Three Public School Foundation Programs To Be Recognized For Outstanding Achievement
A community engagement event, a literacy initiative and a Pre-K transition camp have been selected as recipients of the 2022 Outstanding Program Awards for Oklahoma School Foundations presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its Oklahoma School Foundations Network.
The awards recognize innovative programs sponsored or administered by public school foundations in Oklahoma. Receiving plaques and monetary awards of $1,000 each will be the State of the Schools Luncheon sponsored by the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation, ReadOKC Literacy Initiative sponsored by the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation and the Union Pre-K Transitional Camp sponsored by the Union Schools Education Foundation.
“We are honoring these programs for their creativity and the positive impact they have in supporting academic excellence in their communities,” said Elizabeth Inbody, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “In addition, we plan to share their success stories so other school foundations might emulate or adapt these programs in their own school districts.”
State of the Schools Luncheon
Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation
Just as government leaders hold State of the Union or State of the State addresses to inform citizens about goals and achievements, the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation began hosting a State of the Schools Luncheon five years ago to educate and engage community stakeholders in their school district.
“The State of the Schools Luncheon is more than a luncheon. It is more than a fundraiser,” said Blair Ellis, executive director of the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation. “It is a community engagement and education advocacy event that the foundation hosts the week before school starts. … By partnering with our district, the foundation has grown this event to be something our attendees look forward to each year.”
The State of the Schools Luncheon is held in the Bartlesville High School Commons and features a keynote address by Superintendent Chuck McCauley, who reviews the past school year and gives an overview of the district’s priorities for the year ahead. Approximately 250 district stakeholders attended this year’s event, including business leaders, parents, school board members, educators, state and community policy makers and local college and career-tech leaders.
“We have found that by increasing our community’s awareness of all there is to be proud of in our district and of our challenges, it increases the likelihood that they will engage in our school system, offering their time and financial support, and – perhaps most importantly – serving as advocates for our district,” Ellis said.
The State of the Schools event has become one of the foundation’s largest fundraisers through ticket sales, table sponsorships and an online auction – all of which support teacher grants in the fall. A text-to-give matching challenge is hosted by the presenting sponsor. The foundation also provides information on its programs during the event and provides information to attendees on how they can volunteer and get involved in the district. One of the greatest results of the program has been the increase in community engagement, Ellis said.
“So many great partnerships have arisen from this luncheon – businesses reaching out to host high school interns after learning about our internship program; experts in fields like STEM and aeronautics who offer to come in to visit with students; and reading tutors at our elementary schools,” Ellis said.
ReadOKC Literacy Initiative
Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation
ReadOKC is a districtwide literacy initiative with the mission of instilling a love for reading in students of Oklahoma City Public Schools and in the community. The initiative was started in 2017 by the OKCPS Compact, comprised of the school district, the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, City of Oklahoma City and United Way of Central Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation oversees and leads all aspects of ReadOKC, including program management, volunteer engagement and fundraising.
“To accomplish its mission, ReadOKC works toward three primary goals: hosting reading challenges during each school break, increasing access to reading materials, and recruiting volunteers to serve as Reading Buddies,” said Abbie Vaughan, director of Community Outreach for the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.
Through its Reading Challenges, all OKCPS students are encouraged to read at least 20 minutes each day during school breaks. Students who meet their reading goals receive a backpack button that says, “I met my goal!” Those who log the highest number of minutes receive prizes donated by the community, such as zoo passes, RIVERSPORT Adventure passes or bookstore gift cards. The school with the highest number of reading minutes logged receives a coveted traveling banner to hang outside its building.
The Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation also helps recruit Reading Buddies who volunteer once each week to read with a small group of students. These volunteers help instill a love of reading and foster a mentoring relationship with students. More than 500 people have volunteered as Reading Buddies since the program’s inception.
ReadOKC also improves access to reading materials through 69 Little Libraries, free public bookcases which are located outside each OKCPS school building and in many city parks. The libraries are stocked and maintained by volunteers, and students are encouraged to “Take a Book, Leave a Book.” The initiative also offers ReadOKC On the Go!, a school bus that has been retrofitted as a moving library. The bus visits each OKCPS school site and invites students to choose a brand-new book to take home as their own.
Since 2017, ReadOKC has hosted 23 reading challenges, with more than 72,000 students reading for over 30 million minutes. ReadOKC On the Go! has distributed over 22,000 new books to students since July 2021. Preliminary data shows a connection between high performing reading challenge schools and improved benchmark scores for students in those schools.
“Literacy is the foundation of learning and student success in academics,” said Mary Mélon-Tully, president and CEO of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation. “All aspects of ReadOKC strive to improve student literacy by creating lifelong readers and a culture of literacy in our schools.”
Union Pre-K Transition Camp
Union Schools Education Foundation
Union Public Schools’ Pre-K Transition Camp is a summer program that gives incoming Pre-K students the opportunity to experience “school” before the beginning of the formal school year. Students are introduced to school personnel, peers and the routines of each school day. The camp also gives parents the opportunity to participate in parent education programs and to get acquainted with teachers.
“Pre-K can sometimes be an overwhelming transition for some students,” said Shea Ludwig, executive director of the Union Schools Education Foundation. “Union’s Pre-K Camp is designed to ease students and families’ anxiety about this new transition.”
Taking place before the new school year, Pre-K Camp gives teachers the opportunity to lead students through routines of the school day and immerse them in opportunities to develop literacy, math and socio-emotional skills. Meanwhile, parents are invited to attend educational sessions on topics such as establishing healthy sleep habits and reading with children. Parents learn how they can partner with teachers to support their child’s educational goals.
Union began offering a Pre-K Camp in 2012 targeting Title I schools that served many low-income and immigrant families. The success of the program quickly caught the attention of the Union Schools Education Foundation Board of Directors, who sought to support and expand the program to all elementary schools in the district. The foundation provides materials for each Camp, including supplies and, beginning this year, gifting each student with a book titled “The Night Before Pre-School.”
The foundation seeks to measure outcomes of the program through attendance data, parent and child surveys, and reports from teachers on how Pre-K Camp participants adapted to school compared with peers who did not participate.
“Pre-K Camp serves as a crucial first step in building relationships with children and families to promote good behaviors that lead to academic achievement throughout school,” Ludwig said. The positive implications of this preparation are immense. On the first day of school, preschoolers will be ready and confident to begin their journeys as students. Families will also benefit from learning about strategies to support their child’s development.”
Students line up to participate in Union Public Schools’ Pre-K Transition Camp, which helps prepare children and their families for a successful transition to Pre-K. The program is sponsored by the Union Schools Education Foundation.
Bartlesville Public Schools Superintendent Chuck McCauley speaks to community stakeholders during the State of the Schools Luncheon, a community engagement and fundraising event sponsored by the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation.
Tyniyah, a student at Adams Elementary School in Oklahoma City, displays her Outstanding Reader sign she received as part of the ReadOKC Literacy Initiative. The award-winning program is sponsored by the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.