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PUSD foundation creates party ‘disturbance’ at 3 schools, awards $20,000 in grants (Photos & Video)

Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard leads a drumline and members of the Prescott Education Foundation through Prescott High School as they went around on Friday, December 9 to district schools and handed out checks to teachers who had applied and received grants for special projects. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)

Photo by Les Stukenberg.

Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard leads a drumline and members of the Prescott Education Foundation through Prescott High School as they went around on Friday, December 9 to district schools and handed out checks to teachers who had applied and received grants for special projects. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)

PRESCOTT – Students and teachers were stunned, and delighted, on Friday morning, Dec. 9, to be serenaded by a lively Prescott High School drumline and cheering district leaders and volunteers.

By the Numbers:

The recipients of the grants that totaled $19,868.05:

Prescott High: Courtney Check, Dave Stengel; Christina Hunter and Alvina Green.

Mile High Middle: Suzy Turrentine, Debbie James, Candy Shaft and Robin Andre; Wendy Tollefsen; Brandon Uftring and Terry Pemberton.

Abia Judd Elementary: Maureen Festi, Dee Yeager and Ashley Wheeler.

Carrying bushels of neon-colored balloons and blowing noisemakers, the 30-member group paraded through three district schools as part of a now annual celebration of educational innovation and creativity.

For the second school year in a row, the district’s Education Foundation coordinated a “prize party” bus tour to deliver some $20,000 in grants to 15 individual and team teachers. The grants ranged from just under $500 to over $4,000 for educational opportunities for students they could otherwise not afford.

“We want to make as much of disturbance as possible,” declared Brandi Jex, the foundation’s vice president of programs, to encourage more teachers to seek grants and more community members to donate so the foundation can supply more grants.

In the first round last spring, Jex said the foundation awarded $10,000 worth of grants to four teachers. That amount about doubled for this year.

But Jex said the foundation received 23 applications for grants totaling $76,000. The foundation’s hope is to be able to fund that and more come spring as each program and project was worthy.

She said she was excited to deliver these grants with such fanfare because many teachers “didn’t really believe this was possible.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” declared a surprised, and emotional Maureen Festi, library specialist at Abia Judd Elementary School as the drumline kept up a steady beat with the gleeful shots of foundation and district leaders eager to celebrate these community-funded financial awards.

Festi and two others on her team were awarded just under $5,000 to initiate the second phase of an afterschool robotics laboratory. The team uses LEGO education robotic kits and iPads to inspire children in first through fourth grades to perform 21st century problem-solving skills.

The other projects were: Chromebook for blended learning math interventions at Mile High Middle School; professional film making and a video studio at the middle school; a math enhancement program for high school students; a digital fluency program at the high school and a design project at the middle school that requires students to “escape” a room by opening locks on a wooden kit through collaboration, critical thinking and various problem solving skills.

District Superintendent Joe Howard donned a Santa hat for the festivities, as the group made its way to seven different classrooms at three schools – Prescott High, Abia Judd Elementary and Mile High Middle School.

“We’re rolling through to give away all kinds of cash to teachers who want to do cool things for you,” Howard told Abia Judd Elementary students.

At Mile High, seventh-grader Kayla Courtright was all smiles as her language arts teacher, Wendy Tollefsen, received a grant.

“I think it’s amazing,” Courtright said of the grant presentation. “It’s a great way to introduce it. Really fun.”

As the school bus rolled to its final stop outside Prescott High, Howard offered a final thanks to the community’s continued commitment to doing the very best for the district’s students.

“We were all Santa Claus today,” he said.