Special reading and writing approaches, a high school solar car team, a middle schools counseling program and iPads for many fourth and fifth graders are among the projects winning grants from the Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education.
Nearly $100,000 in grants, much of it raised from fundraisers attended by parents in the district and from a handful of other sources, were announced at Monday's school board meeting by foundation trustee Cat Ruffner. She said the foundation board, many members at Monday's meeting, see the grants as contributing to the district's broader strategic plan and as a way to celebrate "teachers who are out of the box in their thinking."
Ruffner said the board works closely with district leaders, teachers parents - and this year more directly with students - to determine how best to spend more than $1.6 million in donations so far.
"It's very diligent. We work hard to be good fiduciaries of the $1.6 million put into our school district, Ruffner told the board and audience at Monday's meeting.
The eight recipients of $99.968 in grants were:
1) $3,000 for the Grosse Pointe South Solar Car Team. Students want to race in the 2013 Dell-Winston Solar Car Challenge in southern California. Besides racing the goal of the students, who applied for the grant themselves - a first - want to provide an outlet for young students who are interested in the engineering and building and such that goes into the car.
"We're proud of the fact that students applied for this grant. That's unusual and very special," Ruffner said.
2) $2,000 for designation and implementation of the Recognized American School Counseling Association Model Program, or RAMP. It and will be applied at Brownell, Pierce and Parcells middle schools and, ideally, offer counseling that is more connected to academic success, is more efficient and more collaborative.
"The three year program….will directly impact the culture of the classroom," Ruffner said. "Hopefully it will last a long time. It's also a nationally recognized program. There are only one or two in Michigan," she said, making Grosse Pointe stand out.
3) $600 for enhancement of writing instruction for Maire fourth graders in teacher Christina Pearson's classroom. Pearson applied for the grant which will be pilot of the district and offer more effective ways of teaching writing, spelling and word selection, among other writing and reading skills.
4) $30,000 for Netbooks for fourth- and fifth-graders at Poupard Elementary "to give students the knowledge of technology that they might not otherwise have
Studies have shown the use of technology at risk schools closes achievement gaps, Ruffner told the board.
5) $7,000 for 50 wireless Netbooks for 4th and 5th grade magnet students at Ferry Elementary. They will be used for research, daily writing, online quizzes and more and as "a catalyst for higher learning," Ruffner said.
6) $7,000 for iLearn with iPads, for 4th and 5th grade magnet students at Defer Elementary.
The goal is to be a wireless learning magnet and to be "prepare students to be college and career ready, lifelong learners," Ruffner said. She said iPad applications and a lesson plan and more have already been developed by teacher Kari Mannino, who "went above and beyond to develop her plan for the year with this program," including how the iPads will be used as a class and individually. "We are so grateful for all her work," Ruffner said.
7) $19,968 for continuation of an existing after school homework assistance program. The program will go to all five Title 1 elementary schools - or schools with a student population eligible for federal assistance. Defer, Mason, Poupard, Trombley and Mason. Schools will identify students in greatest need of extra assistance with learning and provide assistance and tutoring to close achievement gaps, a measure that affects a school district's ranking, reputation and risk of penalties for poor performance.
8) $30,000 for Raz Kids Online reading program at at all nine elementary schools. It's a complementary reading program for Kindergartners through third-graders and for special needs students in all elementary grades and targets reading and writing skills. Ruffner described it as award-winning technology that pairs students with their "just right level books."
The grant will expand the program from two elementary schools to every elementary.
"We're especially proud of this grant cycle because we were able to reach students at every level of the district," Ruffner said.