Cleveland City Schools received 14 mini-grants. Bradley County Schools received 39 grants. This year many of the county teachers wrote grants for iPads. Many grants awarded for Cleveland City Schools focused on science or art.
The ratio of grants awarded tends to be two-thirds county schools to one-third city schools due to the county having a larger school system.
The executive director for the foundation, Lynn Voelz, said the it received 108 applications for grants this year.
“It’s hard to make those selections,” Voelz said.
Applications are reviewed by a committee with members from each school in the two local public school systems. Then, applications are reviewed by a committee of community members who have experience working with grants.
Each teacher in the public school system can apply for two grants per year for up to $1,000 each. Some teachers choose to work together to submit similar grants for the same technology. Many teachers at Prospect Elementary worked together to develop a grant for iPads.
The mini-grants have served to supplement instruction to cover items teachers could not purchase with limited funding from the school systems.
Voelz said the foundation is not to replace school system funding, only to further support teachers. Mini-grants cannot be used for capital improvements, travel, salaries or bonuses, playground equipment, field trips, athletic programs or postage, according to the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation website.
“We are seeing a lot more requests for technology that supports literacy, that supports science, technology that supports mathematics ... all kinds of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math-related requests), music,” Voelz said.
Mini-grants requesting iPads have increased because of the wide variety of educational apps available.
“It has just exploded the resources that teachers have available to them,” Voelz said.
The foundation has begun encouraging teachers to apply for grants which build on previous grants.
“There are teachers who last year bought technology and this year are supplementing that with additional technology,” Voelz said. “There are music teachers, for example Siema Swartzel at Arnold is great at doing that. Two years ago she wrote a grant and bought music equipment ... she has continued to use.”
Voelz said the teacher has continued to receive mini-grants for additional equipment and instruments, which now gives her a variety of elements to work with.
“I’m seeing really creative teaching techniques associated with these proposals,” Voelz said.
Foundation funding seeks to match specific donors with teachers who teach something the donor is passionate about. Members of the community contribute to the foundation to provide revenue for the mini-grants.
“There are a lot corporate and private foundations that require a 501(c)(3) [nonprofit organization] to grant monies to any program or any project, so we are that entity,” Voelz said.
The foundation also has other programs to support classroom creativity and teachers’ pursuit of giving Bradley County and Cleveland students the very best, including supporting teachers who pursue National Board certification.