South Whidbey Schools Foundation gives additional grants

Four teachers have been awarded special grants from the South Whidbey Schools Foundation this summer to support innovation and excellence in high school curriculum.

The grants — made possible by a donation from Casey and Franny Mead — were given to teachers in the science, reading, math and music programs at South Whidbey High School.

Greg Ballog won a grant for his DNA Fingerprint Identification project.

The grant provides for the purchase of a DNA Gel Imaging System for use in standard biology and Advanced Placement biology courses taught each semester at SWHS.

“Using this imaging equipment students will be able to use computer analysis techniques to determine the identity of unknown DNA samples,” Ballog said.

“DNA identification of biological samples is a basic tool of the life sciences in today’s world. Through the use of this equipment, students will be current in their knowledge of DNA technology.”

Charlie Davies was awarded a grant for his special education reading class entitled “Audio Enhanced Books on Kindle for Support of Special Education Students in General Education Inclusion Mode.”

The class gives special education students at the high school the chance to use Kindle technology to better comprehend general education courses’ materials.

“The ability to listen to classroom texts, while simultaneously following the written material, improves the student’s overall comprehension of written information, while at the same time improving reading skills,” Davies said.

Andy Davis’s grant proposal to provide enhancements for his Pre-Algebra class at the high school was also awarded.

The funding will be used for materials such as algebra tiles and base ten blocks, tape measures, lab materials, maps, compasses, scales and stopwatches, which are used in the classroom to provide “real world” problem-solving exercises.  One such project involves creating a bid for remodeling the classroom, including researching material, labor and disposal costs and doing precise drawings and take-offs.

“The primary goal of the class is to take the students from where they are when they walk into the classroom and move them forward in the area of mathematics,” Davis explained. “We would like the students to exit our program and move into an Algebra I or Applied Math classroom after a year or two with us. Remember, most of the students that we are working with have an identified learning disability in the area of mathematics.”

Chris Harshman was given a grant for the Student Composer Project.

The award will fund the acquisition of Sibelius composition software for use by the students in creating their own compositions. Students will study the basic elements of composition, and apply music theory, notation, performance practice, historical perspective and original thought to the creation of their compositions.

“The emphasis will be on synthesis of all elements of music, made relevant to personal study and the influences of both contemporary and historical genres as interpreted by each student,” Harshman said.

John Knox, incoming president of the South Whidbey Schools Foundation, said the timing off the grant awards was a bit off, but for good reason.

“Normally, the foundation makes its teacher grants in the fall of each year — and the foundation awarded approximately $10,000 of teacher grants for the 2010-11 school year — but thanks to the Mead’s generous contribution, we were able to make additional grants this summer so that these teachers can hit the ground running for the 2011-12 school year,” Knox said.

“In these difficult economic times for the district, it is especially heartwarming that members of the community are willing to step forward to help keep our schools on the cutting edge and encourage teachers to innovate and provide the best possible experience for their students,” he added.

The nonprofit foundation is dedicated to supporting innovation and excellence in South Whidbey School District. More information about the foundation, including how to make tax-deductible contributions to support the schools, can be found at

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