Record Total of $224,000 For 243 Grants Includes Single Grant of $44,000 For K-5 Books
BERKELEY, November 18, 2011—Berkeley Public Schools Fund (BPEF) (bpef-online.org) announced today the 2011 recipients of its annual Classroom Grants. Due to continued annual budget cuts, and the constant reallocation of discretionary funds to maintain the essentials, schools are in constant search for resources to pursue projects that enrich teaching and learning. “Every year, the amount of dollars requested exceeds the previous year, and this year was no exception. We are delighted, thanks to the generosity of our donors, to be awarding the highest number of dollars ever for this central the Schools Fund program—grants to support educator-initiated projects at every grade, in every school,” said Molly Fraker, Director of the nonprofit organization. Multi-year grantee and art teacher Lucy Ames credits the Schools Fund with helping her offer quality materials to her young pupils, “with the benefit to my students and my teaching being that we are inspired, enthusiastic, engaged. Isn’t this what it’s all about? We are so thankful to the Schools Fund!”
The 2011 awards, 243 in all to teachers applying either individually or as part of collaborative teams, include 40 grants for field trips to venues as far as Yosemite and as near as UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances; 58 grants for technology equipment or educational software purchases; and more than 65 grants that fund dance, theater, music and visual arts projects. In addition, the Schools Fund has partnered with the school district on a single $44,000 grant to complete an extraordinary two-year effort to build permanent book collections in every classroom throughout Berkeley’s eleven elementary schools. Other grants range in size from $7,000 for a year-long pre-school project to align teaching with Kindergarten readiness benchmarks, and $8,900 for a class set of microscopes at King Middle School, to $500 for professional printmaker residencies at two middle schools, and $700 for pilot projects to test music and language arts applications of the iPad. Technology requests are steadily on the rise, particularly from Berkeley High School, and awards to teachers there include $4,500 for a pilot project with the Green Academy, to test the effectiveness of having a classroom set of Google Chrome computers.
Unrestricted dollars that the Schools Fund raises underwrite 1) classroom and other grants that go directly into academic projects and programs; 2) a school-day and after-school volunteer program that infuses over $1 million in donated time into the district; and 3) support for unique programs offered within the public schools by partner non-profits. the Schools Fund’s School Volunteers, initiated in 1991, brings donated time, talents and skills of over 2,000 community members into all Berkeley schools. Funded organizations include Berkeley Repertory Theater ($8,000), which is conducting 10-week workshops at all eleven elementary schools; Berkeley Symphony ($15,000), whose Music in the Schools serves nearly 4,000 students in all eleven elementary schools with a year-long program of instruction and performance; Community Resources for Science ($9,0000), which helps K-8 teachers in Berkeley build confidence in their science teaching by providing information and lessons, scientist volunteers and support with extracurricular activities; and the Writer Coach Connection ($9,000), whose 250 volunteers undergo six hours of rigorous training to prepare them for the job of coaching middle- and high-school student writers.
Berkeley Public Schools Fund was begun in 1983, when the impact of Proposition 13 property tax restructuring was being felt in public school classrooms. A group of Berkeley parents and community leaders responded by establishing the Schools Fund, to raise awareness and funds on behalf of the city’s public school teachers and students. This core leadership group began building an annual source of funding that educators could tap to enrich their classrooms and expand the horizons of their teaching, and today the Schools Fund has grown to become Berkeley’s single largest source of private outside funding available to every Berkeley public school, from Pre-K–12. “The Schools Fund has always believed that directly supporting teachers is one of the best and most efficient ways to help students achieve and succeed,” notes current board Chair Chris Hudson.
Highlights of the Schools Fund’s many years of support include early seed funding for the Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which with the Schools Fund’s help was piloted by lead teachers and then adopted as the new Language Arts curriculum across all Berkeley K-5 schools. This year’s $44,000 grant for thousands of leveled fiction and non-fiction books is the capstone of this collaboration. In the early 1990s, the Schools Fund was asked and accepted the challenge to raise an extra $1 million to build a Family Resource Center at Rosa Parks School during its reconstruction following the Loma Prieta earthquake. When music was in jeopardy in our schools for a year due to a funding gap, the Schools Fund spearheaded a campaign raising over $300,000 to keep music teachers and instruction going uninterrupted.