Directors approve almost $9000 in grants

Spring 2011: Directors approve almost $9000 in grants to support education at Somerset and another MCPS school, to mitigate impact of budget cuts.

Donating to the Foundation More Important Now Than Ever

A recent front-page TIN article on proposed MCPS school budgets cuts could not have been more clear: This is a very tough time for the county and for our schools.

Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett has proposed over $80 million dollars in cuts to schools, and the school board will be debating the budget at hearings in April. According to Board of Ed president Charles Barclay, “The budget, as proposed by the County Executive, will lead to higher class sizes, staff cuts and other reductions that will affect every classroom in Montgomery County Public Schools.”

The Foundation was started in 1994, at a time when county budget cutbacks also threatened the quality of our children’s education. The Foundation is prohibited from paying for additional teachers, so it cannot reduce class sizes, but it can and does provide critical support for the children of Somerset – and for children in less-advantaged MCPS schools as well.

At the Foundation meeting on March 22, board members voted to support the following three grants, all of which support its mission of academic enrichment, capital improvements, and community outreach:

*A $5000 grant to update the fiction book collection that is used for guided reading groups in kindergarten through third grade. The original collection is 15 years old, incomplete, outdated and insufficient for our increased enrollment.

*$1355.20 for teacher professional development, teachers in all grade levels will learn how to implement a vocabulary curriculum that improves students’ reading comprehension.

*$2600 to underwrite the costs of the Viers Mill Elementary School 4th grade field trip to Historic St. Mary’s. This is the same field trip that our own 4th-graders take, but at Viers Mill, a school which is challenged economically, this trip would not be possible this year without our support. It is difficult for parents to afford the entire cost of the trip (approximately $40 per child) and PTA resources are similarly stretched. Teachers end up sponsoring children.

This year, the Foundation has also supported Family Learning Nights at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring as well as their Saturday field trip program. The Board also approved a grant to underwrite the costs of the guided reading non-fiction collection here at Somerset, and, together with the Somerset PTA, underwrote the cost of the activity bus that takes the children home after the tutoring clubs. (The county no longer provided this service.)

All of these requests for funding came through our teachers and principal, and all of the money to furnish these grants came from Somerset families, alumni, and friends.

This is a challenging time for all MCPS schools, and we are fortunate to have such an engaged and generous parent community. Thank you.

Guided Reading Books, Non-Fiction

In the Fall of 2010, the directors agreed to provide funds to purchase non-fiction leveled books for guided reading groups in all grades.

The focus of these reading groups will be to increase reading vocabulary, increase oral vocabulary, and improve comprehension as measured by written responses (brief constructed responses, or BCRs). These new materials will give teachers and paraeducators working with reading groups a larger collection from which to offer students guided texts.

Research  shows that reading non-fiction text increases students vocabulary which then increases comprehension. Teachers and paraeducators will use these materials to reinforce comprehension through the use of text features. Students will practice constructing brief responses after reading these texts, as a way to both improve and measure comprehension.

Sandra Kalavritinos, Reading Specialist and Test Coordinator, submitted this proposal.  She will coordinate the selection and distribution of the new books that will be housed in the Primary Bookroom on the first floor.

New Hampshire Estates Elementary School

The Foundation has developed a special relationship with New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring. This school is Pre-K through 2nd Grade, and includes a Head Start program.  The majority of the students speak a language other than English at home, and the school strives to involve the whole family in each student’s education. Every year the Board pledges $1000 to help fund their Family Learning Nights, in which the school staff prepares separate lessons for parents and students — to help parents help their children at home. At the end of each session, the children receive a book to bring home.

In the fall of 2008, the Foundation voted to donate additional money toward New Hampshire Estate’s Building Understanding on Saturdays (BUS) program. This program was originally developed using extended-day funds from Title I, funds which are no longer available. The program takes the parent and a student to local sites to explore and discuss curricula topics. The sites are selected to help students develop background knowledge of upcoming topics of study. During the trip, parents are given materials to work with their child that ask students questions, and have them fill out charts and questionnaires. Each trip ends with a free book on the topic for each child to take home.  This program costs approximately $1,750 for each trip; the school plans three to four trips per year.

The Foundation continues to support both remarkable, valuable programs.

Click here for a note from the Principal of New Hampshire Estates E.S.

Science Workshops

Echoes of Nature, an educational organization, brought a “field trip” to three grades (second, third, and fourth) in the spring of 2010.  Ms. Krueger, one of the fourth grade teachers, learned about this program and collaborated with a Somerset parent to request a grant from the Foundation to bring this extraordinary educational experience to Somerset.  One of the Foundation’s goals is to promote academic excellence, and this program clearly supported that goal.

Ms. Kreuger and her colleagues in the other grades chose workshops that would enrich the science curriculum already in place at Somerset.  Echoes of Nature provided students with hands-on learning experiences in their classrooms through the use of live animals (very small, and in some cases microscopic), fascinating demonstrations, and facts about the environment and animal life. The second grade studied insects and arachnids. The third grade studied food webs and photosynthesis. The fourth grade studied animal and plant life found in the Chesapeake Bay area. All workshops also encouraged an appreciation for the natural world around us, in all forms.