Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2005

Educational Foundation to offer minigrants

June 30, 2005

Lansing Educational Foundation Fund already has its money invested in the market. Now it's ready to invest in Lansing school district.

The fund was established last year, and its purpose is to supplement schools with what the district's budget will not allow for, fund director Mary Alice Schroeger, an English and French teacher at Lansing High School, said.

Since June 2004, Schroeger said the fund has raised about $13,500. The fund's board of directors is ready to invest almost 50 percent of that in the district, Schroeger said. LEFF plans to offer $6,000 in grants and a major gift to the district this year, she said.

"We're pretty excited about getting to do this," she said.

LEFF will offer $3,000 in Educate the Pride minigrants for teachers in the district. The grants are intended to encourage innovative projects that will enrich the students' learning experience, Schroeger said. The grants are available only to classroom teachers, not teachers aides.

Each teacher can apply for a maximum of $500, Schroeger said, and the projects must take place during the 2005-06 school year - all of the grant money must be spent by Aug. 1, 2006. If teachers wish to team up for a project, Schroeger said, each can receive up to $500 for the project. She also encouraged teachers with worthy project ideas that required less than $500 to apply - she said the board wanted to expend all $3,000.

Schroeger said she had already heard several ideas, including a fourth- and fifth-grade science camp, transportation needs for clubs, a library book program, student publications and technology needs.

The grants come with some restrictions, Schroeger said. For example, grant projects must benefit a group of students - she suggested at least a dozen - to meet the guidelines.

"It's about reaching as many kids as possible with innovative learning programs," she said.

Schroeger said LEFF was not interested in funding athletics. Those ventures already have booster clubs and parent support, she said.

"The emphasis for us is primarily academic excellence," she said. "We're trying to fill a gap."

Grant proposals are due Sept. 10, and teachers will be notified of whether they received one by Sept. 30, Schroeger said. The board of directors will chose grant recipients at their annual meeting Sept. 26, she said. Awards will be distributed based on how well projects adhere to the guidelines. A scoring rubric will be available in August to help teachers to align their projects, Schroeger said.

LEFF also will announce its major gift to the district at the annual meeting in September, Schroeger said. The group plans to put $3,000 toward a specific gift that has yet to be determined. Schroeger said that so far the only idea on the table was to buy a concert grand piano for the new auditorium, but she said the board hoped to hear suggestions from district patrons.

The $3,000 earmarked for the major gift is currently invested and earning interest, Schroeger said.

"Our idea is to work on raising funds for the major gift by fall 2007," she said.

She said once the board decided on the gift, patrons would be able to donate to that specific fund. Schroeger said she expected to have earned $15,000 to $18,000 by fall 2007. Schroeger said a good rebuilt concert grand piano would probably cost $18,000 to $19,000, if the board chooses that as its gift.

Schroeger said the incentive in making the money available was to continue a high standard of education by providing students and teachers what the district cannot afford.

"Lansing Educational Foundation Fund wants to be there like a safety net to make sure opportunities are not lost," she said. "The whole idea is to be forward-thinking, to be in a place where we can make a positive contribution to the district."

She said projects like the grant funding and major gift contribution were all to benefit students.

"You're essentially changing the world one kid at a time," she said.

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