The Kent Schools Foundation launched its first Classroom Enrichment Grant on Jan. 2.
The foundation began in 2012 and became a 501c3 nonprofit organization two years later, according to Paul Bogel, the foundation’s president.
“We’re young and scrappy, and so we’ve been reaching out to the community to get their support for the foundation,” Bogel said. “It’s an independent, charitable foundation (with) the purpose … to help students across the district.”
Bogel said there is a need for foundations in school districts because the state does not necessarily fund everything that students need. The foundation has received enough donations from contributors to support specific programs in the Kent School District over the past several years, he said.
The foundation has invested in a leading-edge STEM program at Martin Sortun Elementary School. It has funded joint orchestra concerts that perform at the end of the school year. Money from the foundation was also given to a district program that repurposed old laptops that would normally go to landfills, distributing them to families with students in need.
Donations began to flow in last September when the foundation had its first fundraiser.
“We had an auction here at Fairwood Country Club and had 150 people raise about $60,000, and that, along with other donations, have allowed us to raise enough money to be able to start what we always wanted to do, which was a classroom grant program,” Bogel said.
The foundation’s board members expect this to be an annual grant cycle.
If teachers want to apply for the grant, Bogel said, they have to visit the foundation’s website, click on the “grant” tab and download an application. The application is due Jan. 31. Board members will announce grant winners in February.
According to the grant application on the foundation’s website, each grant proposal will be evaluated on innovative and educational nature, realistic and achievable goals, initial and ongoing benefits to the students, collaborative effort of two or more teachers, reasonable budget and clarity.
Grant winners will get about $500, depending on their idea for what to do with the money.
The budget allows for $30,000 in grants, and Bogel said the foundations plans t0 award all of that money to teachers throughout the district.
Bogel said the board will consider $500 grants, particularly if there are other classrooms or schools involved in collaborating on a project.
“We’d really like to see collaboration across either a grade level within a school or across a subject level, if it was middle school or high school – like math or science – where they get some teachers to collaborate and say, ‘Hey, we really can use this to elevate beyond what the standard curriculum is in the schools,’ ” Bogel said.
Bogel said teachers can use that money for anything from more school supplies to bringing in a specialist to talk more in depth about a specific subject.
With 42 schools in the district, Bogel said, the foundation’s goal is equity, so any and all teachers in the school district are encouraged to apply for the grant. The board also encourages teachers to apply next year.
“Speaking on behalf of our board, we’re just excited to be able to do this as a first step,” Bogel said. “We’ve made other really targeted investments. But being able to spread the generosity of our community who believe in kids and have a passion for it … to be able to get that out into the schools … in a grade level, in a school, it makes a difference. Those kids remember that, and it’s all about the kids.”