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In Search of Funding...

Seeley Lake School Board
meets with professional
grant writer to explore alternative funding


by Beth Hutchinson
for the Pathfinder
December 4, 1997

The issue of supplementing con-ventional funding by hiring a grant writer gained more shape during the November 11th School Board meeting when George Humphries reviewed what his Stephensville business Aspen Creek Associates could offer the board.

Previous discussions between Humphries and Superintendent John Hebnes, exploring the pro-ject and financial needs of the dis-trict as well as probable services and compensation for Humphries, had laid the groundwork for this presentation.

Comparing his role in the task of securing additional funding to that of "a conductor in an orches-tra", Humphries suggested that he could foresee an 85% probability of securing the desired monies for the district.

He noted his success in obtaining approximately $1,860,000 for projects involving community development and the Double Arrow Ranch, emphasizing that his efforts lead to securing funds for the golf course development, landscaping and highway beauti-fication, conference center and visitor center/museum.

"The key to success is matching our needs with the objective of the funding foundation," said Humphries.

Asked about the elementary school mission, Superintendent Hebnes indicated that the district could benefit from grants for the library ($85,000), for up-grading and enhancing new technologies (???) and for completing the park-ing and playground infrastructures ($150,000). "I'd say a $350 to 450,0000 estimate," said Hebnes. Humphries thought these were manageable goals.

Noting that "the grant reader needs a broad sense of the school, its areas of functioning and need," Humphries explained that the grant writing process would start by gathering a significant amount of information. He would need to have a long-range plan for the school along with a population projection. "Something you might call a 'strategic plan'," he said.

Humphries said that after defining the history of the school, setting out goals for 3 to 5 years, describing the major program needs and getting letters of support, "you'll need to be ready to pro-vide details to support specific needs."

"Money may arrive within six month if granted," he said.

When asked about his fee, Humphries encouraged the board to consider the $3000 (up front for planning and expenses) and the 8% of the grant money ob-tained (his "profit") as "paying for planning and organization, not 'grant writing'".

Humphries referenced as a value his professional background in banking in New York City and Boston, his experience consulting across the US and his pre-research to determine if there would be a reasonable chance for success as being important commodities. He suggested that the 8% profit he would expect "would amount to less than one year's interest on a loan."

Board member Loren Rose in-quired about the amount of time that would be required from school personnel to facilitate the process. Humphries talked for a while longer, but did not directly answer his question.

Board chair Bart Peterson sug-gested that the issue be reap-proached during the December meeting. Rose concurred saying that it would be important for the board to "check with its auditor and to have some forms regarding a professional agreement to look over."

During the principal's report Dan White introduced the new eighth grade teacher Royce Johnston.

Reflecting on his experience as a first year teacher, Johnston said, " I'm positive I've learned more in three months here than in four years of college. I'm learning a day, a week, a month at a time to survive. The experience I had subbing (in Plains) last year is not the same. The kids like you then because you are different. A regular teacher needs to come back the next morning and the next and to prepare lots every day. That's lots of work."

Johnston likes his situation liv-ing with two high school teach-ers because they listen to him at the end of each work day. "It's like group therapy," he said.

Asked by White what he likes best, Johnston replied, "Reffing the games and hearing 'He's a lot more fun outside of school'." He believes it lets the kids get to know him more as a person.

Asked what advice he would give graduating senior teaching candi-dates, Johnston said, "Git hired as early in the year as you can. And, you need to get respect right away. Then they will gradually get to like you. Otherwise, you'll let them run over the top of you."

"I didn't think I would have to be as firm or strick from the first day. Next year with the seventh graders (this year's) already knowing me, I think it will be easier."

Several items were covered by Hebnes in his superintendent's report. Expressing satisfaction with the community interest in the playground committee headed by Cheryl Evans, he said that the biggest issue is money. For the immediate future the group will have about $16,000 to use. In the meanwhile, Cary Drew has agreed to provide gravel to fill holes, and the mill will offer wood chips to cover whatever would benefit. Hebnes said that many people attended the first meeting and that a lot of ideas were presented.

Many groups are using the school facilities Hebnes said. Procedures for proper use con-tinue to be developed. A tempo-rary form for requesting space is available at the office, and the staff are attempting to set guide-lines for their rooms.

Hebnes said that he has a concern about how far ahead to allow out-side groups to schedule activities. The potential for locking out so-cial events for the students exists if too many community activities are scheduled on a continuous ba-sis for weekends.

Board member Jim Kyle said that groups such as the "Y" need to schedule ahead, but that it might become necessary on occasion to ask them to cancel or reschedule. "Our kids are obviously the prior-ity, but we need to support the "Y" and other groups, too."

Hebnes reported that movement towards completion of the build-ing project was going very slowly.

A discussion of specifics and a renewed sense of frustration en-sued. Board Chair Peterson sug-gested that it was time to write a reminder letter to Brad Talcott re-garding their October agreement and that he would take on that re-sponsibility.

Peterson presented a proposal for a multi-board retreat or seminar to explore more about the duties and responsibilities of trustees. He hoped that Ovando, Swan Valley, Potomac and Rhett Parker (representing the high school board) would be interested in participating. The board unan-imously backed his idea and made plans to schedule a gathering.


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