WJCC Schools Foundation Unveils Innovative Learning Grants for Teachers

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Front Row (from left to right): Steve Constantino, WJCC Superintendent; Clarence Wilson, WJCC Schools Foundation President; Ruth Larson, WJCC School Board. Second Row (L to R): Barbara Reynolds, Ginny Van Wicklin, Tatia Granger, Ginny Snead, Patty O’Neill, Ken Johnston. Third Row (L to R): Aaron DeGroft, James White, Aaron Hairston, Penny Pulley, Dustin Devore, Steve Vignolo, WJCC Schools Foundation Vice President of Governance, Alfred Woods, Todd Skinner, Judith Forehand Woods.
Front Row (from left to right): Steve Constantino, WJCC Superintendent; Clarence Wilson, WJCC Schools Foundation President; Ruth Larson, WJCC School Board. Second Row (L to R): Barbara Reynolds, Ginny Van Wicklin, Tatia Granger, Ginny Snead, Patty O’Neill, Ken Johnston. Third Row (L to R): Aaron DeGroft, James White, Aaron Hairston, Penny Pulley, Dustin Devore, Steve Vignolo, WJCC Schools Foundation Vice President of Governance Alfred Woods, Todd Skinner, Judith Forehand Woods.

Teachers will have a new source of funding for innovative projects with a new foundation that has begun accepting grant applications.

The Williamsburg-James City County Schools Foundation, a nonprofit formed last fall with the purpose of encouraging creativity in the classroom, unveiled its Innovative Learning Grants at the divisionwide convocation ceremony Aug. 28.

Teachers have until Oct. 19 to electronically submit their grant applications. The first round of grant awards, the amount of which will be determined by the funds available, will be announced Jan. 8.

The foundation will use a blind system for considering and awarding the grants, Constantino said.

On Tuesday, the Williamsburg-James City County school board took its first look at a draft of the agreement it would have with the foundation, which would be up for the board’s approval at its Sept. 15 meeting. The foundation’s 18-member Board of Directors approved the agreement Aug. 20.

“[The foundation’s] purpose is to enhance teachers’ ability to be creative, to be innovative, to do things perhaps they wouldn’t be able to do because the money isn’t available,” said Superintendent Steven Constantino, who also serves on the WJCCSF board.

Though the school board voted to form the foundation last fall, the two are considered separate entities that will work in a private-public partnership to achieve the goals set forth by the foundation’s Board of Directors. The school board will sign off on the grants before they are awarded.

Surrounding school districts, such as York County, Charles City and New Kent, have had supporting foundations for years – a practice allowed by state law.

The school board members largely supported the agreement as it was written, with Kyra Cook (City of Williamsburg) requesting the addition of a review meeting between the school board and WJCCSF in the future to help assess the foundation’s launch. Board members agreed to ask for language that sets a review meeting after three years.

“I like the suggestion because [the foundation] is important and we don’t know how it’s going to play out in the community,” Elise Emanuel (City of Williamsburg) said.

Some members reiterated the importance of making sure the money the foundation raises does not begin to supplant projects that should be covered by public funds – a concern Constantino said the WJCCSF board has been taking seriously as it developed Articles of Incorporation and bylaws that would combat such use.

The Articles of Incorporation and bylaws, which require the school board’s approval, will likely be considered in October.

“I am actually excited about the opportunity for philanthropic dollars to come into the division. [The foundation] provides that pathway,” Cook said. “We see all over the country examples of replacement philanthropy, where philanthropic dollars have over time replaced that which is typically the responsibility of government. I’m thrilled to hear that’s just off the table for this.”

The foundation announced its Board of Directors in May:

  • Steven Constantino, Ed.D. – Superintendent
  • Aaron DeGroft, Ph.D.
  • Dustin DeVore
  • Tatia Granger, Ph.D.
  • Aaron Hairston
  • Ken Johnston
  • Ruth Larson
  • Patty O’Neill, Ph.D. – Secretary
  • Penny Pulley
  • Barbara Reynolds – Vice President of Programs
  • Todd Skinner – Vice President of Finance
  • Ginny Snead
  • Ginny Van Wicklin
  • Steve Vignolo – Vice President of Governance
  • James White
  • Clarence Wilson – President
  • Alfred Woods – Vice President of Development
  • Judi Forehand Woods – Vice President of Marketing and Events