By on November 27, 2013

by Kim Broberg

A wonderful example of how a single grant can affect the larger community is  what Donna Rosso, current director of the Franklin Early Childhood Center (ECC),  did with the Innovation Grant she was awarded last year from the city of Melrose  when she was acting director. Rosso received a grant to purchase video training  materials. These materials were used to train educators and parents in active  engagement reading for the oral language development and teaching for  preschool-aged children, a critical prerequisite for reading and writing. The impact has been far-reaching…

November 20, 2013, Melrose, Mass. — Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker with the red schoolhouse or maybe you’ve  noticed a flock of plastic flamingos on your neighbor’s lawn and wondered,  “What’s up?”

Well, these are two recent fundraising efforts of the Melrose Education  Foundation (MEF). The Melrose Education Foundation seeks to enhance the  educational experience of all students in the district by providing grant money  to Melrose Public School educators.

The MEF earned its tax-exempt charity status in June and is in the midst of  its first grant cycle, which is also receiving financial support from the city  of Melrose’s Innovation Grants program. Melrose Public School educators can  apply online until Nov. 29.

Many communities develop education foundations to tap into local  contributors, including individuals and businesses, to help gain additional  funds to enable public school staff to explore teaching and learning initiatives  that are not covered by the school budget. Finding grants to pay for additional  resources are becoming increasingly attractive to educators amid a constrained  fiscal environment.

The grant funds can be used for all subjects and in many capacities, from  teacher training and outside speakers, to teaching and learning tools. Educators  who receive Melrose Education Foundation grants are required to pass on their  knowledge to other teachers and to reach as many students across the district as  possible.

A wonderful example of how a single grant can affect the larger community is  what Donna Rosso, current director of the Franklin Early Childhood Center (ECC),  did with the Innovation Grant she was awarded last year from the city of Melrose  when she was acting director. Rosso received a grant to purchase video training  materials. These materials were used to train educators and parents in active  engagement reading for the oral language development and teaching for  preschool-aged children, a critical prerequisite for reading and writing.

The impact has been far-reaching. More than 35 teachers at the Franklin ECC  were trained, benefiting more than 280 ECC students. The new skills continue to  be used and implemented.

Additionally, Rosso reached out to the parents of the ECC and provided  training to families. She also organized and brought the new teaching skills to  preschool teachers at the YMCA and Chime Time in Melrose. This enabled the  city’s grant to reach many preschool-aged children across Melrose, allowing them  to develop essential pre-reading and writing skills before entering  kindergarten.

The benefits of this grant are particularly striking in light of the recent  MCAS results that revealed Melrose students need to improve “open response”  skills, where they respond to a passage of text through writing, and teachers  need to continue to improve writing instruction.

The city of Melrose’s 2012 Innovation Grants were initiated by Mayor Dolan  to enable Melrose to begin reaping the benefits of grant awards while the  Melrose Education Foundation was being created. This year, the city has again  committed $10,000 in grant funding, which will be administered by the MEF in  addition to the foundation’s privately raised funds. The city is represented on  the foundation board and on its grants committee by Mike Lindstrom, director of  community services.

Angela Singer, English Department chairman at Melrose High School, also  received an Innovation Grant last year. Singer created a professional  development opportunity that more than 50 Melrose Public School teachers of  English, foreign languages, social studies and science attended along with  teachers from surrounding districts.

The two-day workshop focused on bringing the best practices of advanced  placement-style training and teaching to all levels and areas of study for  grades 6 through 12. This training also aligns with the Common Core State  Standards. The intent is to provide new training for teachers that will allow  for rigorous teaching skills and better learning environment for students at all  levels.

The world is changing. We live with the expectation of technological  advancement. Teaching methods are continually evolving. How does Melrose keep  up? Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a  follower.” The Melrose Education Foundation understands that educators have  innovative and meaningful ideas. The grant funds offer a way to bring new  learning into children’s lives and help prepare them for the future.

The Melrose Education Foundation grant application is available online  through Nov. 29 and the grant recipients will be notified by Dec. 20. We  encourage all families to ask their teachers if they’ve heard about these  grants. More information is available at oldsite.melroseedfoundation.org.

Kim Broberg is a Melrose parent and a member of the Melrose Education  Foundation Outreach Committee.

Read this column in the Melrose Free Press.