The Owensboro Public Schools Foundation for Excellence grants are largely funded by the grant recipients themselves. The last two years, an average of 223 OPS employees gave almost $13,000 out of their own pockets each year to help fund school grants. That hard-earned money comes from teachers, cafeteria staff, bus drivers and other OPS staff.
The percentage of OPS employees giving to the OPS Foundation is well above the national average, as reported by the National School Foundation Association.
“With additional funding resources being so hard to come by, it’s incredible to see our employees sacrificing their own money for enhanced opportunities in the classroom for our students,” said Dr. Nick Brake, OPS Superintendent.
During this time of the year, OPS teachers are encouraged to apply for the foundation grants. The OPS Foundation for Excellence awards the grants on Opening Day in August after a long deliberation process. This past year, money went to help fund new microphones for students at Cravens, a Boys2Men and Girls Etiquette club at Newton Parrish, renewable energy science kits at Owensboro Middle School North, Project Lead the Way at Estes, a journalism project at OHS, an Early Childhood Pathway at OHS, as well as funds for needed instructional supplies at all eleven OPS schools.
“OMS South is using our foundation grant to offset the cost of digital programs that we make available to our students in order to better individualize instruction,” said Patrick Tines, OMS South Principal.
The rest of the money for the grants, which have been given out since 2005, comes from other foundation donors including foundation board members. The Foundation for Excellence is made up of OPS alumni and community members who have a passion for maintaining and improving Owensboro Public Schools’ Tradition of Excellence. The Foundation recently named retired OPS employee and alumna Janet Suwanski executive director.
Owensboro Public Schools’ theme for Opening Day (day where all staff meets before first day of school) on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 10 a.m. at the Owensboro High School north gym was “Why We Come to Work Every Day.” In light of how heartbreaking the last few months in our country have been, OPS recognized the efforts of some of community partners who OPS works with every day like the Owensboro Police Department, NAACP, Human Relations Commission and the Neblett Center.
“OPD, the NAACP, Human Relations Commission and Neblett Center work extremely hard together to serve and protect the rights of our students and staff. We are not without our problems, but for the most part, we are fortunate to not see the things we are witnessing around the country,” said Dr. Nick Brake, OPS Superintendent.
At Opening Day, all staff members celebrated the start of school with performances from OPS Fine Arts students, found out who won Foundation For Excellence grants and watched a couple videos of teachers and community partners explain why they come to work every day. Before showing the second half of the Opening Day video, OPS recognized community partners.
“I cannot think of a better way to start the school year than to celebrate our diversity, partnerships and all things that make OPS a special place to work and to attend school,” said Brake.
Superintendent Dr. Nick Brake wrapped up the ceremony addressing the staff about progress and what the district’s goals are for the upcoming year.
“We are so excited to be a part of this program. It’s such a simple thing we can do to encourage our students to be excited for the first day of school,” said Dr. Nick Brake, OPS Superintendent.
“The reason I participated is I want to have a positive impact on these students’ lives. What better way to do that than by welcoming students to school and cheering for their educational success,” said Rick Searcy, H.L. Neblett Center Director.
According to its website, “The Million Father March (MFM) is an opportunity for men to show their commitment to the educational lives of their children on the first day of school and throughout the school year. Since the Million Father March began in 2004, fathers and other significant male caregivers across the United States and around the world have gathered to accompany their children to their first day of the new school year.”
On Friday Nov. 20 at 9 a.m., Owensboro Innovation Academy engineering students and some Gateway Academy students saw a project they’ve been working on come to fruition. OIA students created 3D wood puzzles for the clients of Puzzle Pieces. Each puzzle is personalized for a specific recipient. Gateway Academy students created carrying cases for the puzzles.
“This is another example of the real world application our students at Owensboro Innovation Academy are receiving on a daily basis,” said Beth Benjamin, OIA Director.
“At Gateway Academy, we’re trying to teach our students they can make a difference in this community. This partnership with Puzzle Pieces is an excellent start,” said Melissa Brown, Gateway Academy Principal.
According to its website, Puzzle Pieces’ mission is to provide a safe environment for individuals with intellectual disabilities and promote independence, life skills, community access and involvement, social interaction, communication, self-worth and build trusting relationships between clients, staff, and families. Through our programs, we meet the individual needs of the clients we serve with a person-centered approach while incorporating a social atmosphere with opportunities to access the community.
The membership of Kentucky Music Educators Association District 2, representing teachers across Union, Henderson, Webster, Hopkins, McLean, Daviess, Ohio and Hancock counties selected five Owensboro Public School Employees as Music Teachers, Administrator and Friend of Music for 2016. Each were nominated and presented by their peers then elected by the music teachers of the district. Congratulations to these outstanding individuals. Their efforts make every day a great day in Owensboro Public Schools!
Liz Tullis-Music Specialist Newton Parrish -Elementary Music Teacher of the Year
Steven Bratcher-Principal, Newton Parrish-Administrator of the Year
Joyce Goodwin-OPS Piano Accompanist-Friend of Music
Aaron Klausing-OHS Assistant Band Director-High School Music Teacher of the Year
Kaitlin Callihan-OMS South Band Director-Middle School Music Teacher of the Year
OIA students partnered with Habitat For Humanity to paint sheds that the students also designed. The project is a perfect example of what OPS means when we say educate the whole child!!
The incoming junior class at OIA can begin taking courses at Brescia this fall. Degree options include: Associate of Arts in Integrated Studies, Associate of Science in Integrated Studies, Associate of Science in Health Science and Associate of Science in Engineering Studies.
“At just $90 a class, this gives our students an incredible opportunity to further their education. We cannot thank Brescia enough for offering this prospect for our students,” said Dr. Nick Brake, OPS Superintendent.
“When the Owensboro Innovation Academy presented this partnership to us, we felt it to be a perfect fit. Our institutions share the same intimate, one-on-one learning experience that caters to the educational needs of each student,” stated Father Larry Hostetter, President of Brescia University. “We admire the innovative educational approach that OIA provides students, and we are honored to be an extension of that educational experience. By taking classes at Brescia University, our hope is that the students at OIA will benefit from direct learning at the collegiate academic level that will allow them to seamlessly transition into college and find success in their lives,” added Father Larry.
The partnership will also allow all OIA students to use the new health complex that is currently under construction at Brescia.
“Our students will get to use brand new facilities as part of a comprehensive wellness plan for each student. This ensures that our students are not only getting a quality education in STEM fields, but will hopefully improve their overall health,” said Beth Benjamin, OIA principal.
“From day one, Brescia has opened it doors to OIA students and staff to offer unique spaces for different learning activities. This exciting announcement is another example of two education entities working together to produce the best options for the students of our shared community,” said Owens Saylor, DCPS Superintendent.
Brescia will also allow OIA to use some of its chemistry lab space making it easier to offer more science classes.
"Right now we are meeting with Brescia leaders and are hammering out all of the details of the new opportunity. We will host a parent information night on May 22 at 6 p.m. at OIA to let parents and students know what the next steps are to starting their degree,” added Benjamin.