The Wellington Village Council awarded a total of $399,993 in Keely Spinelli grants of $36,363 each to Wellington’s 11 public schools on Tuesday, Oct. 12.
“This is the eighth year with our Keely Spinelli grant presentation,” Wellington Community Services Director Paulette Edwards said. “The Wellington Education Committee came to the council in June 2013 and looked at the need for partnering with our schools, and they requested that the council develop a grant program, and the council funded this Keely Spinelli grant. It is to support the needs of our students who perform in the lowest 25th percentile in reading and math.”
The council named the grant program after the late Keely Spinelli, a beloved educator who served as principal at Binks Forest Elementary School. She died at age 46 in 2008 after a long battle with cancer.
“In 2014, it was funded at $275,000,” Edwards said. “This year, fiscal year 2021-22, the council has approved $400,000. Each school is eligible for $36,363.”
Vice Mayor John McGovern said the grants are about synergy in the community.
“Synergy is an interaction or cooperation that gives rise to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts,” McGovern said. “When we talk about giving $400,000 of hard-earned taxpayer dollars from our residents to our schools, we get true synergy of what the Wellington community is about.”
He explained that the program enables the village to improve the test scores of the lowest-performing students and puts in creative programs to raise that performance, which has helped enable the village to have A-rated schools.
“What 11 A-rated schools give us is the greatest chance in Palm Beach County to have increasing property values not in pockets of our community, but in our whole community,” McGovern said. “Through a program such as this, which we haven’t found a single community in Palm Beach County that will do this program with us, but what we get is nine years of increasing property values.”
He pointed out that the village’s property values have increased consistently over the past nine years. The village’s total taxable property value over the past year increased from $8.9 billion to $9.3 billion.
“I’m not saying it’s directly attributable to this program, but what I am saying is that this program goes a long way to ensuring that year in and year out, we are going to have both great schools, higher performing students and great neighborhoods across our community,” McGovern said.
Councilman Michael Napoleone said the grant program is an investment in the community.
“It’s an investment in our property values, and an investment in our future,” Napoleone said. “This is what helps our children succeed. We’ve seen over the years, and our Education Committee monitors it, you guys have used the money wisely, and it has been very well spent.”
Principals from all of Wellington’s public schools were in attendance at the meeting, as was Superintendent Michael Burke, School Board Member Marcia Andrews and a number of other school district officials.
“This a really special occasion,” Burke said. “The partnership we have with the Village of Wellington is pretty incredible.”
Burke noted that he worked with Keely Spinelli years ago.
“I’ve been with the district 23 years,” he said. “I think it’s a tremendous honor that her legacy lives on for the children in Wellington. The financial contribution you make is having a huge impact. I really like how you’ve targeted the lowest-performing 25 percent to make sure that we raise all boats, and it’s really paying off because the results are there.”
McGovern credited the Education Committee for carefully monitoring the grant program.
“That committee puts in long hours looking at very specific plans for how the village funds are going to be utilized to serve the needs of each particular school, because we know there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” he said. “We’ve worked very hard to make sure there was flexibility in that grant, and it’s the Education Committee that is our eyes and ears to make sure that the dollars are being used successfully and accountably.”