Toyota Education Committee announces grant money availability to local schools

The Toyota Educational Endowment Fund Committee of the CREATE Foundation announced Monday the availability of $1 million of grant money for schools in Lee, Pontotoc and Union Counties.

toyota formbyToyota Mississippi Vice President Doug Formby, a member of CREATE’s Toyota Education Endowment Fund Advisory Committee, made the announcement in New Albany. “The purpose of the grant initiative is to provide support directly to the school districts for projects most needed to enhance the education of their students and that are not part of the schools’ annual budgets,” he said. “TEEFAC is honored to make these funds available to our local students,” Formby said.

In 2007, Toyota committed to donate $50 million over a 10-year period to enhance public education in Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties. The Toyota gift is being made to an endowment fund at the CREATE Foundation, allowing the gift to benefit K-12 students in the three counties both now and in the future. TEEFAC was established by CREATE to provide recommendations on the use of the gift. Payable over a 10-year period, the goal of the gift is to create a perpetual fund to enhance education for students in the eight school districts in Lee, Pontotoc and Union Counties.

Funds have already been used for projects including work to establish the Wellspring Center, a curriculum audit, leadership training, language arts development, core curriculum training and a free academic summer camp for students from grades 7-12.

“We want cutting-edge education that will make a difference,” Formby said. “This will be our biggest endowment we are putting in the hands of the folks who need it most.”

Chuck Garrett, Senior Consultant with TEEFAC, explained that the funds are for all schools in the eight public school districts in Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties. “Our objective is to enhance learning in these schools,” Garrett said. “Our hope is that as many students are impacted as possible.”

Lee County superintendent Jimmy Weeks expressed thanks, saying, “This will not solve all our problems but will give us a good shot in the arm.”

New Albany Superintendent of Education Jackie Ford said schools here will use the money for a continuing technology initiative, particularly getting laptop computers to students in grades 3-5 as a starting point.

“Unfortunately, budget cuts are the norm now,” said Mike Clayborne, CREATE Foundation Executive Director. “We are fortunate to have this money available for our local schools. This is a great opportunity made possible by Toyota’s gift.”

“Analyzing how the money ultimately helps students is a major part of the grant,” explained Clayborne. “One of the components of the grant application is for the school districts to indicate how the impact of the grant will be measured,” he added. “The committee will receive reports from the school districts on the outcomes.”

TEEFAC will ensure all grant distributions are fair and equitable. Applications will be graded by an outside panel of experts as well as CREATE for enhancement, innovation and student impact.

Clayborne said each district may determine who writes the grant proposals but they will come through the superintendents’ offices. The deadline to submit applications is Aug. 15.

“We hope to have the decisions made in September and all the funds distributed,” Clayborne said.