Wellington’s Education Committee reviewed funding approvals for the annual Keely Spinelli grants on Tuesday, Aug. 3
“This is always my favorite meeting of the year,” Committee Chair John Webber said. “It’s great to get to see all the teachers and their teams.”
The meeting included an update on the largely self-reported protocols for the coming school year’s in-class instruction, a review of the 2020 Keely Spinelli grant efforts, and consideration and approval of this year’s grant applications.
The grants now go before the Wellington Village Council for discussion and approval of the exact amounts.
Each of the Wellington-area elementary, middle and high schools had representatives present to update the committee on last year’s investments, any residual money left over and plans for the current year. Most speakers were the principals or a member of the administrative team.
The grant money is targeted toward students who are struggling. Particularly at the lower grade levels, that is often with reading.
Christine Muldowney, a 30-year teacher with the Reading Recovery program at Elbridge Gale Elementary School, explained how the program assists students who were reading below grade level and saw them go from that point to where they are now reading at or above grade level.
“Now they are strong readers when they once were struggling,” she said. “I am beyond excited to be able to continue to change the lives of our youngest learners with the gift of reading.”
Several other speakers complimented the reading program and remarked that testing scores, which didn’t count officially last year, were below where they would have liked them to be, but that has been reflected nationwide as schools battle with the pandemic’s toll on education. They are preparing for the challenge of working on that this year.
Many of the administrators remarked that a lack of adequate tutors had been a problem last year and that some of the money would be allocated toward in-house, part-time tutors. Because money was left in the budget, tutoring programs are able to start earlier this year.
School officials believe that students who were in the classrooms last year did better than students who were remote. Anecdotally, students seem to have learned more and lost less when present with a teacher. Administrators echoed one another, saying they were going to regroup and attack that learning loss and get the students back on track.
Palm Beach Central Principal Darren Edgecomb presented a united front with an entire row of his school’s team to thank the committee for the on-going funding. He said that they spend the money on tutorial work, instruction, consumables and student support.
“Knowledge is great, but it does not replace the teacher in the classroom, and we had dips in some categories,” said Edgecomb, who is expecting more than 3,000 students for this year with nearly half directly benefiting from the grants. “Thank you for your commitment to Palm Beach schools.”
The motion to approve the grants passed unanimously.