Eminence Independent Schools utilizing multiple grants

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By Cindy DiFazio

by Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

At its November meeting, Eminence Independent Schools Superintendent Donald Aldridge told the members of the board of education he had been alerted in a Superintendent’s Advisory to possible budgetary shortfalls due to a dip in state revenue.

“There are some dollars we probably won’t receive next year,” he said.

These shifting economic sands may make applying for and receiving grants more difficult, but an even more important part of funding for local school districts.

Aldridge said he recently completed a grant seminar and has been working on a sizable grant for the after-school program at the Eminence Community Living Center.

He joked to school board members that he needed a conference sized table to organize the volumes of data he has compiled. The documentation is paperwork required to apply for a Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant. “It is a writing in progress,” Aldridge said, “but, it’s coming together.”

He said 15 to 20 grants will actually receive funding out of about 100 applications. All are seeking a piece of the available $5.1 million pie.

The Eminence school district is requesting a $75,000 continuation of last year’s funding. “It basically pays for the community center to be open from 3 until 8 p.m.,” Aldridge said, “for our after-school program.”

He said statistics point to the time from 4 to 6 p.m. as the most likely time for school-age children to get in trouble. “Students make poor decisions at those times,” Aldridge said. He said Henry County children have the added disadvantage that 61 percent of parents work outside the county.

The program at the community center provides a safe and productive environment. “They get snacks, help with homework and activities,” Aldridge said. He said they survey the children to determine what programs will be offered. “They do karate and jazzercise,” Aldridge said, “and have tables with computers to use.”

He said the school board and the City of Eminence work in tandem to make the community center a success. “We have a great partnership with the city,” Aldridge said.

City of Eminence Clerk Sandy Doane said the city provides the building, pays utilities and insurance and provides maintenance/upkeep. “We do get all rentals,” she said, “but, it’s not a project of the city where we make money. Aldridge agreed. “They spend $15-20,000 per year and get back $8-10,000,” he said. 

Aldridge said the school board pays the salaries for director, Alex Jensen and assistant, Terri Club as well as for tutors, instructional aides and janitorial services.

He said he is optimistic regarding 2009 funding. “We have a pretty strong grant application,” Aldridge said. “I’m feeling pretty good.”

Doane said it is in the best interests of both entities that the school board is successful in obtaining funding. “It is very important to us that the school receives grant money,” she said. “We’re glad to have them there.”

Another grant obtained by the creative staff at Eminence High School offers participation in the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest. Senior English teacher, Cara Puckett, said Robin McHone, head of arts and humanities, brought the idea to her. The grant takes students through an entire process leading up to and including the competition. “Only about ten percent of schools who apply get accepted,” Purckett said. “I was real pleased we got accepted.”

She said all English classes from grades nine through 12 will participate. 

According to Poetry Out Loud’s website, poetry has regained its status as an oral art form in recent years due to the popularity of hip-hop music and slam poetry. That has prompted the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation to partner with State Arts Agencies of the United States to support the project.

“It pays for a resident poet to come in and work with students,” Puckett said, “to learn how to take a poem and recite it with clarity.” Drama artist, Kathi E.B. Smith will spend two days in January coaching Eminence students.  Each will memorize two poems they choose from an extensive anthology including such diverse artists as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Allen Ginsberg and Maya Angelou.

Local competitions will be decided by Feb. 9 with winners advancing to the state level in Frankfort sometime in March. The 2009 National Finals will be held April 27 and 28 in Washington, DC.

A total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends will be awarded.

One winner from each state will receive $200 and an all-expenses paid trip to the nationals and the opportunity to recite at the rededication of the Lincoln Memorial. The state winner’s school receives $500 to purchase books of poetry. A runner-up in each state receives $100, plus $200 for his or her school library.

The top prize is a $20,000 scholarship.

“Our students are very expressive,” she said. “It will be good for them to compete in something other than football.”


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