Decatur County Schools Foundation funds extra academic purposes

Published 5:42 pm Friday, March 11, 2016

If you, your child or grandchild, as a student, have ever been fortunate to experience the wonders of a Gulf Specimen Marine lab, participate in music master’s honors chorus, see a theatre production, take a STEM unit field trip to Seminole State Park or learn about organic gardening, then you can thank the Decatur County Schools’ Foundation, Inc.

Established in 1997, the Foundation was a partnership of local community, businesses, industry and schools first conceived by John Monk and John Roach, along with Leon Pate, then school superintendent. Together they raised $100,000, which was then matched by the Kirbo Charitable Trust, creating a start-up investment fund of $200,000.

Interest from the investment is used to fund grants written by Decatur County teachers to help finance worthwhile academic and cultural activities not normally funded from regular school funds, tax dollars or other fund-raisers.

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As the teachers began to realize the benefits, many chose to become donors through payroll deduction.

Since granting the first award in 1998, the Foundation has now given out $261,092.28 for 326 grants that served 77,229 students. For this 2015-16 academic year, 19 grants totaling $27,705 have been awarded. These figures do not include those given this school year.

When a teacher writes a grant for an activity they must itemize the costs and specify what educational standard the grant will meet, based on what has been learned in the classroom.

The grant applications are reviewed first by Dr. Fred Rayfield, current Superintendent of Schools, to determine eligibility; then they are reviewed and voted on by an executive board.

Prior grants have covered expenses for field trips, theater and arts attendance, scholarship programs, mock trials and Quiz Bowl Team events, to name a few.

Two examples of grants this year are: Hutto Middle School teacher G. Powell, whose Gulf Specimen Marine Lab grant received $1,400 and served more than 400 students.

Another grant to West Bainbridge Elementary School teachers A. Andrews and C. Ward was Incentives for Behavior and Attendance in the amount of $2,500 and served 530 students.

Board member, Paula Chambers says unfortunately due to lack of funds, they cannot fund all of the requests. She stresses the importance of the grant system saying, “It really makes a difference to a student’s learning after studying a subject in the classroom, to actually see in person what they have learned.”

Grants cover all levels of the Decatur County School System from elementary through middle school and into high school.

Now, due to the increased demand for money and declining interest rates, the Foundation has found itself with limited funds and has initiated a new fund drive. To date it has managed to raise $8,728, by calling on businesses and corporations. Another source of income is from memorials given by families in memory of loved ones. The drive is ongoing throughout this year and those wishing to make a donation are encouraged to contact Decatur County Schools’ Foundation, in care of First Port City Bank, P.O. Box 1070, Bainbridge GA 39818.