ENRICHING EDUCATION

Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation has a detailed mission statement, but its executive director can summarizes the organization’s purpose in just a few words.

“We offer enhancing,” Ethan Crough said.

Andy Larson, a science teacher at Columbus Signature Academy New Tech High School, agrees. He used a $1,700 teacher innovation grant from the foundation to pay for an October trip to the Great Smoky Mountains for 12 students and four adults.

Students learned about different ecosystems, experienced primitive camping and had an adventure, Larson said. Some students wrote about the trip in journals, and a math teacher had some students use the outdoors for a data-collecting assignment, he said.

Larson’s grant was one of nine teacher innovation grants awarded in late 2013. Without it, paying for the fall break trip would have been difficult, he said.

The educator has received about a half-dozen teacher initiative grants from the foundation, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000.

“It’s a game changer,” Larson said of the foundation. “There are those types of things that don’t fall within the realm of normal budgeting. When I have a vision of something I want to do, it’s always the first place I look.”

The foundation also has enabled many other teachers to provide unique opportunities to their students, he said.

Built through generosity

Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation — founded 60 years ago, making it the oldest foundation of its kind in the state — provides teacher grants, administers scholarships and acts as the fiscal agent for programs such as Book Buddies, Busy Bees Academy and Family School Partners. Its mission is to support the work of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

The foundation’s ability to help is tied to the generosity of the community.

As a nonprofit, it relies on donations to do its work. Those come from its annual fundraising campaign — which includes the FEEDuccine Dinner — the support of local businesses and contributions from Bartholomew Consolidated employees and foundation board members. Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County also provides a modest endowment, Crough said.

The good news for the foundation is that donations and its total assets have increased significantly since 2012. Alone, total assets increased 88 percent.

Increased community awareness of the school foundation’s work over the last 2½ years and relationship building with community leaders have resulted more donations, Crough said. Also, the foundation’s collaboration with the Community Education Coalition has helped assets grow, he said.

Crough, though, wants to do more with the foundation’s funds to enrich the education of students.

“My charge when I got here was to expand the presence of the school foundation and get it seen,” said Crough, hired in the summer of 2012.

Crough said he tries to push the board to fund as much as possible. And, the foundation looks for unique opportunities, such as the Young Designers program that started last year.

Young Designers takes every third-grader in Bartholomew Consolidated on a field trip downtown at no cost to schools or students. The elementary classes take an architecture tour and also visit the kidscommons, where they learn more about architecture with a hands-on program, and also get a chance to explore the children’s museum. The program’s purpose is to educate students early about the city’s architectural heritage because too many adult residents are unaware of the histories of buildings they see every day.

The program is jointly funded by the foundation and Heritage Fund, with each providing $2,500 per year for two years.

A lot of the money the foundation has in its coffers is restricted for specific uses, such as scholarships. It’s the unrestricted fund that allows flexibility in what the foundation can do.

Unrestricted funds pay for teacher grants, initiatives and the executive director’s salary ($32,000 for 29.5 contracted hours per week). The unrestricted fund grew from $40,000 in 2012 to about $66,500 in 2014. At the same time, unrestricted fund spending increased from almost $30,000 to nearly $48,000.

Funding innovation

The foundation awarded seven teacher innovation grants in December, ranging from $375 to more than $3,600.

“Teachers can do a phenomenal amount with not much,” Crough said.

Glen Brown, a sixth-grade teacher at Richards Elementary, received a $1,000 innovation grant in 2013 to buy 30 stability balls for his classroom. Students use them as chairs. The benefit of a stability ball is that it helps a student focus on learning instead of squirming in a chair, Brown said. An ancillary benefit is that staying seated on the stability balls works the abdominal muscles, he said.

Brown previously received an innovation grant of about $4,000 for 12 hand-held video recorders students used to record science experiments. He’s appreciative of the grants.

“They allow teachers to be a little more creative. Sometimes our creativity is stifled by money,” Brown said.

To foster creativity in a greater way, Crough would like to see the unrestricted fund reach $100,000 within three years.

Besides increasing the amount of money available for grant requests, it would also significantly grow the unrestricted fund through creation of an investment portfolio, Crough said.

That would be helpful, Crough said, because as the foundation’s presence has increased, so have requests for money.

“That is a good thing. That means we are a player,” Crough said.

About the foundation

WHAT: Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation.

MISSION: To support the work of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. by providing financial resources and by promoting awareness and philanthropy for programs that help students achieve educational excellence.

AREAS OF INITIATIVE:

Equity: Secure funding to limit financial barriers for students who need help to pay for tuition, exams, certifications, fees and books aligned with graduation from high school. Example: $2,500 for school supply backpacks for students of families who are unable to purchase supplies.

Innovation: Provide leadership on funding new and innovative projects and ideas in the school district through grants and awards with a focus on Bartholomew Consolidated initiatives and Universal Design for Learning. Example: Teacher innovation grants, such as about $1,000 for 30 stability balls for classroom seats to help students focus on learning.

Opportunity: Facilitate efforts to provide equitable opportunities for Bartholomew Consolidated student issues while providing resources to gain confidence in literacy and math. Example: Minds on Math program.

FINANCIAL AGENT FOR: Book Buddies, Book Express, Bright Beginnings, Busy Bees Academy, Family School Partners, Literacy Festival, Tots Reading Lots.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Ethan Crough.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS: David Clark, Linda DeClue, Lynette Farless, Angela Force, Laura Hack, Jonas Howell, Brenda Merkel, Marilyn Metzler, Ron Patberg, John Quick, Jeff Rocker (president), Robyn Spoon, Darin Sprong, Rich Stenner (vice president), Marsha VanNahmen, Stephanie Weber, John Whittington.

NOTABLE: Oldest school foundation in the state of Indiana, created in 1955.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Located at 1200 Central Ave. in the school district administrative offices

Phone: 812-378-4733

Email: Reach Ethan Crough at croughe@bcsc.k12.in.us

Online: Visit www.bcsc.k12.in.us/schoolfoundation

Pull Quote

“Teachers can do a phenomenal amount with not much.”

— Ethan Crough, executive director, Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation

Author photo
Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.