Douglas County School System staff recently pledged and donated $21,000 to the Public Education Trust (PET) through the Second Annual Building a Firm Foundation staff fundraising campaign. PET is the not-for-profit organization that serves the school system.

"School system staff frequently do far more than the requirements of the job, but giving back financially takes their efforts to an even greater level," said Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North. "Daily I learn more about the Douglas County community, school system, and staff. Through the Second Annual Building a Firm Foundation campaign, I have learned a lot about our staff."

Gifts to PET support Classroom Impact Grants for teachers; scholarships for graduating seniors; Counselor and Teacher of the Year honorariums; and various other programs and projects. This past year, PET returned $65,900 to teachers and students in the school system.

According to PET Board Chair Jerry Hall, "PET asks for donations from local businesses, individuals inside and outside the school system, and regional foundations. With each call we make asking for donations, we will share the results of this campaign. The support from within our own ranks gives us much greater credibility as we ask for donations from the community and beyond."

Both North and Hall expressed great appreciation to the campaign donors and volunteers.

"I am personally grateful to the staff who have contributed to the BFF campaign," said North. "I offer an extra special thank you to those who increased their gift amounts this year over last year. Giving is impressive, but increasing gifts is even more impressive. I am indeed learning a lot about our committed, conscientious, and concerned staff."

Each school and department selected volunteers who personally called on their peers asking for support.

"The Building a Firm Foundation campaign would not be nearly as successful without dedicated campaign volunteers from within our staff. To each of our volunteers, thank you for serving and reaching out to your colleagues," North said.

Many of the donations received will fund Classroom Impact Grants. Through Impact Grants awarded on a competitive basis to teachers across all grade levels, PET makes it possible to offer programs, projects, equipment, and enrichment opportunities that are not available through state or district funding. Impact Grants are for projects that are an integral part of the learning process and promote creative and innovative ideas in and out of the classroom.

A specific goal of PET's Impact Grant program is to make sure all students are reached because education is not "one size fits all." Teachers know better than anyone else how to reach their students. Awarding Impact Grants to teachers for use in their classrooms and grade levels is a great way to reach students who otherwise may not be able to achieve minimum goals. Success is when students with challenges keep up and hopefully move ahead, and the brightest students remain stimulated, all in a fun, interactive learning environment.

One of PET's recent Impact Grants allowed the Special Education Team at Mason Creek Middle School to create a sensory space for students with various disabilities, including autism. According to the application, students with autism and other similar challenges "often lack the ability to visualize and stimulate relaxation in their brains and bodies. A sensory space creates an environment for students to explore and gain these skills."

"A huge thank you to everyone who supports PET." said Adam Bailey, MCMS Special Education Teacher. "We would not have our exploration room without it. The kids have enjoyed the experience since day one."

Becky Sparling, a third grade teacher at Chapel Hill Elementary School, was particularly concerned about students experiencing summer slide, a term used to describe either the lack of growth or actual regression in students' reading and math abilities due to not reading or practicing math over the summer months. She and her teaching team chose to address the reading portion of this problem by asking PET for funds to build Little Free Libraries in select neighborhoods in the school district.

Using the honor system, students and their families select and return (and sometimes keep and sometimes add) Little Free Library books anytime day or night! PET has also funded a Little Free Library at Lithia Springs Elementary School.

These two Impact Grants are part of 42 awarded last year to DCSS teachers and implemented this year across all grade levels. Over 11,000 students are being reached this year through PET-sponsored Impact Grants.

PET's $65,900 in recent grants to teachers and students can be specifically defined as follows: $30,000 in scholarships to high school graduates from the Class of 2017; $28,500 in Impact Grants; $3,400 in honorariums to Teachers of the Year; $1,700 to DCSS Road Runners' Programs; $1,000 to sponsor the Emma Legare Jordan Counselors of the Year Program; and a $500 sponsorship of Puttin' on the Pritz, a fine arts fundraiser and retirement recognition for former Superintendent Dr. Gordon Pritz.

Founded in 1993, PET will celebrate its 25th Anniversary next year. PET has awarded well over $400,000 to DCSS students and teachers through the years.

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