Friends of Education of Escambia County Alabama Foundation developed

Published 9:22 am Wednesday, July 2, 2008

By By Adam Prestridge
The time has come for the Atmore community to take ownership in its children’s education.
With that in mind, five Atmore women began work on an extensive project that required many hours of planning in hopes of giving the community the tools necessary to gain that involvement.
Monday morning, those same women; Mary Grissett, Emilie Mims, Nancy Helton, Peggie Byrd and Ruth Harrell completed that project, which began a year ago this month, as they announced the formation of the Friends of Education of Escambia County Alabama Foundation during a press conference at the Atmore Public Library.
“We’ve talked about forming this foundation for two years and we held an organization meeting last summer in July and got our charter, our articles and all the other things that we need to be incorporated,” Helton said. “At the first of the year, we got our 501(c)(3) status with the help of Alabama Power.”
Alabama Power Company provided a $2,000 grant, which was used as seed money to get the foundation started. Now it is an official non-profit organization with tax exemption.
The foundation’s mission statement reads, “To build community responsibility for improving education outcomes in Escambia County, Ala.”
First Initiative: HIPPY
Grissett added that the foundation would spearhead several initiatives throughout the county. She said the first initiative would be Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY).
Dianne Rose, who retired from the Escambia County School System in May, will serve as the HIPPY coordinator for the foundation.
The HIPPY program is being made possible by a more than $20,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Education, which the foundation applied for as a contracted agency of the Escambia County Board of Education. Grissett said the BOE gave the steering committee full access of test scores, reports, studies and poverty levels to apply for a $15,000 grant to get the program started, which is not affiliated with the BOE and is overseen by the foundation. They were surprised when they received more funding than requested.
Rose will be attending training in Arkansas this summer at the HIPPY national headquarters. She will return and train three in-home visitors who will go into the homes of the children involved in HIPPY and work with the parents.
“They will go into the home and not teach the children, but they will teach the parents the basic skills that they will have to have and then the parents will teach the children,” Grissett said. “It’s going to serve multiple purposes. The children are going to have their skill, but the parents are going to take responsibility for their children’s education. They are going to know what the child knows, they are going to know what their weakness is and they are going to know when they get to school that they are ready.”
Children will be given the opportunity to work at his or her pace, but will be expected to reach benchmarks. There will be no testing, but the in-home visitors will evaluate the parents to insure they are working with the children.
Families will be provided a packet of lesson plans for 30 weeks and nine correlated books to teach from. The in-home visitors will also be required to update the foundation on the progress of the children.
The foundation will also receive on-site visits from HIPPY USA to ensure the program is being run properly.
The program will follow the school system’s calendar, running from September through May. Grissett said it would require 15-20 minutes a night, four to five nights a week.
The foundation will have 45 spots available its first year based on funding that fit the criteria, school and teacher recommendations.
Also during the first year, the foundation will accept 3-and 4-year-olds in the two-year program. Each year following, only 3-year-olds will be accepted.
Grissett said the foundation plans to start HIPPY this September, but it is possible it could be delayed until September 2009. She said the foundation is already a part of HIPPY Alabama, but has applied for its HIPPY USA license and is waiting for the final release.
The HIPPY program will cost $70,000 annually to run, which includes educational materials for the parents and children, salaries for Rose and the in-home visitors and other expenses incurred through the program. According to Helton, Joanne Shum, director of HIPPY Alabama, has assured the foundation that the funds will be available for the first year. Businesses, community leaders and citizens will be asked to step up to the plate to help keep the program going.
Grissett said letters would soon be mailed out asking for contributions to the program offering community sponsorships, donations and endowments.
Mims added that while there is a steering committee, a countywide board of directors is currently being formed.
Grissett added that it costs $1,250 for one child to go through the two-year program.
For now the committee will wait patiently for the license from HIPPY USA to get their first initiative off the ground. After that, the sky is the limit for both the children and the committee.

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