Bob Graham PTSA allocates $30K in grant money to teacher budgets

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 0 Comments

Bob Graham PTSA allocates $30K in grant money to teacher budgets

 

Bob Graham Education Center's PTSA has found innovative ways to raise funds and disburse them in the past, their last venture successfully equipping every classroom at the school with interactive smart boards. 

Now, PTSA members are  embarking on their latest undertaking – to disburse grants to teachers who wish to contribute to students in the forms of clubs, activities, and events but find themselves limited by the school budget. 

The decision to create grants for teachers began at the PTSA's summer budget meetings and was fueled by the desire to see teachers engage their students in  creative and challenging ways.  The funds for the grants come from the fundraising spearheaded by the PTSA and from parents who contribute year-round at the various activities sponsored by the PTSA.  

"We wouldn't be able to do this without the committed parents who constantly contribute to the school," said PTSA president Yesse Ruano. 

A combined total of $30,000 will be spent in grants for the next three years, each year with a total allowance of $10,000. From the $10,000 allotted for the school year, teachers who apply and qualify will be awarded a $500 grant per project and are able to apply for more than one project during the school year.  

"My hope is that the whole pot for the year is spent by the end of 2013," said Ruano. "Before you know it, there is FCAT and the end of the school year. I want to make sure that these grants are being used soon. Projects tend to take a lot of time. Some of the approved grants are year-long projects. The sooner the money is spent, the faster it goes into programs for the students." 

Teachers must submit applications for the grants to verify that the needs of students are being met. The PTSA hopes to approve grants every two weeks to make sure the teachers approved can begin their projects as quickly as possible. 

"We have a whole application process. We have been trying to get teachers to think 'outside the box' for these grants. We don't want this money going to material things like a new printer or office supplies because that doesn't directly affect the students," said Ruano. 

The official launch date for accepting grant proposals was set for Tuesday, October 1. Within minutes after midnight, BGEC teachers submitted proposals for their hopes and ideas for the classroom, and for some, outside the classroom. 

"I got emails at 12:01 a.m. and 1:50 a.m. on October 1st from teachers with proposals. This just shows there was a need," said Ruano.  

BGEC, a school known for over a decade’s long streak of "A" school grades, offers quality education but has seen the loss of students to various public and charter middle schools whose extra-curricular activities garner the attention of students and parents alike. As a K-8 center, extra-curricular activities are not always showcased due to lack of funding and competition from nearby schools. 

The PTSA is aware of the issue and hopes that funding teachers' creative ideas will create a spark for clubs and events and instill school spirit in students. Two of the approved grants are going toward the creation of new clubs, three are going toward sustaining existing clubs and the rest aim to engage students.  

The first round of grants approved and distributed went to teachers Katrina Herrero, Jackeline Hernandez, Jenifer Batchelder, Maria Easterling, Jeffrey Tandlich, Alexandra Rosa, Lucy Garcia, DeeDee Conte, Elizabeth Aguerre, Candido Fernandez and Erik Batchelder.  Herrero and Hernandez's proposal is aptly named "The COUP", an acronym that stands for "College Offers Unlimited Possibilities." The purpose is to promote college awareness among older BGEC students in an effort to guide them toward high schools that are a good fit for their long-term goals, much like middle school college programs do.  

Jenifer Batchelder and Easterling plan to create the club named "Blooming Buddies" in which students will investigate, analyze, and read literature on plants to establish a sustainable garden at His House Children's Home to have a positive impact on the community and environment while improving learning skills.  They have also been approved for a second grant titled "Be Billingual: A Spanish Mobile Library" where students will have access to commonly read material provided by the BGEC library, but in Spanish to improve vocabulary and reading comprehension which will go hand-in-hand with the existing Extended Foreign Language program at the school. 

Coach Tandlich was approved for his grant "Jumping Into The Future" which will use equipment that enhances the productivity of the BGEC jump rope team, the Bobcat Jumpers. The team has recently qualified for nationals and are hoping the grant funds will help make them the "talk of the town."  

Rosa, head of the Bobcat Cheerleaders team, has been approved for her grant requesting the ability to conduct practices and performances on cheer mats to prevent injury and further enhance the strength of the team. Garcia and Conte proposed "Go The Distance," a grant aimed to allow students to become highly motivated in problem-solving based research and applying their knowledge to real world problems. They plan to answer the question about how Monarch Butterflies migrate and move across the continent by raising them and placing trackers on them to gain first-hand experience. 

Aguerre plans to use her approved grant funding toward "Literature Circles: Real Literature Equals Real Readers", her efforts to create a book club meeting in which student readers are excited about discussing and debating books. The students will be better prepared for state tests by improving reading comprehension and vocabulary. 

BGEC's All-Star flag football team will be receiving new jerseys to wear to games to both reward and recognize the achievements and efforts of the teammates who excel in academics and sportsmanship. The grant was submitted by Erik Batchelder and Fernandez.

Many of the approved grants not only directly benefit this year's students but are sustainable for the next wave of students in the classrooms. 

Grants are approved by Ruano and her committee team made up of parents Claudia Luces, Daylin Garcia, Francys Vega, Marlene Freixas, Yeny Galban and BGEC School Media Specialist John Hunt. The PTSA Committee will continue to approve grants throughout the school year and already have many to review. 

Teachers have 90 days beginning from when they receive the grant to use the funds toward their projects. If unused, the money will return to the allocated funds for the year in an effort to motivate teachers to begin their projects and for students to reap the benefits as soon as possible. 

"Even if the events take place later on in the year, things can be planned out within those 90 days, to reserve buses, or whatever it may be," said Ruano. "We just want to know every dollar is being used. Come June 5th, the last day of school, I don't want to see any roll-over."

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