A foundation that raises funds for East Palo Alto schools did so well this year that it is expanding its reach.
For the first time in its 17-year history, the East Palo Alto Kids Foundation (EPAK) reached $300,000 in annual donations, enabling it to make two rounds of "micro-grants" to teachers in the Ravenswood City School District.
The foundation is also opening its grant-making for the first time to teachers at the charter high schools East Palo Alto Academy and East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy as well as the county-sponsored Community School South.
Teachers may use the grants of up to $500 for any curriculum-related materials, according to EPAK Board Vice-President Julie Mahowald.
"People do anything from buying books for the classroom so kids can have interesting books to read for language development, to field trips to science lab materials, math manipulatives -- whatever they need in their classrooms that the district cannot provide them and they don't want to take our of their personal pockets," Mahowald said.
Past purchases by teacher grant recipients have included microscopes, puzzles, field trips to Ano Nuevo State Reserve, the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice and Stanford University Hospital, dictionaries and games.
Expansion to the high schools is an acknowledgment of "the challenges teachers face to lower the dropout rate among high school students in this community," EPAK said.
Most students from the K-8 Ravenswood school district, which serves East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park, are bused to one of four high schools in the Sequoia Union High School District -- Menlo-Atherton, Woodside, Sequoia or Carlmont.
The charter high schools -- one run by Stanford University and the other by the charter operator Aspire Public Schools -- are small schools located in East Palo Alto itself. An independent school, Eastside College Preparatory School, also offers a high school within East Palo Alto's borders.
A special gift to EPAK from the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation enabled the group to offer "new teacher grants" to 24 new teachers of up to $300 "to make their classrooms more welcoming at the beginning of the school year," EPAK said.
EPAK, which specializes in teacher grants, is the smaller of two foundations that raises funds for Ravenswood schools. The other is the Ravenswood Education Foundation, which has offices in the school district's headquarters and raises individual, corporate and foundation funds for a wide variety of programs, including extended school days, summer academies and teacher retention.