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Grants program prized

Fund Board group to present requests

Brent Boyer

Funding requests from the Education Fund Board’s Technology Commission have become fairly straightforward over the past couple of years.

Staff, hardware, software and training annually appear at or near the top of the commission’s recommendations for funding from revenue generated by Steamboat Springs’ half-cent sales tax for education.

“The thing that can be said about the technology area, at least within this (school) district, is that the district technology staff has been at this for a long time,” commission member Norm Weaver said. “Every year they come forward with what they think builds on what’s already in place.”

And most years, Weaver said, the commission largely agrees with that staff, led by Steamboat Springs School District Technology Director Cathleen Nardi.

But what’s near and dear to the hearts of some commission members isn’t necessarily the high-priced requests needed to keep district technology on course. In fact, it’s a line item that shows up near the bottom of the commission’s requests that has become one of its most prized projects.

A small grants program that typically provides between $8,000 and $10,000 each year to an assortment of unique requests from district staff and students has been so successful in the eyes of Technology Commission members that the group will ask the Fund Board to up the amount of money provided for it, albeit slightly.

Tonight, the commission is scheduled to present its first readings of funding requests for the 2004-05 school year.

Under the small grants program, district teachers and students, or anyone who thinks they have a good idea, can come to a Technology Commission meeting and make their pitch to the group. Most grant requests fall between $1,000 and $2,000, Weaver said.

Grant proposals have resulted in a variety of education-related technology gizmos and gadgets for district classes over the years, including pedometers and heart rate monitors for physical education classes, a camera that allows microscope images to be projected for an entire science class to study, specialized calculators, a small recording studio for music students and a software program that allowed a group of high school students to begin publication of the Periscope school newspaper.

Money from the small grants program was awarded this school year to science teachers Cindy Gay and Nat Cooper after they earned a prestigious national teacher certification. The commission hopes it can continue to provide annual rewards for deserving teachers to use toward improving education in Steamboat.

“It’s been fairly effective,” Weaver said of the small grants program. “What we’d like to try to carve out is $12,500 — a slight increase — for the program.”

The Technology Commission and the Educational Excellence Commission have been guaranteed $550,000 from the estimated $1.9 million in half-cent sales tax revenue, which the Fund Board allocates annually. The Capital Commission will receive at least $300,000 of the total revenue, and all three commissions will vie for at least $200,000 in unallocated funds.

The Fund Board plans to approve total funding amounts for each commission by the end of March.


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