully participate in school activities, thus strengthening the investment these students have in their education and their possibility for a stable school experience,” Miller said. “By shifting the costs of help from individuals to this fund, we want to help teachers, coaches and administrators do what they know has to be done to keep students interested in and attending school.”