Dozier’s annual tech quest ends on high note
Every Dozier Elementary teacher (regular ed and AMPEL staff) received technology this year with the help of Donorschoose, generous donors, and the Donorschoose-Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In short, 37 Ipads, 33 computers, four ActivSlates, two video cameras and counseling resources totaling $49,050 has been (or will be) placed in classrooms by the middle of August. Note: Not all faculty members and equipment are shown. The final shipment will come in once school begins again in August.
With each school year, Dozier Elementary leaders and the tech committee work to gain technology for classrooms. Grants are completed each summer, as well as throughout the year as an ongoing attempt to acquire technology equipment.
As with all schools in terms of gaining technology resources, some years are better than others. This year has proven to be an exceptional year in gaining resources since they began their “Eye on Tech” campaign in 2009.
In the fall of 2013, with the suggestion of Superintendent Jerome Puyau, district teachers were encouraged to apply for individual small grants through the reputable Donorchoose site. DonorsChoose is an online charity which helps public school teachers post classroom projects for resources needed. Once grants are posted on their site, individual donors, businesses and local supporters can assist by funding projects.
Unfortunately after the entire faculty applied for individual grants in 2013-2014, none of the Dozier Elementary projects received funding. When Puyau suggested again in the summer of 2014, that Vermilion Parish teachers try again for a second year, a number of Dozier educators were a bit apprehensive. However, in hope that a couple of projects would materialize, the group opted to try again. On September 1, 2014, all 33 teachers (100% of the faculty) once again were ready to submit projects for technology resources on the Donorschoose site.
At that time, neither Principal Karla Toups nor her group realized that each one of the thirty three educators would have no less than one project funded during the 2014-2015 year. Four educators had one project funded, while twenty six had two projects funded. There were two teachers who received funding for three projects and Librarian Schuyler Poche had four funded projects.
Poche’ was the recipient of three fully funded iPad grants. She also received a fourth iPad donated to the library from a community member. Poche’s library goal was to strive for at least four iPads set up in library centers for students to access eBooks and reading apps. By April, that goal was met. This past week, Poche’ had her 4th Donorschoose project funded, which will bring a Windows 8 laptop to the library too.
In addition to Donorschoose proposals, there were a couple of gains outside of grants. Both community donations and a contest brought items to the school. Two teachers won Chromebook computers in a contest with the parish early in the year. Four educators received additional iPads and/or tablets that were purchased and donated by community members.
The top funded items this year were Ipads and computers. Totals involving technology tools in the nine month span include 37 new Ipads, 33 computers (31-Windows 8 and 2-Chromebooks), 4 ActivSlates for Promethean Boards, 2 video cameras and counseling resources totaling $49,050.28.
Retired teacher Stacy Bodin who helps as part time tech specialist (and grant writer) has been involved at the school in different capacities since1982. She stated that she has “never seen this type of technology gain within a one year timeframe. This year has been remarkable!” Bodin noted that “it hasn’t been an easy path, but we’ve worked really hard the past years with grants and it is paying off.”
In terms of grants, the school basically had three rounds of grant applications and funding this year. In the first round, all thirty three teachers submitted regular Donorschoose projects starting the 1st of September. The majority of the first round projects were funded in the fall of 2014.
The second round begin early in 2015. In January, one Dozier Elementary educator received an “Almost Home” grant invitation from Donorschoose that was sent to select teachers. The pilot project sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, were funding “Almost Home” projects for professional development grants. Simply put, if accepted, the Gates duo would pay for everything through Donorschoose proposals, but the final $95 to $98 of the Professional Development project. The premise was that the project funding was “almost home” and the teachers would have to finish the funding by searching for donors or sharing information on social media, etc.
This particular pilot program had a different criteria in terms of regular Donorschoose project stipulations. Upon submission, the projects were screened. If it met professional development standards showing continued growth for educators through the grant, they were then posted online. At that time, the teacher had to find donors to complete the project. There was an additional bonus which helped. If they received final funding within the first seven days, a half off code was offered which helped out bringing the initial $95-$98 to below $49 if the teacher was funded during the first week it was online. Though not all at Dozier received the invitation email to apply for this grant, all were encouraged by school leaders to try and submit proposals. A group of fourteen applied and were immediately funded with the new “Almost Home” pilot program. Shortly after the fourteen received funding, the national “Almost Home” grant met its quota of entries and the grant itself shifted to what was called the “Half Off” grant.
The third and final phase included Donorschoose and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation again. Once the “Almost Home” pilot program ended, the two groups then offered the professional development “ Half Off “ grant. Though the groups were no longer paying the majority of the grant, they would still help by paying half. At that time, seeing how helpful these grants were for the school’s technology quest, Principal Karla Toups encouraged that those who had not tried for the “Almost Home” grant apply for Windows 8 computers through the Donorschoose and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “half off” grant. Twenty educators submitted applications at that time. The majority of those were funded in March, April and May.
At the end of May, school leaders decided to use technology grant money from groups like the Erath 4th of July and others to fund a few final “ Half Off “ grants which had not received funding. The reason was simple. With half off of the projects online, the school could gain more computers and laptops at cheaper prices while this grant was still in place. The year ended on a high note, with a grand total of sixty six projects funded through Donorschoose from September 1, 2014 until May 28, 2015. A far cry from having no projects funded the prior year. Bodin shared that “with grants, funding always varies from year to year. That is to be expected, but the past two years has definitely shown both ends of a spectrum for us.”
Principal Karla Toups ended saying, “We had an amazing year receiving technology resources thanks to generous donors, the Donorschoose group and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We are truly grateful to all who have helped us with our journey!”