• 68°

Foundation helps offers funding solution

New reading books and plenty of them.

State-of-the-art computers and software.

Maps.

Microscopes. Science equipment.

Sports equipment.

All now are in Demopolis City Schools, thanks to grants awarded to teachers by the Demopolis City Schools Foundation.

But the ability of the Foundation to continue giving to the degree it has is at risk because of current economic hard times.

Like most every other non-profit organization in the United States, the Foundation has seen contributions drop off, interest on investments and accounts dry up and support from major foundations slashed or disappear.

Teachers appreciate the support they get through the grants. Each recipient is required to evaluate the grants at the end of the school year. Their comments reflect the value of the grants they have received.

Since 1994 the Foundation had funded requests from teachers in the city’s schools to pay for programs, projects and equipment that cannot be funded through the school system budget.

With the grants given out last September, the Foundation has awarded almost $375,000.

The strain on the Foundation’s ability to support city schools comes at the same time that funding from the state is in danger of being cut even further and schools are being asked to do more to meet the year-old federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The 32-member Foundation Board of Directors kicked off the organization’s 2003 Annual Giving Campaign on February 4 with the determination to reach or exceed its goal of $45,000 in memberships.

The money raised will be pooled with what the Foundation earns from fund-raisers and from interest on endowment investments to pay for the grants.

People who support Demopolis City Schools are being asked to join the Foundation, whose mission is to foster and promote excellence within the school system.

Grant money goes directly into the classroom to reach and teach the students.

None is used for textbooks, capital expenditures or other items that fall under the responsibility of the School Board.

That’s not to say the Foundation doesn’t work closely with the Demopolis school system.

The Foundation is backing two Qualified Zone Academy Bonds for the system for a total of $1.8 million. To enable the Demopolis system to receive the QZAB funds, the Foundation pledged to contribute 10 percent of the total to schools over 10 years.

Already the first QZAB of $800,000 is covered through Foundation grants, and the second, for $1 million, is well on its way.

But the primary focus of the Foundation is helping teachers reach their students.

Middle school history teacher Betty Russell used grant materials to supplement the textbook. "Students became very excited and interested in the history of the United States," she said. In one unit, she explained, "Students assume the roles of soldiers during World War I to understand the horrors of trench warfare on the Western Front. They learn more by actually experiencing the ‘role of a soldier’."

U.S. Jones teacher Connie Nelson received a grant for classroom reading books. Thirty percent of the students in her class were ranked as below level readers at the beginning of the school year.

Nelson also received a grant for microscopes. After learning how to use and take care of the equipment, said Nelson, "I allowed them to bring in anything they wanted to look at under the microscope. This caused a lot of excitement, and mini-lessons grew out of these observations."

DHS math teacher Donna Goodwin used grant money to purchase graph boards for classroom work. "The use of the boards definitely provided a strength to the lesson in that it was new, fun and done as a group. Older students felt as though they were teaching and providing the correct answers for students that did not understand.

For more information on the Demopolis City Schools Foundation, call 289-2226 or visit the web site at www.demopolis.org.