The Spokane Public Schools Foundation just awarded $36,148 to 35 different school projects for the 2019-20 school year supporting everything from STEM education to music.
The grants typically range from $200 to $1,000 and are awarded every year in late May or early June. The foundation board decides what projects to fund and at what level, said board chairman Gerald Winkler. Only three funding requests did not make the cut this year.
“There were some that did not quite fit the criteria,” he said.
Board member and retired teacher Maureen Ramos said the board is looking for innovative and creative projects and doesn’t pay for things like school supplies. “The foundation believes that every dollar that we glean goes to students,” she said. “We do not do what the school district should do, like the training of teachers. We want to be in the classroom kind of support.”
Ramos said she looks at programs that will engage students. “If they’re engaged, they’re learning,” she said.
She also looks at what kind of effect a program will have. “If that grant impacts 11 students profoundly, then that’s the same to us as impacting 60.”
This year several projects selected for funding were from Grant Elementary. “It’s cyclical,” Ramos said. “Some years we don’t get anything from Grant. We do get a lot of grants from there. They have parental support but not necessarily monetarily.”
This year the grants included $2,500 for the STEM Maker Center at Rogers High School so students can prepare research projects to the Skills USA program and the Eastern Washington Science and Engineering Fair. Stevens Elementary received $1,200 for instruments for the Rutsungo Marimba ensemble, a group of sixth-graders who perform on Zimbabwean style marimbas and drums.
Balboa Elementary received $2,500 to fund two sensory pathways for use by students experiencing a sensory overload. The pathways work to calm the students, who often have autism, so they can go back to learning.
Ramos said she thinks the sensory pathways will help students concentrate and do better in school. “It’s a brain fix,” she said.
The sensory pathways grant and the STEM Maker Center grant were funded by a $5,000 donation from Numerica Credit Union.
Quite a few of the grants given are for less than the amount requested and that’s simply because of budget limitations, Winkler said. This year the amount requested was $43,654. “I don’t think we’ve ever been able to give a total ask,” he said.
The foundation started in 2006 when then-superintendent Brian Benzel was awarded $5,000 and decided to use the money to start a foundation, Ramos said. The nonprofit organization is funded by individual and corporate donations as well as two annual fundraisers, Bowling for Kids and a fall STEAM event that includes a dinner and auction.
Winkler said the foundation wants to establish a $500,000 endowment within the next 10 years, but they currently have only $79,000. “Once we’ve met that goal, we have more return to help fund grants,” he said. “We’re trying to build momentum. We’re just a little group.”
Information about upcoming fundraisers is available on the foundations’ Facebook page and at
The foundation has awarded $301,431 in grants since it was founded. The nonprofit has also given $79,921 in pass-through grants, which is usually money given for a specific purpose, such as Kaiser donating $5,000 for the district’s first Lego robotics program, Winkler said. “We just help facilitate those,” he said.
Winkler said he encourages his fellow board members to visit classrooms to see the benefits of grants that have been awarded. “It’s where the rubber meets the road,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Ramos is excited to see the innovative programs that teachers have come up with. “There’s great things happening in schools,” she said.
Spokane Public Schools Foundation awards for 2019
Continued Enjoyable Reading program, North Central High School, $998.
Purposeful Pathways, Balboa Elementary, $2,500. (Numerica)
Rutsungo Marimba ensemble, Stevens Elementary, $1,200.
Sacajawea Theatre Guild, Sacajawea Middle School, $395.
In What Language Do You Say Hello?, Shaw Middle School, $750.
Gardeners in Action, Libby Center, $1,500.
Summer School Need Grant, Spokane Virtual Learning, $1,000.
Keeping it Flexible, Libby Center – Odyssey, $641.
Flexible Seating, Balboa Elementary, $700.
STEM Maker Center, Rogers High School, $2,500. (Numerica)
Predator and Prey and Animals Survival in their Habitat, Longfellow Elementary, $801.
11th Grade AVID West Coast College Tour, North Central High School, $1,000.
Morning Tubs for Growing Minds, Roosevelt Elementary, $120.
Literary Arts Magazine, North Central High School, $1,000.
Student support, Grant Elementary, $750.
Balametrics Brain Training program, Stevens Elementary, $500.
Small projection center to enhance small group instruction, Finch Elementary, $516.
SPS Visual Thinking Strategies Writing Cohort model, Hamblen Elementary, $1,000.
Reading feedback for students in high poverty, high trauma settings, Logan Elementary, $2,000.
Fine motor interventions for kindergarten and first grade, Whitman Elementary, $700.
African xylophone, Grant Elementary, $800.
Speakers, Grant Elementary, $370.
Guest speaker, Garry Middle School, $500.
Phenomena-Based Learning, On Track Academy, $800.
Self-regulation classroom toolboxes, Lidgerwood Elementary, $475.
Summer therapy group, Shaw Middle School, $926.
Celebrating Citizens of the Month with books, Grant Elementary, $500.
Bilingual books for Spanish language immersion program, Language immersion at Libby, $500.
Outdoor recreation and education, Roosevelt Elementary, $700.
Literacy resources for Language Immersion Program, Language immersion at Libby, $500.
Scoot, Scoot, Kick, Throw; Garry Middle School, $1,000.
Social emotional supports for calming center, Grant Elementary, $2,500.
Interactive notebooks, Shaw Middle School, $1,006.
Bots for Kids, Chase Middle School, $1,000.
Circle of Security, Bemiss Elementary, $2,000.
Summer group mental health program, Ridgeview and Westview, $500.
Summer mental health program, Finch Elementary, $500.
Outdoor education, Spokane Public Montessori, $1,000.
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