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Fri, Feb. 28

PUSD Education Foundation donates additional $57,000 for teachers, technology and new playground

Left to right: Abia Judd fourth grade teacher Whitney Williams, grants specialist Kelly Mattox, food services manager Amy Seigler, foundation member and Foothills Bank executive Scott Fagin, Abia Judd Principal Stephanie Hillig and Lincoln Elementary Principal Karen Hughes. (Courtesy)

Left to right: Abia Judd fourth grade teacher Whitney Williams, grants specialist Kelly Mattox, food services manager Amy Seigler, foundation member and Foothills Bank executive Scott Fagin, Abia Judd Principal Stephanie Hillig and Lincoln Elementary Principal Karen Hughes. (Courtesy)

Abia Judd Elementary fourth-grade teacher Whitney Williams has discovered a cure for timid classroom speakers — Q balls.

Thanks to an $838 Prescott Unified Education Foundation grant awarded this past week, Williams can purchase these durable, soft foam spheres that contain microphones attached to wireless speakers in the classroom. When a student is tossed one of the balls, they are encouraged to speak their thoughts or ideas related to the class assignment into the hidden speaker.

Learning = fun.

At Mile High Middle and Prescott High School, students who might otherwise not garner the early morning brain food they require to think will be offered nutritious breakfast foods from carts set up in high-traffic locations throughout the school. No stigma, just healthy, readily available food. This grant totals $7,597.

Foundation Executive Director Tami Phillips said these represent two of four teacher grant requests totaling $12,235 left unfunded in the December $22,000 grant give-away celebration. A $2,800 grant for tutors to benefit Native American students and a $1,000 grant for a financial literacy program at Lincoln Elementary School were also part of this last mix.

Foundation member and Foothills Bank Chief Credit Officer Scott Fagin, whose wife, Amanda, is an eighth grade math teacher at Mile High, tapped his bank to see whether it might be able to cover these extra grant requests for projects the foundation deemed worthy ventures to benefit students.

The answer was yes.

So on Tuesday, Phillips orchestrated yet another surprise distribution to the asking teachers and staff.

Like the early December give-away, the Prescott High Marching Band Drum Corp accompanied foundation and administration leaders as they presented checks to each faculty member. A drum roll preceded each award.

“We’re really excited,” said district Grants Director Maya Caldwell of this latest community/school district collaboration as a means to “make good programs for kids.” Caldwell and grants specialist Kelly Mattox submitted the request to obtain funds for the district’s Indian Education Tutoring Program.

“There is such a need as our schools are so underfunded,” Phillips said of these extra dollars for innovative classroom and schoolwide projects.

She said she is delighted when the foundation is able to garner dollars able to make it possible for teachers to dream big for their students.

In Sedona, Phillips said the district breakfast cart program contributed to a 65 percent increase in students eating a nutritious breakfast on a daily basis.

National health and scientific professionals are unequivocal about the importance of a nutritious morning meal on a child’s developing brain.

To date this school year, the foundation has donated $170,000 to the district, Phillips said. Beyond these awards, the foundation just donated $20,000 to purchase new playground equipment for the Granite Mountain School that serves all of the district’s fifth and sixth graders and will be giving $25,000 to the district for new computer and software technology.

Every dollar invested in students is also an investment in teachers, with these awards serving as a retention tool, Phillips said. At the same time the foundation is recognizing and awarding “innovative practices” across the district, Phillips said the business community’s support of teachers speaks “to the sense of community we have.”

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