11/17/11 — Schools make plans for spending $50,000

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Schools make plans for spending $50,000

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 17, 2011 1:46 PM

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Wayne Christian School Childcare/Preschool assistant director Roxanna Silva, left, and director Martha O'Hara measure for new playground equipment. The new items will be purchased with a portion of the $50,000 the school received from U.S. Cellular's Calling All Communities contest.

When a nationwide contest offering a share of $1 million was announced recently, area schools started scrambling for a piece of the pie.

As the third year of U.S. Cellular's "Calling All Communities" campaign unfolded, the competition reached a fever pitch.

When the effort wound down and the dust settled, four schools in Wayne County came away recipients of $50,000 each -- Fremont STARS, North Drive and Tommy's Road elementary schools and Wayne Christian School. Neighboring LaGrange Elementary in Lenoir County and Hobbton Middle School in Sampson County were also among the $50,000 recipients.

Seventeen schools in the nation received $50,000 each and the school with the most votes, Seymour Primary School in Tennessee, was awarded $150,000.

Wayne Christian had three goals for the money, a 23-passenger van, playground equipment and air conditioning for the school gym. Staff posted pictures around the school to motivate voting and to help keep their eye on the prize.

Considering themselves "very blessed" to receive such a hefty check, school administrator Lynn Mooring said school officials are already moving forward on spending it.

"We have purchased the shuttle and are getting quotes this week for the new playground equipment, so I think we'll make a decision in a week or two," she said.

The "playground structure" will be added to the child care/preschool area of the school, she said, and the 23-passenger van will provide additional transportation for field trips and athletic events.

The remainder of the money will be used to pay for a portion of the cost of the new air-conditioning system.

North Drive Elementary could have been considered an underdog in the race, principal Carol Artis said.

"We have a unique situation -- students that didn't have rides, didn't have computers," she said. "Our staff actually had to be the parents. Our children didn't have that option of going to the store to vote or having computers, so we had to go pick up the parents."

Crediting her staff with being the "main thrust" behind the cause, Mrs. Artis said many stayed after school and assisted students and parents in the effort.

"I have never seen anything like what this staff did for these children," she said. "I feel like this is a North Drive win."

Because of that, the principal said she wanted the teachers to have a "strong voice" in how the money will be spent.

"We're looking into buying something that will allow us to do interactive lessons on the regular whiteboard," Mrs. Artis said. "That's where I'm leaning because it will take about half of the money but it will allow us to put one in each of the classrooms."

Playground equipment is also high on the wish list, she said.

"We have eight swings and a slide, and we have 500 students," she said. "Those are the two projects that we're looking at, and then will set aside money for indigent children at Christmas."

Expanding playgrounds is also important at the other two area recipients.

In the case of Fremont STARS, the win means being able to give back, to the community as well as the feeder school's middle school partner, Norwayne.

"(Norwayne) had picked up voting cards for us and had a team of parents that came in every day and keyed in the votes," principal Sheila Wolfe said. "Because of the collaborative effort, one-third of the payment -- just over $17,000 -- will go to them."

As a former physical education teacher, Mrs. Wolfe said she appreciates providing places for children to be active. And since residents of the area had helped bring in a win for the school, it just made sense to put the money toward something that would benefit them as well, she said.

"Fremont has been in an endeavor, this has been our fourth year raising money for a playground," she said. "We raise $2,000 to $3,000 at a time and it would take years to do what we're trying to do. This was certainly a worthwhile event, certainly helps us reach our goal a lot faster.

"And when we're closed, this will give us a community park. We don't really have a community park (in Fremont)."

Tommy's Road has also been working on sprucing up its playground, but there are additional areas up for consideration as the money is prioritized.

"We do have several projects that we want to work on and we're going to vote as a staff," principal Wendy Hooks said. "Our one pressing need is to get more Promethean boards or Smartboards."

She credits the staff, students, parents and the PTA for joining forces to gather the votes to bring the money to Tommy's Road -- a formula she said has helped her win the grant first at Brogden Primary and later as a parent at Wayne Country Day.

And now it's just a matter of appreciating the victory and the unexpected windfall during an otherwise precarious economy.

"We're waiting for the check so we can spend it," Mrs. Hooks said with a smile.