2013 News

CAPS grants bring success to Santa Rosa classrooms

Dedicated teachers reduce behavioral challenges, increase learning

Nov. 6, 2013


ATASCADERO A group of teachers at Santa Rosa Elementary say that items they received through grants from the Committee for Atascadero Public Schools are already being put to good use and are making a big difference in the learning habits of students.

Several teachers at the school have used funds from the grants to buy teaching materials that align with the new Common Core Standards, which are being implemented throughout the state in place of the STAR assessment system.

Santa Rosa kindergarten teachers Teresa Jenkins, Robin Randall and Lynn Hendrixson, along with first-grade teacher Diane Bacon all say they used CAPS grant funding to buy items known as math manipulatives , which provides a more tactile, visual and hands-on tool for learning mathematics that they say are already helping to keep students more engaged .

"Our kids used to just have to be able to read a number and write a number and maybe count now they're supposed to, in kindergarten, start knowing math facts to five," Jenkins said. "So they need to know that one and four go together to make five , two and three, five and zero" so these (math manipulatives ) are things you can use to help to visualize it and see it."

Two types of math manipulatives purchased by the teachers include Rekenreks, an item similar to an abacus with lines of colored beads students can use to keep track of numbers as they perform calculations, and Ten Frames, which involve a grid of ten squares with markers to keep count. Giant magnetic versions, know as "demo" models, are also available, allowing teachers to demonstrate math concepts to the entire classroom. Bacon says that the new teaching tools are already making a big difference and are speeding up the learning process for students.

"They're learning that 'one' is not just a line on the paper," she said. "They're getting a broader, deeper number sense. My kids are at the end of October where they would normally be at the end of January . We're actually doing expanded notation to 100 now. They were doing that the other day and they were blowing me away."

Randall says that the manipulative objects provide a visual aspect that can help kids understand abstract mathematic concepts.

"It just means so much more to a child they can visualize things so much better when they're able to manipulate ," she said. Jenkins agreed, saying "We're not just confined to saying 'write that number, point out that number, count that number' . Now they can really represent it in a deeper way. It's been really exciting. I absolutely love teaching math this way."

The teachers reported that the new teaching methods are also having an effect on student behavior, keeping students more engaged with learning and leaving them less time for goofing off.

"They're busy," Bacon said. "They're not sitting listening to me they're telling me and exploring and figuring it out and I'm just sort of a facilitator now. It's doing what's natural for them to do at that age instead of us shoving something down their throats that are kind of alien to them at that point. My kids are so much more engaged in everything that we're doing. They're not just listening to us talking about it."

Bacon says she didn't even order textbooks for math this year and has been given permission to fully implement the more hands-on Common Core approach.

"Common Core gave us permission to not just teach from that book and old standards ," she said. "It gave us permission to look at things in all these different ways and take more time in our teaching ."

Jenkins says that she, along with many other teachers, find the new methods refreshing as well. "That was my biggest happy moment," Jenkins said. "Just being given permission to do what we know is right. Just using experience and what we've used working with children all these years."

All four teachers along with speech therapist Cherie Hovey who received an iPad full of apps to help children with speech issues say that the progress made this year would not have been possible without the support of the CAPS organization, which raised the funds, selected the grants, bought the requested items and had them delivered directly to teachers at the schools.

"We don't have a rich PTA, so this is our only way of getting new things into this school," said Jenkins. "We appreciate all the work they do to get the money together and help us out this way."

Sept. 20, 2013

CAPS to accept grant proposals


ATASCADERO After a very successful fundraising event at the Taft Barn on Aug. 24, the Committee for Atascadero Public Schools is preparing to begin accepting grant proposals from AUSD teachers.

"It went really well," CAPS board member told the Atascadero Unified School District board of trustees at its meeting Tuesday. "We still don't know exactly how much money we have to give away, but we know we did better than last year."

CAPS hosts a fundraising event at the beginning of each school year which includes a dinner along with silent and live auctions that bring in tens of thousands of dollars for Atascadero schools. The money is handed out to teachers who request grants for a wide variety of different purposes.

Last year the CAPS fundraiser brought in $38,000 and grants awarded from those funds went to pay for a variety of things requested by teachers including books, projectors, equipment for the Physical Education program, software for iPads, pottery classes and field trips to a science lab in Avila Beach and the mission at San Miguel.

"It's just a whole variety of different things," Peterson said.

This year, Peterson says the organization did even better and is expected to offer more than $40,000 in grant funds.

Beginning today, teachers will be able to apply for grants of up to $1,000 by visiting the CAPS Web site at www.atascaderocaps .org. Peterson says the grants a read by CAPS board members and considered for approval based on how interesting they are, how viable they are and how well the teacher writing the grant followed the rules such as following the $1,000 limit. Peterson says the board also looks for grants that can be partially funded so the money can be spread as far as possible. She says that CAPS usually gets around 100 grant requests and is usually able to fill almost all of them to one degree or another .

"Almost everybody ends up getting something," she said.

Teachers will have two weeks to prepare their grants, which are due on Oct. 3. CAPS hopes to announce which grants will be funded by Oct. 12.

"We hope it goes really smoothly and I hope we can bring you some really big figures later on," Peterson told the school board.

AUSD Superintendent Deborah Bowers thanked Peterson for the update and said all of the teachers in the district are looking forward to the grant applications being released.

"I'm glad that so many people are interested in going for those grants because it really does contribute to our classrooms and to our students," Bowers said.

August 28, 2013

CAPS fundraiser brings in $50,000


ATASCADERO This past Saturday, parents, teachers, administrators and Atascadero Unified School District supporters gathered at the Taft Barn on the southern outskirts of town for the seventh annual CAPS Evening for Education fundraiser dinner and auction.

Over the past seven years, the annual CAPS fundraiser has brought in more than $300,000 dollars for the Atascadero Unified School District, allowing teachers to apply for grants for things like teaching materials, field trips and new technologies , according to CAPS committee members Tonya DeRose and Julie Davis. This year, the organization broke a record by bringing in nearly $50,000 during the one event.

"All of the funds go directly back into the district for the teachers and students to use," Davis said.

The event Saturday consisted of a silent aution, tri-tip dinner catered by Colby Jacks, and a live auction of packages including goods and services donated by local businesses, along with entertainment provided by local band The Usual Suspects and the Atascadero High School Choir.

K-Jon's Fine Jewelers Assistant Manager Preston Wallace says his company is happy to help and has donated the same package for the past few years, consisting of an all-inclusive jewelry shopping spree including a limo ride to lunch at the Guest House Grill and $3,500 to spend on jewelry at K-Jon's .

"We love to be involved in the community," Wallace said. "I have a two-year-old who will be in the school system soon, so this is important to me. As a store, we're not just doing this to get an ad, we're giving back to the community. You can feel good about spending this money."

The package donated by KJon's went for one of the highest prices in the live auction, selling for $3,750.

Event host Don Clickard introduced auctioneer Doug Filipponi by saying "he's been the auctioneer at 100 things you've done in the past 20 years," and giving an estimate that Filipponi has used his talents to bring in close to 5 million dollars for Atascadero schools throughout his career.

District Superintendent Deborah Bowers attended the event and personally donated $500 during the 'Last Man Standing' portion of the auction when attendees where asked to remain standing only if they were willing to donate a certain amount.

"It's a wonderful event and it's great to see the community come together to be generous for our students," Bowers said.