A Heart for Education
Writer / Julie Yates
From its beginning, the Greenwood Education Foundation has been committed to providing Greenwood Community School Corporation (GCSC) students with the best education possible. By awarding grants to district educators, the foundation lifts the financial obstacles that can limit teachers from having access to needed resources and curriculum. In the four and a half years it has been in existence, the all-volunteer organization has given over $125,000 in grants to multiple teachers in the district.
In 2014, Superintendent Dr. Kent DeKoninck, along with the GCSC Board of Education, realized there was a need for a community education foundation due to cutbacks in government funding and the changing demographics of the area. It was discovered that not all families had the resources to provide expensive educational materials that went beyond normal school supplies. To give students the best chance of educational success, some teachers were paying out of their own pocket for supplies and programs the district was unable to fund.
DeKoninck began to search for motivated people who were committed to the idea of providing Greenwood students with quality educational experiences. Beth Henry, principal of Southwest Elementary, recommended Donna Jones, who served for several years as president of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization. The first six months were spent organizing and creating bylaws. Today, the foundation is made up of 15 members and Jones serves as the president.
“I had zero experience with working for a foundation, but I was up for the challenge,” Jones says. “I am surrounded by people who want to make things better. Every single person on the board has a shared passion and heart for education. Our mission from the start was to engage teachers, parents, students and the community in giving students every opportunity possible for advancement success.”
Applications are accepted two times a year and the recipients are notified in the fall and spring, often with a visit to their classroom during school hours from Jones and other foundation members. Each potential grant is independently assessed by a committee of individuals with no affiliation to teachers in the district. The evaluators do not see the name of the teacher or school submitting the grant. The requests are rated by a rubric so the process is fair, equitable and impartial.
Grants have been awarded for endeavors that range from helping teachers by providing money for initiatives that range from Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) to teaching manipulatives, special needs, the arts and more. Initially, the awards capped at $1,500, but the foundation realized that some programs may be significantly more expensive. The cost for grants submitted now may reach $5,000.
The foundation also has a focus on both trauma care grants and providing funds to families quickly when a need arises. For kids that come to school affected by issues such as divorce, items such as weighted blankets calm them so they are able to focus and learn. In addition, the foundation has enabled each school to maintain a Helping Hands Fund to meet monetary needs which may need immediate resolution.
The foundation raises money to fund the grants entirely through individual donations, community corporate support, and one huge event, Monte Carlo Night. Usually held in February, it has become an annual Greenwood fundraiser that is highly anticipated in the community. This year the event raised $43,235.
“It’s a very fun night,” Jones says. “We hold it at the Sycamore at Mallow Run and include a raffle, silent auction and live auction for items such as Brick Yard race tickets, a trip to Ashville and an Indy Car Racing Experience. It features casino-style gambling and Rat Pack music along with a buffet dinner. We are grateful to our major corporate sponsor, Endress+Hauser, who made a $10,000 donation this year. Next year’s Monte Carlo Night will be held on February 29!
“There is a sense of family and community in Greenwood that is tough to find anywhere else. It is an honor to serve on the Greenwood Education Foundation board,” Jones says.
Visit Greenwood Education Foundation on Facebook or the Greenwood Community School District website at gws.k12.in.us.