An idea hatched in a grants committee meeting of the Grays Harbor Community Foundation resulted in a $130,000 investment in five school districts throughout Grays Harbor County as part of a focused Technology in the Classroom Initiative.
The grants committee had been noting a particularly high number of requests for technology in classrooms. “Historically the Foundation has been a resource to other Grays Harbor County non-profits by offering a quarterly, discretionary grants cycle,” explained Cassie Lentz, the Foundation’s program manager. “However, after seeing a trend of individual teachers’ requests for technology equipment and training for their classrooms, the board felt it was important to address this community need head-on through a separate program.”
Following an example for a similar project in Michigan, the foundation drafted a request for proposals asking school districts to submit a letter of inquiry briefly describing their needs and how those needs fit within their district technology plan. Ten letters were submitted, and of those five were selected to make full applications with a due date of April 2.
The awards have been announced:
• Cosmopolis, $40,000
• McCleary, $33,658
• Ocosta, $29,200
• Hoquiam, $15,000
• Montesano, $12,450
The first of the five awards was presented Friday to Cosmopolis School District. In addition to the $40,000 from the Community Foundation, Cosmopolis Schools also found a partnership with Cosmo Speciality Fiber, which provided a matching grant up to $15,000.
“The technology piece just makes so much sense, so it was easy for us to be a partner on this one,” said Mike Entz, CEO of Cosmo Specialty Fiber.
“The jobs that our students are working toward don’t even exist yet, and technology is going to help us be able to teach our kids problem solving, adaptability and working collaboratively together in teams,” said Cheri Patterson, superintendent and principal at Cosmopolis School. “Students are so engaged, especially when technology is part of that. This is just going to be a fabulous opportunity for our kids and for many more kids coming behind them, so we are really excited,” she added.
Applications submitted included requests ranging from mobile iPad labs to Kindles, staff training and laptops. For example, the money given to Cosmopolis School helps the district get closer to its a goal of putting devices in the hands of every student in grades 2 through 6 throughout the day in the 2012-2013.
Lentz said the committee was impressed with the thorough planning, specific budgeting and buy-in from school administrations and boards reflected in the applications.
“This was truly a wonderful and exciting project to be involved in,” Lentz said. “We feel fortunate that we have the resources to make an impact in our educational system in such a direct way. I made sure to tell all of our applicants to not be afraid to dream big, and it is extremely rewarding to see some of their dreams become reality.”
The Foundation particularly wanted to be sure the equipment would be maintained and taken care of if a teacher was transferred or curriculum changed.
“This was an outstanding way to use our resources in a flexible, applicable way and address an obvious need in our community,” said Dick Warren, grants committee chairman. “Having schools apply as a district truly helped us as a committee and a board to understand what the priorities were, so we felt comfortable investing a large dollar amount into the program.”