RMS sixth grader Monica Acosta uses a tablet purchased through an RCS Education Foundation grant.
RMS sixth grader Monica Acosta uses a tablet purchased through an RCS Education Foundation grant.

Archived Story

Foundation supports teachers, students

Published 3:27pm Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Money isn’t something that grows on trees – a fact that most everyone has figured out during the past several years of tough economic times.

But while funding is sparse for many organizations, most of them must still continue to function in one way or another.

Due to proration and budget cuts, public schools have seen a major decline in funding since 2008, but schools still have to meet certain standards and teachers must still have certain materials in order to teach their students.

But where does that funding come from when it isn’t coming from state or federal sources?

That was the exact question that weighed heavily on the hearts of several individuals who felt a desire to help the local school system financially.

A lot of times, the burden was falling on the teachers to reach into their own pockets to come up with money for classroom projects and materials.

But what if someone else wanted to help out?

Following an accreditation review in 2008, the system and community were encouraged to establish a foundation through which supportive and benevolent friends of the Russellville city schools could contribute financially to the system with tax deductible benefits.

After looking into the issue and trying to find supporters, the Russellville City Schools Education Foundation was finally established in May 2012.

The foundation, which is a non-profit organization, is not a function of the city school board and the money generated is not used to help pay teacher salaries, benefits, or to aid the schools’ athletic programs.

Russellville resident Kristy Gist, who serves as the secretary/treasurer of the foundation’s board of directors, said the money goes to help with things such as classroom supplies, classroom technology and scholarships for deserving seniors.

“This foundation gives our teachers a way to apply for grants that will help them purchase much-needed items for their classrooms,” Gist said.

“As much as they do for our students, we hated to see many of them constantly paying for things on their own. And through the grants we have given out so far, we’re already seeing the impact this foundation can have on our local education system.”

Gist said that recently, two teachers received $500 classroom technology grants, one of which was Russellville Middle School science teacher Lee Brownell.

“Mr. Brownell applied for a grant that would help him purchase several tablets that his students would use while doing research projects in class,” Gist said.

“After he received the grant and purchased the tablets, he told us how beneficial they have been.”

Brownell said his sixth grade science students have been using the tablets to complete research projects on constellations.

“It has been very beneficial to have this technology available in the classroom,” Brownell said.

“My students have been able to work on these projects during class time and you can tell that they have enjoyed it.”

RCS curriculum coordinator Susan Hall, who also serves on the foundation’s board of directors, said the foundation also serves as a way to raise funds for scholarships for deserving seniors.

“Currently the foundation gives out four $500 scholarships as well as the Dr. Wayne Ray Scholarship, which was established in Ray’s honor after his retirement from the school system in 2008 following 43 years and an educator, and is now presented through the foundation.

“We feel like these scholarships are a wonderful way to support and encourage our students to continue to achieve their dreams by continuing their education,” Hall said.

“College is so expensive, and every bit of support and financial assistance is important.”

But how does the foundation have the funding to give out much-needed scholarships and provide much-needed funding for classroom supplies and technology?

That, Hall said, is where the members of the community come in.

“None of this would be possible without the help and support of our community,” Hall said.

“We have a wonderful community here in Russellville that has always stood behind our school system. That’s one of the reasons we knew a foundation would flourish here because so many people want to see our school system prosper and be successful.

“We want the community to be aware of what this foundation is, what it does, and how it helps our students and teachers so that more people in the community can be involved and can contribute to these worthy projects.”

The foundation’s main fundraiser is a banquet that will be held on Monday, April 21, at the A.W. Todd Centre in Russellville with a silent auction beginning at 5 p.m., the welcome and opening remarks beginning at 6 p.m., and the dinner beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets for the banquet are $50, which includes the meal, and participation in the silent auction and Chinese auction.

“We are actually very excited about the Chinese auction,” Hall said. “This is something we have seen done at other foundations’ fundraisers and it is a lot of fun for everyone and something you won’t want to miss.”

In addition to the silent auction and Chinese auction fundraisers, entertainment will be provided by former RHS choral director Patti Kimbrough, and Hall said they have special programming planned to honor former graduates who have gone on to be successful in their lives and careers.

“The Russellville City School System has produced some very fine graduates who have done great things for their communities and in their career fields,” Hall said.

“We thought it would be special to honor some of those individuals at this year’s foundation banquet.”

Gist said this year’s honorees include 1950 graduate Charlie Britnell, 1967 graduate Don James, 1984 graduate Don Wilson, and 1951 graduate Joab Thomas, whose family will receive his award since Dr. Thomas passed away on March 3.

“We are very excited about this year’s banquet, and we look forward to seeing many friends and supporters of the Russellville City School System,” Hall said.

Tickets for the banquet may be purchased by calling Susan Hall at 256-331-2000. Businesses who are interested in donating items for the silent auction and Chinese auction can also contact Hall.

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