Grant to aid schools

August 21, 2003

Martinsville Bulletin Bulletin Staff Writer

Area schools, both public and private, may get a boost in funds next year through a Harvest Foundation grant program focused on improving the teaching of language arts and math.

"You can't change the output if you don't change the input," said Kenneth Tewel, a retired educator from New York City who was hired as a consultant for the grants program. "If teachers are the root to kids learning more, they need a new arsenal of strategies."

It costs money, though, to research programs and put them into effect ? which is where the Harvest Foundation wants to help.

"We're interested in access to education," said Harry Cerino, executive director of the foundation. "We're looking at K-12 (kindergarten through 12th grade), and we're in it for the long haul. The board is aware there won't be instantaneous results."

The Harvest Foundation was created when Memorial Hospital of Martinsville and Henry County was sold to Province Healthcare last year.

An endowment of about $150 million was created as a result of that sale, with the annual interest to be used on various initiatives to help the community, officials have said.

Foundation officials recently announced an education initiative to give schools a one-time opportunity for grant money to research and implement programs that might improve student performance in language arts, such as reading or writing, or math over a five-year period.

Consultants Tewel and Betty Webb, a retired educator from Minneapolis, Minn., conducted an assessment of local schools' needs over the past several months. They conducted surveys and interviews with staff and teachers, and toured the schools.

"It (the grants program) is based on their needs," Webb said. "It's set up to force them to think and reflect on what they do and how they do it and how they can do it better."

Schools that will be open in September 2004 are eligible for the grants, and any school that houses grades kindergarten through 12th grade can apply, officials said.

The grants can reach up to $50,000 per year for five years for schools with more than 1,000 students.

Those with enrollments between 500 and 1,000 students are eligible for up to $40,000 per year, and those with less than 500 students can receive up to $30,000 per year.

In Henry County, schools that will close under the consolidation plan will be included in the schools their students will be attending in the following year.

For example, Fieldale and Spencer-Penn elementary schools will close under the consolidation plan and become Carver Elementary School as a combined campus.

Teachers at the two schools can work together this year planning for a grant that will be implemented next year, and Carver Elementary will be eligible for funding based on a combined enrollment that will be about 450.

Also, schools within a system or even across systems can work together on a single program, officials said.

The first step for schools will be to write a letter of intent by Oct. 15 requesting a planning grant, which covers the costs of researching programs to determine what might be a good fit for the school.

Planning grants can reach up to $20,000 based on the size of the school, foundation officials said.

In mid-December, the foundation will announce which schools will receive planning grants, and those schools will return with full proposals based on their planning by April 15.

Grant awards will be announced on June 1, 2004. Cerino said while the grant period is five years, schools will receive money on a one-year basis.

Each year, schools will submit progress reports in order to be funded the following year.

Although the foundation has not set aside a specific amount of money to fund this initiative, Cerino said it is prepared to fund planning and implementation grants for all schools in the area for five years.

Tewel said the advantage of the grants program is its long-term nature. The schools that participate will have five years to make a program work, he said.

"It's not a 100 percent guarantee, but those schools, after five years, if they take advantage of this, will be better," he said.


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