New foundation frees funds for school grantsBig checks and broad smiles marked the morning of June 7, as educators from local schools gathered for an end-of-the-school-year breakfast at which the newly formed Forward Foundation for the River Falls School District awarded its first-ever grants.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Big checks and broad smiles marked the morning of June 7, as educators from local schools gathered for an end-of-the-school-year breakfast at which the newly formed Forward Foundation for the River Falls School District awarded its first-ever grants.
The nonprofit, independent foundation formed in 2011 as a result of the district’s strategic planning and for the purpose of supporting public education in River Falls.
Forward disbursed last week a total of $8,000 to 15 educators who applied for a grant.
Foundation chairwoman Jen Zoller presented the awards. She said Forward received a total of 32 applications that requested a collective total of $38,000.
The requests originated from all three schools: Two from the high school, 10 from the middle school and 20 from the elementary schools.
Zoller said the board running the foundation had decided to award funds twice a year.
It expects to accept applications again in October.
Grant recipients will provide reports and photos of how they use the funds.
Karen Sizemore received $800 to buy tablet computers for second graders, saying since River Falls teaches children from the lowest- and highest-level income families, the tablets would enable access to technology for some who don’t have it otherwise while allowing advanced students to push themselves.
Tara Albores received $500 toward the Senior Tax Exchange Program (STEP), which allows senior citizens to knock $500 off their property-tax bill by volunteering in RFSD classrooms to help with reading, spelling, math and other lessons. She says the intergenerational experience is beneficial, brings the community into schools and encourages additional participation.
Stephanie Reid asked for $950 to buy Ipods and digital microphones for students to record and publish interviews with citizens, take pictures or video and create a Podcast or Ebook. Says Reid about the tools that go beyond traditional self-focused narrative writing: “I would like to turn their attention outward so they can see the life stories that make up the community of River Falls…”
Joe Couglin and Mike Fuller each received $500 for SMARTMusic software that will help the high- and middle-school music programs to unify their curriculum. The program processes a student’s playing, shows them what they did wrong and gives an assessment of the activity. The instructors say it can be used to track individual work between the grade levels.”
Kate Dulaney received $800 to begin a new course on functional skills that incorporates real-life math, transitions to high school and aligning life skills to academic programs. She said many students need help with those skills to help them become more successful in school and the community. She said, “This is a course I would like to develop that has not been offered previously.”
Mark Chapin and Kit Luedtke received a total of $800 to host in August a character-education conference. It will be a free professional-development opportunity for teachers, and parents will be invited. They say the conference would directly impact students because of the output gained during breakout sessions on bullying prevention, peer mediation, moral action and more.
Herb Rohl received $800 to buy tablets for more and better science learning. He says it would enhance research and source analysis plus provides access to technology for kids that don’t have it. He said on his application, “I need technology in the classroom daily, not when I can find an open lab.”
Stephan Papp received $250 to buy a composter for the Greenwood Garden, which he says was designed, built and grown by the students, who donate the harvest to the local food shelf. His request says, “Students explore what soils benefit certain plants, discover what makes compost and study crop rotation….”
Mark Smith, Denise Anderson and Nancy Lindquist teamed up and received $800 to buy tablets for 4th-grade classrooms. They said it would help students gain digital skills for research, analysis and publication. The application says, “We see this as an opportunity to provide differentiated instruction to engage all types of learners.”
Kirk Gednalske received $400 to buy a digital microscope that will allow him to project images onto a screen to identify important structures and to demonstrate the proper use of a compound microscope. He said the tool would help students compare and contrast what they find, as well as think more critically about what they are learning.”
Toni Velure received $500 to establish a project resource center where middle school students can get supplies, equipment and tools for the many projects they complete. She says access during study hall or lunch hour would provide support for students who do not have appropriate tools at home.”
Jana Ladd received $400 to buy autistic students tablets that will help them develop language, social and fine-motor skills. She said the tablets give them a chance to practice reading body language and facial cues, “This would be used as a supplement and help autistic students deal with the sensory overload they frequently feel.”
Zoller noted that the foundation appreciated educators researching options for refurbished and early-version tablets, as well as other equipment that save money.
The chairwoman noted that in its first year, the Forward Foundation enacted by-laws, achieved non-profit status through the St. Croix Valley Foundation, marketed the foundation, established a web site and raised $18,000.
“We’ve accomplished an awful lot in a year,” said Zoller.
She reminded the crowd that all donations to the foundation are tax deductible and benefit only local students and schools.
Zoller reiterated that people can donate to the foundation online at its web site: www.scvfoundation.org/riverfallsfund.htm . The site also features various sponsorship opportunities that range from a friend level at $35 the gold-society benefactor level at $10,000.