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Teachers look towards grants with tight budgets

Teachers and administrators are finding different ways to fund educational programs in the form of grants for schools which would otherwise dip into the Portales school budgets.

Grants can consists of thumbing through paper after paper of applications, gathering information and providing documentation by teachers to the foundation which provide the funding for the educational programs.

Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and the PNM Foundation awarded James Elementary with two separate grants of $2,990.64 and $2,000, said James Elementary Principal Michael Terry.

Mary Murray, a James Elementary teacher, worked in the grant-writing process for the $2,990.64 grant along with two other James Elementary teachers, Joeli Cathey and Josie Thomas. Murray said the theme of the grant application was, “The Circle of Life.”

Murray said the funding will go to videos, books and live specimens to learn more about animal’s life spans. She said James Elementary students will have a chance to see butterflies, frogs and brine shrimp grow.

“We will raise butterflies and when we are going to release them, we will do it at Golden Acres (retirement home),” Murray said. “It’s our way of involving the community. Science used to be (that) you would open a book read it and take a test. The new focus is on students asking questions in real world situations and they can have a hands-on experience.”

In 1983, PNM shareholders created the PNM Foundation as a separate, nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation governed by a board of trustees comprised of PNM employees, according to the PNM Web site.

No customer funds are part of the PNM Foundation endowment. Nearly $5 million has been awarded statewide since 1983 and 261 PNM Foundation grants have been awarded.

“We were really excited to find out we received the grant,” Murray said. “We will begin placing some orders in the summer and start the program in the fall.”

The New Mexico Public Education Department awarded a $237,696 Reading First Grant in what Trina Valdez, Director of Federal Programs for Portales schools, said will go to implement a new method to teach children to read in James Elementary, Steiner Elementary and Brown Early Childhood Center.

“It’s cutting edge strategies for learning how to read,” Valdez said. “It will help develop the best reading practices.”

The NMPED sent out a press release on May 7 announcing that 44 public schools in 17 school districts will receive $8.29 million in New Mexico Reading First Awards to improve student achievement in reading through the application of scientifically based research. The goal is to ensure every third-grade student reads at grade level, according to the press release.