Educational foundation to offer more funding

David Broyles

May 16, 2014

PILOT MOUNTAIN —County Schools received good news at a Surry County Schools Education Foundation meeting held Thursday at East Surry High School.

Foundation President Brent McKinney announced the group will be increasing school allotments by 40 percent which means schools will receive more than $35,000 for enhanced learning opportunities. He also announced the foundation has set aside $5,000 for mini grants and $6,000 for “STEMmersion” in county schools.

The reception was one of three. The first was held at North Surry High School followed by one at Surry Central.

Eddie Brown, William Swift and John Priddy were announced as new foundation board members. The third reception also allowed time for principals from various schools to give feedback on how well projects supported by the group have gone. The allotment increase follows the foundation doubling its allotments last year.

McKinney explained the mini grant program gives $500 to each successful applicant and will supplement the ongoing STEMmersion efforts to provide teachers the opportunity to spend time in local businesses learning how science, technology, engineering, and math are applied in real-world, authentic situations.

Preliminary plans for this project will involve 35 teachers who spend two days each in a local business, seeing first-hand the relationship between content and careers. The teachers will also collaborate with other colleagues in “externship” planning afterwards. This planning will focus solely on knowledge gained from the externships (also funded by the foundation) and tied to the development of project-based leaning units.

The program is also an opportunity for a business to promote its purpose, to help support education, and to recruit employees. Participants’ reflections on the programs will be gathered throughout the externships and will be used this summer as the lessons learned are translated into new curriculum.

“If we can help businesses’ full time needs everyone will be more successful,” said McKinney. “They will be more successful and grow and make more jobs.” He said efforts to equip the local workforce for the future was something the foundation was interested in continuing.

McKinney also spoke briefly on endowment programs offered by the foundation and said concluded it had been “a pretty good year” for the group. Schools Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves praised McKinney and the board for encouraging the system to “think big for students.”

“When our kids go through school and graduate they know what we are offering is comparable (to larger school systems),” said Reeves. “It takes all of these resources to make everything run and to push our kids to excel so they are globally competitive.”

Principals from the district recognized the foundation for helping support Arts programs ranging from band and drama to academic competitions like Quiz Bowl. Shoals Principal Dana Thomas said software applications for school IPads and purchasing (musical) recorders was keeping students experience a world of information beyond just one textbook.

Westfield Principal Holly Whittaker said the foundation’s funding had helped them revitalize the drama program which was involving more parents and students in the Parent Teacher Organization.

McKinney said the foundation typically concentrates on academics so it does not interfere with the activities of booster clubs which traditionally help school athletic programs.

Reach David Broyles at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.