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Andalusia schools get boost from group

The Andalusia City Schools Foundation awarded nearly $40,000 in grants to teachers, programs and classes in the Andalusia City School System this week to help ensure the quality of education students receive remains high.

The foundation, a non-profit organization made up of individuals with strong ties to the Andalusia City Schools, awards grants yearly to teachers and programs in the school system to help with the "extras" that either might not be funded through traditional means, or enhance the learning experience of students.

"The foundation was begun about 12 or 13 years ago as a means of helping teachers and emphasizing the importance of academics on a local level," said Greg White, vice-chairman of the foundation. "Teachers submit grant applications, the same as the would for any other grant, for specific projects they would like to have funding help with. Projects that are typically not part of ordinary funding."

Those projects are a diverse lot, too. Grants totaling as little as $41 for a new cassette recorder, to $48 for butterfly caterpillars - to $2,100 for microscopes for a science lab.

"The board considers the applications and determines whether or not the request meets our criteria," White said. "We try to fund as many projects as our funding allows. All of the projects are worthwhile causes and enhance the basic learning environment in some way."

An example of that enhancement is the microscopes.

"The science equipment is very important to maintaining a high level of academic standards," he said. "We try to keep it as modern as possible and make sure there is enough equipment to serve the students. A lot of schools don't have modern equipment."

But it's not just science that gets funded.

Reading programs are a big recipient of foundation grants. Teachers often request assistance to purchase advanced reading materials and supplementary materials.

Teachers at Andalusia Elementary School will be using grants they received to purchase accelerated reading books, novels and resource books, and equipment and resources to assist kindergarten classes with learning to read.

Above and beyond the learning materials, the foundation also assists with projects that simply enhance the learning experience, such as assisting with funding for the seventh grade students at Andalusia Middle School to take a trip to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, rhythm band instruments for music classes and more.

"These are all the same type of projects we have funded in the past," White said. "Reading is very important to the fundamentals of learning, so we try to provide as many opportunities for advanced reading materials as possible."

One of the positive things about the foundation, in addition to its dispersal of funds to assist the schools, is its status in Andalusia.

As a non-profit organization, the foundation is able to accept tax deductible donations from individuals and corporations.

"Individuals and businesses can make contributions - we would love that," White said. "All contributions go to the corpus (principle) of the foundation, and we only distribute the profits off of the investments made. It's very similar to an endowment.

"It's a way people can give back to their local school system," he continued. "We especially want the alumni to know about the foundation and let them know that they can make donations to help give back to the school."

Contributions to the foundation can be made in care of the Andalusia City Schools Board of Education, although the BOE does not control the foundation.

"The foundation is made up of a board of directors," White said. "The superintendent has a seat on the board, but everything is voted on by the board."

For more information about the Andalusia City Schools Foundation, contact the Andalusia Board of Education at 222-3186.