Superintendent’s Notebook: Schools are grateful for grants
James C. Morse Sr.
Monday, May 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Every year, the Portland Public Schools supplements local funding for our district with grants from the state and federal governments, private foundations, businesses and other donors. Those grants lessen the burden on Portland taxpayers and allow us to offer programs and enrichment activities that otherwise would be unavailable to our students.

James C. Morse Sr. is Portland’s superintendent of schools. His column runs monthly in The Forecaster and on He can be reached at

During the current school year, the district will receive grants totaling more than $13 million. The vast majority of that money – $12.6 million – comes from federal programs such as Title 1, which provides funding for low-income schools. But the district also receives dozens of smaller grants each year that pay for everything from field trips to schoolyard greening and computers for adult education students.

Here are just a few examples:

• A dedication ceremony will take place on May 19 at Longfellow Elementary School for a greenhouse funded by a donation of nearly $6,000 from Whole Foods Market. Longfellow students will start seedlings in the greenhouse and then transplant them to the school’s raised garden beds. Vegetables raised in the garden will be served in the district’s school lunch program. Longfellow teachers will use the garden and greenhouse as a tool for teaching science, social studies, art and other subjects.

Another Portland elementary school, Reiche Community School, just received a $5,000 Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant for its school garden.

• On May 23, a local credit union will give 15 college scholarships of $100 each to students at Riverton Elementary School. C Port Credit Union partners with the school on the “Riverton and Beyond” program to raise students’ aspirations and to get them thinking early about post-secondary education.

Students work with a college advisor to identify what they love to do now and how that might carry into future college studies. They also learn about writing college scholarship essays. The credit union chooses scholarship recipients based on their essays.

• Students in Bethany Kirkpatrick’s music classes at Lincoln Middle School students are using iPad computers to create original musical compositions as a result of a two-year, $14,000 grant from the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation. This spring, students are completing work on their second CD and an iMovie to accompany their songs.

• Fifteen teachers throughout the district received a total of more than $4,300 in grants from the Portland Education Foundation this winter. The grants paid for everything from snowshoes at Presumpscot Elementary School to curriculum materials at Lyman Moore Middle School to teach about unity and diversity through the history of New York City.

• Ocean Avenue Elementary School purchased books for the new school’s library thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Stephen King Foundation and a $3,500 Drive for Education grant from Berlin City. The grant allowed the school to update its collection, replacing books that were old and worn.

Many grants are written by teachers and other school employees in their “free” time. Parents often play a key role in securing grants from their employers or their own businesses.

Recently, five of our schools each received $500 grants for projects initiated by students. The student grant writers range in age from elementary school through high school. A local philanthropy, Painting For A Purpose, awarded money to student projects such as installing occupancy sensors in school bathrooms, helping to build a Habitat for Humanity house and selling healthy snacks to raise money for Haitian earthquake relief.

We appreciate all of the grants that enhance our educational programs. And we appreciate the support of Portland voters, who approved the 2011-2012 school budget on May 10 by a margin of 3 to 1.

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