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Shuttered Huntsville school may house non-profit supply shop for teachers

Shuttered Huntsville school may house non-profit supply shop for teachers

By Crystal Bonvillian, The Huntsville Times










West Huntsville Elementary, pictured, was closed in May 2009. Free 2 Teach, a venture of The Schools Foundation, may use the school to house a free school supply store for area teachers. (The Huntsville Times)


HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- West Huntsville Elementary might soon see some new life.

The school, which was closed in May 2009, may become the home for Free 2 Teach, a venture of the nonprofit The Schools Foundation that aims to help teachers stock their supply cabinets. Foundation board members Eula Battle, Nancy Jones and Walker McGinnis launched the effort in January.

The program's mission is to support public education by supplying teachers with donations from the community. In essence, it would give teachers in the Huntsville, Madison and Madison County systems a place to shop for much-needed supplies at no cost.

Jones said she first got the idea on a trip to Disney World with her grandchildren, when she got the chance to visit a store run by a similar program, A Gift for Teaching. The Florida program runs three stores in Orlando, Kissimmee and Sanford.

The Huntsville store would always be stocked with seven core items, including pens, No. 2 pencils, crayons, markers, glue sticks, loose leaf paper and copier paper, said Jones and Battle. Other items like construction paper, books and backpacks will be available as they are donated.

Donated items have already started rolling in.

Cash donations are also a great need, Jones said. The program, which will be run solely by volunteers, is expected to cost about $63,000 per year.

Before the economy crashed, the state education budget gave local teachers money to buy supplies for their classrooms, from pencils to computers. The state has eliminated that money for the past several years.

"Unless you've got an active PTA, generous parents or someone willing to open their checkbooks, you do without," Jones said.

The three districts in Madison County have about 3,500 teachers in 84 public schools, serving more than 50,000 children.

All three systems have signed on to participate with the program. Dr. Casey Wardynski, Huntsville's new superintendent, has offered to lease the program about 23 percent of West Huntsville's building, including the cafetorium, the main office, the library and a classroom.

The cost of the lease would be $1 per year for two years.

"The next step is for the board to come up with a lease agreement," said McGinnis, a retired principal and former school board candidate.

The school board is expected to vote on the proposal later this month. Pending approval, the lease would begin about Oct. 1.

The store is anticipated to open on Jan. 10.

If the board approves the plan, volunteers will begin cleaning up and furnishing the areas to be used. The Huntsville school system will handle security for the building.

The Schools Foundation will run the program and pay for the utilities used by the program, estimated at just over $800 a month.

The Madison and Madison County systems will handle the transport of supplies.

Wardynski last week called the program a "win-win-win" for the three school districts. Board members also gave it a thumbs-up during their monthly work session.

"This is great, fantastic," school board member David Blair said. "This is also one of those things we always talk about, cooperation between the three systems. The Schools Foundation has obviously been a huge influence in the community, and we really appreciate that."

Battle, wife of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, said she has been storing donations in her garage. She said it was wonderful to see the program on the verge of fruition.

"It's really exciting, but a little scary, taking on such a large venture," Battle said.

A+ College Ready program has more than doubled pass rate for Alabama students in advanced placement classes

Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 6:00 AM

By Kim Chandler, The Birmingham News

MONTGOMERY -- In their first days in Susan Dial's AP biology class at Gardendale High School, students learned a date in addition to scientific processes such as mitosis and meiosis -- May 14, 2012.

That's the date of the upcoming Advanced Placement biology exam, in which the students can qualify for college credit.

"I tell them, 'Guys, May 14 is what we are striving for,'" Dial said.

The first year Dial taught biology, she had 25 students and one made a passing score on the AP exam. After participating in a program to boost AP participation and scores, she had 52 AP students and 12 passing scores -- including one score of five, the highest possible a student can make on the test.

The A+ College Ready program has resulted in a 108 percent jump in passing scores on the AP tests in math, science and English, among schools that use the program statewide. The program provides training and support for teachers, special Saturday study sessions for students, incentives to teachers and a $100 bonus to students if they pass the AP exam at the end of the year.

"Amazing. We are astounded by the results," A+ College Ready President Mary Boehm said.

"We have proven that, when kids are willing to step up to the rigor with teachers that are willing to support them, they can absolutely succeed at AP," Boehm said.

AP classes are college-caliber classes that students take in high school. An exam taken at the end of the year gives students the opportunity to earn college credit. Students can earn a score of 1 to 5 on the exam and typically can earn college credit, depending upon the university they attend, if they score a 3 or above.

There are 43 high schools in 17 school districts participating in the program, which Dial said has been immensely helpful when trying to teach college-level material to high school students.

"She's very good at breaking things down on different levels so we understand what is going on and it's in terms that we can understand it," said Wayne House, a former student of Dial's who earned a 5 on the AP biology test. House, who thinks he might major in biomedical engineering or biochemistry, will be the first in his family to go to college.

At Buckhorn High School in New Market, teacher Matt Massey has 49 students in his AP calculus class and another 14 that study through distance learning. Massey said he has a personal goal that most of his students can pass the AP calculus exam at the end of the year.

"It's a really rigorous class. We hit the ground running with some of the hardest content in the class," Massey said.

As part of the program, Buckhorn has opened up calculus to more students, allowing them to transfer directly in if they made an A in algebra II.

"We had to kind of think out of the box a little bit," Massey said.

Massey has recruited kids who were taking elective classes to take calculus, instead -- selling them and their parents on what it could do for them academically and assuring them he will do everything in his power to not let them fail.

"We kind of advertise it as, you are already a success just by enrolling in the class," Massey said.

One facet of the program is that students are enrolled automatically in the AP exam at the end of the year. The program pays the $87 exam fee for the students.

"Everybody takes it no matter what. It makes the kids be on the hook for something when they know they have to take that test," Massey said.

The program also provides financial incentives to students and teachers for passing the AP test. Students and teachers each get a $100 bonus for each passing score, and teachers get other incentives for exceeding goals.

Buckhorn senior Taylor Jones, 17, said that, when she was a freshman, few students at Buckhorn took calculus. Now, she said, it's almost expected if you are on the college path.

"A+ College Ready is a proven investment that is preparing our students for college and the jobs of tomorrow," Gov. Robert Bentley said in a prepared statement about the test scores.

The program is funded with $1.3 million a year from the Alabama Legislature, a $13.2 million grant from the National Math and Science Initiative, a $1.3 million federal grant awarded to Alabama from the U.S. Department of Education and additional matching funds from corporate donors.

Speak Up Results--View Data Analysis Results!
Click here to view the Data Analysis results from the Speak Up community engagement initiative.  Results are posted by system.
The Schools Foundation: First Annual Meeting Brings Community Together in Support of Public Education

For Further Information,

Contact:  Debbie Beaupre



News Release

For Immediate Release


The Schools Foundation: First Annual Meeting Brings Community Together in Support of Public Education

Huntsville, Ala. - June 17, 2011


On June 16, The Schools Foundation celebrated a decade of work with its first ever Annual Meeting.  Over 200 community leaders, supporters of public education, Speak Up leaders, and public officials participated in this event at Huntsville High School.  The celebration culminated in an address by Dr. Gay Barnes--Alabama Teacher of the Year and a teacher at Horizon Elementary in Madison.


In addition to Dr. Barnes' address, community leaders spoke about the current initiatives of The Schools Foundation.


The Principally Speaking Network (PSN), title sponsored by Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama, is designed to build a sustainable network of professional support among principals by increasing knowledge and leadership abilities that lead to higher levels of student achievement.  PSN, developed in collaboration with the Alabama Best Practices Center, focuses on instruction-based issues, looking at processes, products, and protocols and provides for principals a forum for cross-district problem solving.  Now entering its third year, superintendents in nine additional schools systems across north Alabama have requested expansion of PSN in response to their identified need; Mary Scott Hunter, District 8 Board of Education leader, is leading this expansion effort.


A+ College Ready, a national teacher training initiative designed to increase student achievement in math, science, and English, continues to make a considerable impact in nine high schools in Huntsville and Madison County through increased AP course offerings in these subjects.  In addition to a 60 percent increase in course offerings and a 70 percent increase in course enrollments, A+ College Ready has effected a 160 percent increase in AP qualifying scores by minorities since the inception of the program.


The Military Child Education Coalition program uses a comprehensive approach to reach military children through all avenues, recognizing their unique needs as they move across town or across the country.  The Schools Foundation has partnered with the Coalition and, with the support of Mike Gillespie and the Madison County Commission, local schools now have access to multiple Military Child Education Coalition programs.


The Team America Rocketry Challenge, in partnership with Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne Inc., is another successful program supported by the Foundation.  In association with area engineers and scientists, students on middle and high school teams design and compete in rocket building on a national level.  Last year, two local teams (from Bob Jones High School and Westlawn Middle School) competed national against more than 100 teams from across the country.


Speak Up, a community engagement initiative of the foundation, wrapped up its community conversations at the end of April; over 1300 community members have been involved in these conversations  Speak Up leaders now move toward the finalization of community contracts for presentation to the school boards of Huntsville City, Madison City, and Madison County this fall and community action teams are being formed to follow through on those contracts.  The Free 2 Teach store grows out of this initiative; this volunteer-run store will be stocked with supplies donated by the community in support of more than 3500 teachers in our three systems.


At the meeting, The Foundation recognized three local teachers in receipt of scholarships sponsored by The Schools Foundation: Elizabeth Parker of Sparkman Middle School for the District 19 Scholarship; Jennifer Holden of Grissom High School for the Jane K. Lowe Scholarship for National Board Certification; and Michael Foster of Endeavor Elementary School for the Lynn Brown Scholarship.


The Schools Foundation is a 501©3 non-profit organization supporting the three public school systems in Madison County, Alabama.  The foundation serves as an advocate and leading organization for community engagement, as well as a vehicle for individuals and businesses to support public education.  The Schools Foundation's mission is to create higher expectations and widespread community support for Madison County schools, leading to world-class performance of principals, teachers, and students.  For more information about opportunities for school partnerships, contact The Schools Foundation at 256-503-3213 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Taste of Spring comes to Ledges

By Amy Mayfield, The Huntsville Times


The Ledges of Huntsville is going to treat attendees to the best in beer, wine, spirits and more with the first Taste of Spring.


Due to popular demand and an overwhelming response to Taste of Fall, The Ledges is bringing back the event with some stellar seasonal offerings.


"I started this event with the goal to honor my father, who is a veteran of the Korean War," said Susan Connor, director of sales at The Ledges. "We could have fun and raise money for the veterans. Since it was such a success, we decided to do one in the spring and fall each year."ledges


Guests will experience wonderful wines and beers from all over the world paired with foods by The Ledges culinary team, including new  executive chef Joe Culver. Vendors taking part with tasty offerings include Grassroots Wine Wholesalers, Wine Rack, Budwesier, Ingenium Wines and more. In addition to the food and wine, attendees will enjoy live music from Cristina Lynn.


The tastes, and shades, of spring will also be celebrated with art. Renowned artist Nall has created pieces in honor of Taste of Spring. Nall     has provided an original painting for the event.




Front row from left, Steve Whitman, Nancy Jones, G. Todd Daniel. Back row, from left,
Fred Wright, Terry Roberts andSusan Conner get ready for the upcoming Taste of
Spring at the Ledges June 4. The event will feature food, beer, wine and artwork
from Nall.(The Huntsville Times/Glenn Baeske)


A portion of the proceeds from each event will benefit a local non-profit. The beneficiary from Taste of Spring will be Free-2-Teach.


"Money raised will be used as start up capital for a free resource store for public school teachers to obtain necessary classroom supplies that are currently underfunded due to cut backs," said Susan. "The state of Alabama has cut funding the past two years that provided needed supplies for the classrooms. With budget cuts and proration in order for next year, the need will be even greater. This will provide every child in the three public systems in Madison County the necessary school supplies to succeed. No teacher should have to spend their own money, and no child should miss out on a chance to succeed merely because they lack the tools."


Tickets for Taste of Spring are $50 a person and may be purchased by calling The Ledges at 256-883-0860.


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