Foundation making huge impact

By on April 26, 2017

Has awarded 119 grants totaling nearly $168K to EASD programs

The  executive  team  of  the  Ephrata  Area  Education  Foundation  includes (front row, left to right) Dean Hoover, president; Connie Kirby, vice president; (back, l-r) Aaron Groff, treasurer; Ann Marie Haus, secretary and executive director

The executive team of the Ephrata Area Education Foundation includes (front row, left to right) Dean Hoover, president; Connie Kirby, vice president; (back, l-r) Aaron Groff, treasurer; Ann Marie Haus, secretary and executive director

Over the past several years, school administrators across the country have had to scramble to deal with an ever-shrinking revenue stream.

However, the Ephrata Area School District has one ray of light trying to provide help — the Ephrata Area Education Foundation.

Ann Marie Haus has served as the group’s executive director since 2016. She recently explained the vital role the Foundation plays in helping EASD educate local students and answered questioned from the Ephrata Review regarding the Foundation.

Haus said the Ephrata Area Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

“The mission is to provide new innovative ideas or programs that ignites the hearts and minds of students,” she said. “Founded in 2004, the Ephrata Area Education Foundation was created to provide opportunities for teachers to enhance educational experiences in their classroom by pursuing programs beyond the standard curriculum. We also continue to try and improve already effective programs in ways that engage and excite learners.”

Haus said the cumulative effect of these investments is to provide innovative approaches to learning, which has helped Ephrata students earn recognition within and beyond the local region.”

Over the last 12 years, the Foundation has funded more than 100 Venture Grants, totaling over $160,000 to teachers, staff, and administration to support innovative programs beyond the standard curriculum.

In addition, this year, the Foundation has named the following as Signature Programs: Coding Contest, Corny Days, P2P Program, the Susan Byrnes Field Trip, Quiz Bowl, and Vex Robotics Club. Signature programs are annually funded by the Foundation and have a commitment totaling $35,000 per year.

The Foundation also sponsors Venture Grants.

“Venture Grants are awarded to individual teachers, groups of teachers, departments, and other professional employees to fund projects designed to enhance and expand educational experiences and opportunities for the students in the Ephrata Area School District,” said Haus. “All proposals must promote one or more of the Foundation’s current initiatives, such as expanding innovative learning opportunities, advancing technology, supporting early childhood, ie, K-4 education, etc.”

Haus addressed how the Foundation seeks to award its Venture grants.

“Although seeking to make delivery of the current curriculum more effective or more efficient is a laudable goal, such proposals generally do not rank as high as ‘curriculum ventures’ that are new and uniquely innovative,” said Haus. “Grants, which have the potential to impact a significant number of students or a smaller, but underserved, population also tend to rank higher.”

Haus said sustainability beyond the “seed money” provided by the grant is also a factor, although several one-time experiences have been funded over the years.

One change the Foundation implemented to the Venture Grant program for the 2017-18 school year was to create three separate grant categories each with its own application criteria, evaluation rubric, and an allotted percentage of available funds.

  • Educational Innovation Grants are new and uniquely innovative projects.
  • Proven in Practice Grants were innovative grants from prior years that the school district leadership sees as worthy, proven programs, but district funds are not available to be added into the budget.
  • Expert in Residence Grants cover expenses related to bringing authors, artists, and other experts into a school to work with students and teachers.

“For the 2017-18 school year, the Foundation recently approved funding 21 Venture Grants totaling $52,595,” noted Haus. “Over the last 12 years, the Foundation has funded more than 125 Venture Grants to teachers, staff, and administration to support innovative programs beyond the standard curriculum in the Ephrata Area School District.”

As if the efforts of Foundation Venture Grants were not already producing significant results, Foundation Signature Programs are Foundation-sponsored programs which generate huge student interest and enthusiasm from which emanates proportional success. Haus highlighted some of the biggest of those programs.

The second annual Coding Contest was held in March.

“The Coding Contest provides students with the opportunity to collaborate and program while they learn the skills they will need in this rapidly changing technologically-driven world,” explained Haus. “The basic skills of computer science help to nurture creativity and problem-solving skills and prepare students for their future career.”

Corny Days: The Outdoor Learning Center was designed to offer a hands-on educational experience for students. This initiative, in collaboration with the Ephrata community, helps prepare students for successful careers in agriculture, science, food, and natural resource systems.

P2P Program: Over 85 percent of a child’s communication, critical thinking, and problem solving skills are developed by the age of five. A joint project of the district and the Foundation, the P2P Academy offers free tools to help teach kindergarten readiness skills and to prepare preschoolers to succeed in school and beyond.

High School Quiz Bowl: Quiz Bowl is a fast-paced game that tests players’ knowledge on a wide variety of academic subjects. In a fun and welcoming environment, students form lasting friendships, have a great time, and learn even more than they are already doing in their classrooms.

Susan Byrnes Field Trip: All third grade students learn about food groups and the way nutrients help them maintain healthy bodies. In addition, they study germs, both the good ones and the bad, and the ways germs multiply and spread.

VEX Robotics Club: VEX Robotics requires teams of students to design and build a robot and compete in a game-based engineering challenge. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts are put to the test as students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, leadership, communication, and more.

“For the 2017-18 school year, the Middle School Quiz Bowl team will also be a Signature Program of the Foundation,” added Haus. “We look forward to supporting both teams and wish them both great success.”

But where does all that money come from? It comes from a local community coming together to support the Foundation’s effort and mission to education local children.

On Saturday, Feb. 25, more than 280 guests attended the Foundation’s third annual Purple and Gold Gala at the Lancaster Country Club to support the foundation’s efforts. The event raised an impressive $60,000.

At the event, Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop spoke about how fortunate the district is to have the support of a great community and a strong Foundation to help the district reach its goals.

“Continuing to improve already effective programs in ways that engage and excite our learners is not easy work and often requires additional funding,” Troop told those attending the Gala. “Through the thoughtful leadership of the Foundation board over the years, the Foundation has been able to leverage even the smallest contribution into an idea or program that ignites the hearts and minds of our students.”

Gala Committee Co-Chairman Dr. William Funk spoke about the Impact of Investment and the opportunities that are provided because of the financial support of donors.

“The most moving aspect of this entire process is working toward enhancing the educational experiences of children throughout the Ephrata Area School District,” said Funk. “The Foundation has been able to impact these children because of your continued support.”

In order to achieve such a huge body of work each year, the Foundation sets high expectations on its executive director.

“I actively seek ways to grow all aspects of the Foundation: program allocation, financial, marketing, fundraising, etc.,” said Haus. “I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Foundation, which includes supporting all board members in the accomplishment of the Foundation mission.”

While it may often seem as though the Foundation works silently, even seamlessly, with EASD behind the scenes to create a quality educational experience for all local students. That effort comes thanks to a dedicated board of directors, including: Dean Hoover, president; Connie Kirby, vice president; Aaron Groff, treasurer; Haus, secretary; executive director; Funk; Dr. Jacy Clugston Hess; Phillip Hess; Sarah McBee; John Porter; Kristee Reichard; Gil Sager; Larry Sollenberger; Mark Thompson; Troop; Chris Weber; and Carrie Willetts.

In addition there are the volunteers that help to make things happen beginning with the Gala Committee comprised of board members, retired teachers, parents, and community members. They include: Michele Storb, Stephanie Weber, Pat Orwig, Rebecca Gallagher, Randy Goshert, Joan Adams, Kerry Pepper, Donna Schlinkman, Darlene Graham, Michele Newswanger, Ashley Scheirer, and Stephanie Frymyer.

“The second greatest need of the Foundation is volunteers, committee members, potential board members,” said Haus. “We are growing and we want to continue to grow. We will need the support of new volunteers, committee members, and board members to reach new possibilities. Whichever way you choose to help, support is welcomed.”

Looking to the future, the Foundation is looking to start connecting with EASD alumni.

“Once students graduate from EASD there is no reconnection with them,” noted Haus. “We hope to grow an alumni base to help with alumni reunions, and also support of the Ephrata Area Education Foundation.”

With an active Facebook page, facebookcom/EASDEF and active Twitter account twitter.com/EphrataAreaEF, that should make the effort to connect with alumni, volunteers, donors and the community much easier.

For information on the Foundation, visit ephrataeducationFoundation.org.

Gary P. Klinger is a freelance correspondent in his 11th year welcoming your comment and questions via email at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

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