By Sue Botos
As the 2013-2014 school year winds down, the Rocky River Education Foundation (RREF) is winding up its best year of fundraising since it was established in 1984. During the fall and spring campaigns, over $48,000 in grants were awarded to teachers for classroom equipment and projects that are outside of budget constraints.
The total was even larger than the $47,000 predicted at the end of the fall grant period by Rocky River High School English teacher Erin Voight, a RREF board member. The funds will benefit a variety of instructional areas such as math, science, music and history.
“The grant requests submitted this year aligned to RREF’s mission to encourage further development of specialized talents, skills and academic achievements for students,” commented Brett Jaffe, chairman of the foundation’s programs committee, which oversees grant requests and funding. “It is truly rewarding to be part of RREF and see the impact that is being made by reinvesting in our Blue Ribbon schools through the generous donations from our community members.”
Teachers apply for the grants, which are offered twice yearly, via an online application that details the entire cost of the proposal, the amount being requested, any matching funds already secured and the number of students impacted. Applicants are then invited to an RREF board meeting to give a presentation outlining their proposal.
The projects are then reviewed by a panel consisting of residents, school and city administrators who choose the plans that are most viable and benefit the greatest number of students Recipients are asked to provide written follow-up on the outcome of the project.
A total of nine grants were awarded for the spring, including $3,076 for Common Core math learning stations for third-graders at Kensington Intermediate School, submitted by Hannah Paxton; $1,500 to improve instruments for Beginning Band Night at Kensington (Sharon Risko); and new hardcover biographies for the Kensington library. RREF doubled the requested funding amount for the books and math stations.
Middle school history teacher Frank O’Grady also received $1,700 for 45 students to participate in the National History Day competition in March at the Western Reserve Historical Society. At this year’s competition, a team of students took first place with its Japanese-American exhibit, and qualified for the national competition.
“With our RREF grant, our National History Day program allowed history to come alive for our RRMS students by engaging them in the discovery of American history,” O’Grady commented. “This eighth grade after-school project challenged student teams to build and present an exhibit on an American history topic of their choice, as guided by our project-based curriculum and instruction. Thank you, RREF,” he commented.
The largest grant, $4,500, was secured by high school vocal music instructor Allison Paetz, to expand the school’s choral music library. The original amount of this grant was also doubled by RREF.
Paetz reflected on the use of a larynx anatomical model purchased with the help of a past RREF grant. “It is so helpful for them (students) to be able to see how their voices work, since that’s not something we can do with the naked eye! Also, I am beyond excited to expand our music library with the aid of the RREF. There are so many wonderful pieces I would love to have my students perform and enjoy, and now I can purchase them thanks to the RREF.”
The public also benefits from RREF through its support of the Rocky River City Schools Speakers Series, which has hosted authors such as Loung Ung and James Swanson, who spoke to students and the community as part of the high school summer reading program. RREF conducted a special fundraising effort at its annual March event, raising almost $15,000 for the series.
The foundation also helps send seniors off to college with donor-named scholarships. At this year’s spring recognition ceremony, 40 scholarships worth over $45,000 were awarded to the class of 2014.
While the RREF depends on donations from businesses and individuals, most of its funding comes from the annual fundraiser. The next one will take place on March 21, 2015, at the Westwood Country Club. Contact Kerry Capka at 440-333-3619 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about RREF and lists of past grant recipients, go to www.rredfoundation.org.