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THE GARDNER NEWS 2/1/2018 8:00:00 AMRockwell painting helps schools againInterest from sale to pay for $12,000 science lab at GHS, plus other perks
Andrew Mansfield, ReporterGARDNER The Williams-Rockwell Educational Gift Foundation Committee will disperse nearly $70,000 for 25 projects in Gardner Public Schools this year, plus an additional $4,000 for college scholarships.This is the second year that the committee, comprised of city officials and appointed residents, has awarded grants.This year marks an increase over last year’s grant awards, which totaled almost $50,000, and is the first time the committee has also awarded scholarships.The foundation was established from the $1.9 million sale of the Norman Rockwell original painting “Willie Gillis in Convoy” in 2014, which was a gift from the artist to Gardner High Principal F. Earl Williams in the 1950s.The committee met on Tuesday, Jan. 30, to accept the expenditure total for this grant round and also approve two of the grant awards that hadn’t been voted on yet.That included approving the largest grant to be awarded, over $12,000 for science lab equipment at Gardner High School.“I think this is one of the best ones that ever came through here,” committee member Dr. James Faust said of the proposal. “It’s this type of thing that is going to put the high school over the top.”Gardner High School life science teacher Pamela LeBlanc applied for that grant. She teaches freshmen level biology, Advanced Placement biology, anatomy and physiology.The grant will pay for a Vernier LabQuest 2, which LeBlanc said gives the school an opportunity to provide technical learning few schools have access to, which may help students choose to remain at Gardner High rather than opt-out of the district.She stated students will be able to take a number of different measurements with the equipment which includes several types of sensors and monitors.For example, they will be able to measure respiration, blood pressure, the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide a plant releases into the environment, measure heart rhythm with electrocardiography, and measure muscle strength.The other grant the gift fund committee approved this week was $3,000 to pay for snowshoes and lawn games for physical education at Gardner Middle School.Teacher Ripp Charters applied for $5,500, but the committee felt, based on looking at prices, that the snowshoes could be purchased for less, and thus reduced the grant award.School Committee member James Abare is on the gift fund committee and has coached sports for many years.He was pleased with both the grant requests from LeBlanc and Charters, stating it will help Gardner schools go from being “mundane” in terms of people’s perception to “high end.”Speaking of the value of Charters’ request, Abare stated, “One of the biggest problems in public schools is they’ve digressed in physical education.”Regarding the $4,000 in scholarships, the gift fund committee decided to stipulate that no more than eight scholarships are to be awarded from that total.The scholarship committee made of Gardner High teachers will determine the winners, which will be split among students seeking to study the arts and students seeking to study other subjects.Among the grants, Gardner High School received the highest total awarded with over $34,000 combined.Examples of other Gardner High grants include over $5,000 for the design of a carbon-dioxide powered car to be used in an engineering and physics class, nearly $2,000 for printing costs associated with a collaborative art exhibit among Gardner High and Mount Wachusett Community College students, $1,000 for covering exam costs for Advanced Placement courses, $750 to purchase yoga mats for physical education, and funding a few different field trips.At Gardner Academy for Learning and Technology, $2,000 was awarded to pay for equipment associated with a basketball intramural program.At Gardner Middle School, another one of the awarded grants was over $6,000 for choral risers, which are the tiered steps that chorus singers stand on while performing.At Elm Street School, one of the awards was $6,000 for an auditorium projection screen.At Waterford Street School, funding went toward paying for a puppet show and storytelling show for the children.Another grant was over $9,000 for the “Footsteps2Brilliance” mobile learning program which is for younger grades.A total of 34 grants were applied for by district staff. Eight requests were rejected and one was withdrawn.Michael Nicholson, the executive aide to the mayor, chaired the committee’s meeting this week and explained the committee felt there were some funding requests that belong in the regular city budget, or would need continual funding, or would only benefit a small number of students.Another factor in declining some requests he cited was the need for the committee to stay within the spending guidelines.The home rule petition that created the gift foundation — which required local and state approval and was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in December 2015 — stipulates that grant funding must be split on a 50/50 basis between funding for the arts and general purpose funding, which is any other educational use.That stipulation represents a compromise reached by city officials, as there was a debate over whether to require all the proceeds of the foundation to be used for the arts, given its creation was the result of selling a Norman Rockwell painting.However, that 50/50 funding split is allowed to vary up to 15 percent in order to give the committee some flexibility. The funding split for this grant cycle is 63 percent toward general purpose and 37 percent toward the arts, according to Nicholson.The $1.9 million used to establish the foundation has been invested by the city and up to 90 percent of the interest accrued each year can be dispersed for grants or scholarships.Nicholson reported that the committee could have awarded up to $285,000 this year, as the investment market performed above expectations.The unused portion will remain in the fund, at least for now, adding to the base amount which would yield more interest in the future. Nicholson stated the committee could decide to disperse additional funds in another grant round later this year if it wanted, although there are no firm plans whether or not to do so at this time.