One of the truly fascinating examples of community support for a public school system can be found in the unlikely city of Demopolis.  With only an estimated 6,724 residents according to the U.S. Census and 2,300 students in its four schools, Demopolis is squarely in the heart of the Black Belt.  Which immediately calls forth images of impoverished people and underfunded school systems.

But if that is the case in Demopolis, no one told them so.

Because every year, over 250 private donors and businesses in West Alabama give to the Demopolis City Schools Foundation to invest in public education excellence. This year is no exception, and through those generous gifts and investments, the Demopolis City Schools Foundation has awarded classroom grants totaling more than $1.3 million since 1993.

This is an independent nonprofit established to encourage private charitable support of the school system.  It is governed by a 33-member board.

They have just announced $58,273 in new grants.

“These grants exemplify our strategic approach to grant making within the school system and focus on teacher-led ideas. From expanding MakerSpace activities that will encourage creative thinking to extending the LEGO education program, our teachers are building future problems solvers,” says Sarah Chandler Hallmark, president of the foundation.

“We have grants of all sizes that cut across all areas of education–from introducing archery in the Demopolis Middle School PE Department to tubas and euphoniums for their band program, we want each child in our rural system to have the resources necessary to explore his or her interests and ultimately be successful citizens.”

“We had grant requests of over $89,000 this fall and the committee had to make some hard choices about what projects to move forward, says Amanda Barnes, foundation executive director.  Additional grants will be awarded in the spring.

Here are the most recent grants:

Demopolis High School

$8,000 to Stacy Chandler for a set of Chromebooks and a cart for the science department
$680 to Jenn Tate for a potter’s wheel, clay and sculpting tools for the art programs at the middle and high school
$8,709 to Meggin Mayben in support of the A+ Computer Science Coding and Robotics classroom
$8,000 to Jill Tutt for a set of Chromebooks and a cart for the English Department
$3,249 to Lisa Lawrence for books and a Matter and Form 3D Scanner & Printer
$1,671 to Charles Jones for monitors, keyboards, and mice to turn existing Chromebooks into a workstations for drafting and design

Demopolis Middle School

$594 to Jackie Tripp for Apple Pencils to be paired with the iPads the DMS math teachers received through the Fall 2018 Classroom Grant process
$4,094 to Jesse Bell for the purchase of basic archery equipment in order to incorporate archery into the middle school physical education curriculum
$7,600 to Alaric Castleberry to purchase low brass instruments (tubas and euphoniums)
$2,000 to Ginger Godwin for hardcover and eBooks for the library

US Jones Elementary School

$800 to Jannalee Duke for six breakout kits along with access to the Breakout EDU platform
$6,999 to Julie Harrison to introduce Lego Education at USJ and continue the program from second grade (a 2017 Classroom Grant)
$2,000 to Emily Windham for funds to purchase technology equipment for checkout by teachers at the library

Westside Elementary School

$285 to Laurice Thomasson for classroom books to help expand students’ imagination and learning
$1,592 to Kristina Kallhoff to create a MakerSpace environment for students to engage in science, engineering and exploratory learning
$2,000 to Andrea Johnson to purchase chapter books for the Westside Library for higher level readers

Facebook @DemopolisCitySchoolsFoundation

Contact Amanda Barnes:  334-289-2226 (o) 334-314-3631 (c)  director@demopolis.org

Editor’s note:  This foundation is just part of a much bigger narrative about Demopolis.  It is about a community that made a commitment decades ago to its public schools instead of succumbing to the prevailing impulse to fight integration with private schools.  Demopolis today is 56 percent black and 43 percent white.  This is almost identical to the demographics of the school system which is 56 percent black and 43 percent white.  There is one small private school in Demopolis which has 109 students pre-K through 7.

This is in stark contrast to Montgomery, where I live.  While the city is 56 percent black and 37 percent white, the school system is 78 percent black and only 10 percent white.

Montgomery also has an education foundation.  However, unlike their counterpart in Demopolis, they do not give grants to teachers.  Instead, they plan to take over three local schools and convert them to charter schools.  Such a move would be considered heresy in Demopolis.