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Endowment helps buy non-budgeted classroom items

By BOB HANSEN - bhansen@newsexaminer.com

A fund started with money from soft drinks has provided more than $50,000 in assistance to Fayette County school teachers since 2001.

To help teachers purchase materials not in the regular school budget, the late Coy Powell, former principal at Eastwood Elementary, set up an Education Endowment at the Fayette County Foundation.

Seed money of $5,000 came from the profits on Coca-Cola products at school concession stands and soft drink machines, Anna Dungan, the foundation’s executive director, said. Another $750 came from a call for donations.

“The average teacher spends about $800 a year of their own money” to buy supplies for their classroom, Dungan said. “Grants from this fund were meant to help offset that.”

Since the fund’s start in February 2001, the endowment has grown to $173,634, the 11th-largest at the Foundation, she told the Fayette County school board on Tuesday. The Foundation invests the money, earning a higher rate of return than many private investments. The interest on the endowment can be used each year to make grants for educational projects.

The endowment has provided $51,478.94 in grants for projects at each school in the Fayette County system.

This year’s grants include $511.04 for a large scanner for the Whitewater Career Center; $439.96 for robotics and coding at Fayette Central; and $500 for a sensory room at Eastview.

Over the years, Connersville Middle School has received the largest number of grants and the most money, $15,033,59. Eastview has received $11,882,52; Connersville High School, $11,153; Fayette Central, $4,231.96; the Career Center, $3,351.92; Grandview, $2,653.30; Frazee, $1,587.85; Maplewood and Orange, each $600; and Everton, $384.80.

A total of 62 grants have been made, ranging from $100 for a document camera and stand to $3,000 for a percussion ensemble for the CHS band.

“It doesn’t have to be a large grant to make a difference in a child’s life,” Dungan said.

Grants have paid for digital cameras, cardio programs, recumbent bikes, media equipment, a robotics club, a finance academy, a business lunch, iPads, a student newspaper and pickle ball equipment, among many other items or projects. 

Teachers at each school can apply for grants. The grant applications are evaluated by a committee chaired by Tricia Fields, the school district’s Title I coordinator.

Dungan said it’s exciting for her to see the materials being put to use. Students are getting experience in actually learning subjects like how to write code for computers and robotics, skills they can use in the work world after school, she said.

The endowment continues to grow, Dungan said, because many FCSC teachers and staff make donations through payroll deductions. A small amount is donated from Fayette County residents who purchase Indiana license plates with Garfield – Committed to Education – on them. And some people simply donate to that particular fund at the Foundation, Dungan said.