EMILY TUBB / BUY AT PHOTOS.MONROECOUNTYJOURNAL.COM 7th grade Language Arts Teacher Kellie Poole helps Denzel Rogers and Ontarion Randle at AMS during the new after-school tutoring progran available on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
EMILY TUBB / BUY AT PHOTOS.MONROECOUNTYJOURNAL.COM AHS students work on material in ACT prep class. All juniors in the state are required to take the ACT this March.
AMORY – Amory High School and Amory Middle School are both getting by with a little help from their friends at the Quality Education Foundation through funding for ACT prep and afterschool tutoring programs. “This year we went to principals and administration and asked where we could be of the most help. Both of these programs are considered to be pilot programs at zero cost to the school. This semester is subject to evaluation for continued funding,” said QEF President Dee Allison. The QEF, one of the oldest support systems for the Amory School District, flies under the radar in the very community they serve, according to Vice President Mike Manning. “We have an identity problem. Many don’t know we exist and the ones that do don’t know what we do. We rely totally on donations from the community and if we are going to continue to support the schools, we have to raise community awareness,” Manning said. The QEF started out from seed money provided through the CREATE Foundation in 1997, but branched out and formed its own non-profit 501(c)(3) not long after. At its peak, QEF was able to raise and grant awards in amounts of $25,000 to $30,000 per year. Then the economy declined. “Like everybody else, our donations dropped off, which is all we have. We’re not a big boy foundation, we are a blue collar foundation,” Manning said. In 2011, QEF was able to award a total of $26,000 in 16 different grants. The amount steadily declined along with declining contributions and, last year, QEF received 27 grant requests from teachers totaling $58,000, but was only able to award 15 grants for a total of $15,000. After approximately $400,000 and 18 years, QEF has decided to try something new and assist these pilot programs. “Mr. [Ken] Byars [principal at Amory High School] came to us after the high school had exhausted all of the free resources they could find for their ACT Prep class, so we gave them $5,000 to spend immediately and at the middle school, we are paying for an hour of afterschool tutoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Manning, who added that QEF is evaluating ways to help both East and West Amory elementary schools in the future. All AHS students take an ACT Prep course, a requirement that began this school year to help prepare them for the statewide mandatory ACT that all juniors will take. “Every 11th grader will take the ACT in March. The benefits of a higher ACT score are availability of scholarships and a wider choice of schools. We put together our own packets and administer two full practice tests, gather data from those scores and use that data to hit specific points where we see trouble,” said Byars, who pointed out that AHS is still looking for more free resources but greatly appreciates the help from QEF. AMS did not have any tutoring program in place before QEF stepped up in January. “With the QEF contribution, we now have tutoring available for math and English two days a week for all our grades, as well as an eighth grade science tutorial. We had about 50 students the second week and it’s going good. We are just so grateful to the QEF board for this help,” said AMS Principal David Poss. The extra two hours per week allows for students to have an additional 36 hours of free help per semester – not too shabby when many students are struggling to gain traction with the new and more rigorous state standards in front of them. Other programs supported by QEF include show choir, rocket team, culinary arts and robotics to name a few. “QEF has turned many of my classroom dreams into realities. We are only given enough from the district/state senate bill money to cover basic classroom needs,” said sixth grade accelerated, fine art (hand chimes) and show choir teacher Susan Gillentine. “Anything beyond ink, markers and paper must come from another source. QEF has allowed my gifted classes, fine arts and show choirs to flourish over the years. I have received grants involving class sets of books, iPads, sound equipment and music. “I’ve learned how to involve other sources in the process as well. Some of the grants have been for large amounts where I only ask QEF for half of the funds, and I work with parents or other groups to raise the other half. The QEF members are mainly former teachers or parents of Amory students who are genuinely concerned about the success of Amory Schools.” Amory Career and Technical Center’s metal fabrication instructor Robert Smith said that in five out of the seven years he’s been teaching, QEF contributions have made better instruction possible. “I had old end mills that they resharpened. They bought cutting tools for the lathe, a torch, a tig welder foot pedal and last year, I received two miller welders. The QEF has been a great help to our metal fabrication program and I would not have been able to teach the way I needed to without their help,” Smith said. According to Manning, QEF, a support system for the school, now needs the support of the community. “Our ability to fund these programs is in danger if donations don’t pick up. Without the support of the community, I suppose we will fade off into the sunset. We hope that doesn’t happen. If we can get the community to understand who we are, I’m confident they will respond,” Manning said. For information on how to donate to the Quality Education Foundation, contact Dee Allison at 315-8290 or Ruth Griffith at 256-8519.