PCEF dollars create forward motion in district | ParkRecord.com

PCEF dollars create forward motion in district

Alexandria Gonzalez, The Park Record

In the Bald Eagle room of the Snow Park Lodge at Deer Valley Resort, the Park City High School Chamber Orchestra played "Jupiter" from "The Planets" by Gustav Holst as members of the community visited with local teachers. The Park City Education Foundation (PCEF) hosted "From Idea to Impact," a night for those who have donated to education in the Park City School District to see exactly where their investments have gone.

"Tonight is about talking to our donors, everyone who participates throughout the year with the PCEF, about how we invest the donations they generously give to us," said Abby McNulty, executive director of the PCEF.

Park City High School orchestra teacher Scott Tanner said the foundation has provided the orchestra with two grants that have greatly contributed to the growth of the program.

"They provided a cello coach, so we have a cellist that comes up from Salt Lake City and works with our cello students a couple of times a week," he said. "The other grant they’ve given us is a $1,000 grant toward the Utah Symphony High School Club (USHSC)."

For the price of membership, all students in the program get to watch four symphony performances as well as an opera performance, and Tanner said going to these events provides inspiration for his students. He said it motivates them to stay in the program and become more skilled with their instrument after watching how a performance can impact an audience.

Being in the club has advanced his students’ performances, Tanner said, which will give them an advantage at the upcoming festival they will be competing in on Wednesday, April 9. If the orchestra receives a superior rating, they will move on to state competition in May.

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"[The foundation grants] have created excitement for the students to participate in the program, because they see and feel that the program is now better because of it," he said. "I think it has raised the level of our performance and raised the level of expectation."

The art programs in the district have greatly benefited from the Ed Foundation, according to Julie Finnegan, the art specialist at McPolin and Parley’s Park Elementary schools.

Finnegan’s curriculum comes from the Kimball Art Center. The KAC worked with the foundation to create the Elementary Visual Arts Program, or EVA. The 2013-14 school year is the first year this district-wide curriculum was used by PCSD, creating what Finnegan calls a more uniform program.

"We have established now more consistency district-wide with our art program instead of one art teacher doing one thing at one of the schools while another does something else," she said. "We have some consistency in regards to what our kids are learning and a more thorough approach to some hands-on artwork for the kids."

While the foundation has donated $162,000 total to the arts in the district, they contribute to general education as well. More specifically, they have donated $78,000 to the Dual Language Immersion programs.

Jose Ardanaz, the second-grade Spanish DLI teacher at Parley’s Park Elementary, said they purchased hundreds of Spanish books for the students with the grants provided to them by the PCEF. There were plenty of higher-level English books for the students to take home and study, but not enough higher-level Spanish books. That is no longer a problem.

"Now our kids that are reading at a higher level can take home these Spanish books we were able to purchase and become more proficient in the language," he said. "We have walls covered in the books, and that never would have been possible without the Ed Foundation."

PCEF is also investing in programs for high-achieving students in the Leadership Education Achievement Program (LEAP), a group at Treasure Mountain Junior High School.

"We are all very dedicated to school," said Molly Hanrahan, a member of the group. "They bring in mentors, we go on field trips and talk to high-ranking adults in the community, so we learn a lot about how to reach our goals and become better citizens."

Fellow LEAP member Savannah Sondrup said she is grateful to the foundation for funding the program, because it feels great to be in an environment where everyone is focused on goals and achievements.

"I think that [the Ed Foundation] is very generous, and the money helps bring people in to speak with us and give us these awesome opportunities," said Jayne Moyes, a LEAP member at TMJH.

In addition to grants funding the DLI and LEAP programs, the Ed Foundation has donated $155,000 to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the district as well as $230,000 to the growing preschool program.

The preschool program is open to all 3- and 4-year-olds in the district and is first come, first serve. In the 2013-14 school year, there were 18 preschool teachers for 210 students total throughout the four elementary schools in the district, according to Kathy Anderson, the district’s early childhood program specialist.

This year, the program for 4-year-olds filled up on the first morning of registration in March. Anderson attributes this success to the foundation, adding that she has worked in the district for 24 years and seen what kind of positive impact it has had on Park City schools.

"I cannot believe the difference in what our district is able to do now to get all these different grants funded, and it’s very exciting to see the changes," she said. "Tuition covers half the total cost of the [preschool] program, so we received a wonderful grant from the Ed Foundation to offset the tuition for everybody."

The funds for these grants are raised at events held by PCEF throughout the year, including the annual Red Apple Gala in the fall and the upcoming Running with Ed relay to be held on May 17.

McNulty said the PCEF’s next donations will be announced in the coming two weeks. They will be granting $165,000 in school-based grants, which all schools in the district applied for. Over the summer is when the Ed Foundation will discuss the allocation of district grants to be announced during the 2014-15 school year.

"I think it’s a real pleasure to be able to serve the role that we do, because we have such incredible educators in the district," she said. "There is nothing better than being able to give them a little extra resources to implement a program in the classroom that directly impacts the kids, because all of our programs touch nearly 99 percent of the student body. It’s great, so tonight is a celebration for us."

For more information about the PCEF and its upcoming fundraisers, visit http://www.pcef4kids.org.