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Education foundation names award winners, hands out grants

Decisions, decisions.

That's what the past few weeks have been all about for members of the Farmington Area Education Foundation. If they weren't making decisions on how to distribute money, they were busy trying to figure out who deserved to be recognized at this weekend's upcoming Partners In Education celebration.

Glen Anderson knows both tasks are easier said than done. As the Foundation's president, he's put a lot of time and energy into the two tasks in the past weeks. But following this weekend, he'll get a little breather.

The Partners In Education celebration is set for Saturday, May 1, at the Rambling River Center. It's a time when excellence in the Farmington schools is recognized and celebrated. The program will honor all of this year's retirees and announce the winners of some very special awards.

Award recipients

The Distinguished Alumni Award is going to Steve Krech. Nominated as "an important mentor, friend and leader to the Farmington Boy Scout community," Krech has been involved in the community's Boy Scout program since he joined as a Cub Scout in 1967. He's been an adult leader of Troop 118 for more than 30 years, and has traced the history of Farmington's Boy Scout activity back to 1926. Krech is employed at Dakota Electric, and he's been recognized by the Farmington Heritage Preservation Commission for his work.

Maggie Block has been named the Volunteer of the Year for her work and assistance at Farmington Elementary School. Known affectionately as the school's Snack Cart Lady, Block has taken on the task of running the new snack cart program at FES. She's made quite a few new, younger friends in the building. She's also the person who often takes the time to count all of the milk caps from the Land o'Lakes, Kemps and Milk Moola program, which nets the school extra money for items that are not ordinarily in the building's budget.

The recipient of the Bill Patterson Distinguished Staff Member Award wasn't hard to choose - Dodge Middle School vocal music instructor Randall Ferguson had three nominations this year, including one from the family of deceased Farmington High School student Andrew Kipley.

And finally, the recipients of the Community Partner of the Year Award are the 360 Communities Family Support workers, Deb Mayer Schmitz, Char Anderson, Tara Urbia, Elizabeth Utz, and Amee Christensen.

Foundation's aims

After four years of success, the Partners In Education celebration is probably the more widely-known function of the Farmington Area Education Foundation. But that's not all the foundation does, according to Anderson.

There is a whole other side to the aims and purposes of the foundation. That side is the fiscal side, the part that holds fund-raisers and solicits donations so it can provide learning tools in Farmington schools.

Anderson said there are a lot of other educational tools that teachers need in Farmington's school buildings - things that extend beyond the basic text book or desk. There are innovative learning tools out there, things that provide hands-on learning for students, and there are teachers who are anxious to educate with those tools. The problem is, the annual building budgets simply don't have enough money to spend on these special items.

That's where the foundation comes in. With a goal of subsidizing about $10,000 in items annually, the foundation holds events and solicits donations so it can help Farmington's classrooms and students. And that's no easy task.

"It's a hard job for us to decide who gets what," Anderson said. "Sometimes we just don't have enough money."

That's the truth this year, too. The foundation received more than $60,000 in funding requests for the 2010-11 school year. A total of $10,876 of those requests were granted.

The biggest chunk of the pot, about $2,000, went to the FHS music department, for a combination camcorder/tripod/hard drive system that allows teachers to film each student's performance. That way, teachers can see the student doing his or her individual work and be able to grade and critique each student as necessary.

Another $3,600 was split between electronic reading book pads for at-risk students at the high school and Boeckman Middle School. According to the requests, at-risk students tend to have an affinity for electronic media, and are more likely to read off of the e-books than a traditional book.

"That's the sort of thing we look at. If I can get them to read a book on this pad, I'll do it," Anderson said. "Our teachers are being innovative and trying to find new ways to enhance the learning experience."

Foundation members also look at what types of equipment will reach the most of students. Things like a saltwater reef aquarium, purchased by the Foundation for use at FHS can be used by multiple students, in multiple grades, for years to come.

The Farmington Area Education Foundation is always looking for new members and supporters. Anyone interested should call Glen Anderson at 651-400-0069.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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