City schools seeing benefits of new fund
by James Phillips
Nov 02, 2010 | 1202 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Despite being active for only five months, the Excellence in Education Fund is already providing students in the Jasper City Schools system with high-quality programs and activities.

The fund, which is an all-volunteer organization, was the main topic of Jasper City Schools Superintendent Robert Sparkman's speech on Monday to the Kiwanis Club of Jasper.

"Most of the really outstanding school systems have a foundation," Sparkman said. "That's what the Excellence in Education Fund is for our system. It gives us a unique opportunity to secure private funding that we wouldn't have otherwise."

Sparkman said the fund is a partnership with the Walker Area Community Foundation.

"I describe them as our parent company," he said. "We are lucky to be one of their five or six advised funds. If people give through the community foundation, it benefits us as well as them."

The Excellence in Education Fund has four objectives: Ensure graduates are life and work ready; Math, Science and Technology Enhancement; Foreign Language Instruction as well as Expand Performing and Fine Arts. Sparkman said community members helped select the objectives through a series of discussions.

"There are some people in this room today that helped come up with the four objectives," he said. "These were the four areas where people felt we should focus. Overall, these were the four that came up again and again."

Sparkman said the fund is not a way for Jasper City Schools to combat budget issues such as proration.

"The board will keep doing everything it can to handle the everyday operation of our schools," he said. "I tell people to think of it as the board handles the cake and this program is the icing. It's all about giving our students more academic opportunities."

He said the fund has already provided more opportunities for many students. The school district has implemented Spanish as a foreign language class in kindergarten and first grade by using contributions to the fund.

"We've got Spanish started in those two grades," he said. "We hope that we can expand that through the fifth grade soon and then maybe even into the middle school."

Sparkman said money from the Excellence in Education Fund has also allowed the school system to expand its technology by using iPods and mobile laptops in the classroom.

In its five months of activity, the fund has received more than $85,000 in gifts and more than $225,00 in pledges. Sparkman said the goal for the fund is $650,000 over five years.

For more information on the Excellence in Education Fund, call the Jasper City Schools at 205-384-6880 or visit www.jasper.k12.al.us.