Stephanie Thetford (left) pictured with Tami Ellis (right)

Okaloosa County School District awarded $1.5 Million Grant for math and science students

Stephanie Thetford (left) pictured with Tami Ellis (right)

The Okaloosa County School District announced on Thursday that they have been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).

DoDEA awarded $22 million across 21 grants as part of its 2020 Cohort initiative. These grants will serve more than 100,000 students across 13 states. For Okaloosa County, it will provide funding for more than 10,000 math and science students at the secondary level.

To qualify for the grant, schools had to have at least 10% military population. According to the Okaloosa County School District, Okaloosa County has 9,500 students whose parents are active-duty military or work on local military installations.

According to Tami Ellis, Science Curriculum Specialist at the Okaloosa County School District, this grant will do a couple of things:

  • Adding tech into the classrooms – by purchasing mobile devices
  • Create a STEM/Technology coach position – This will be a 4 year position at the district that will allow certified teacher to go into a classroom and help teachers or students with tech as requested.

The neat thing about the STEM/Technology Coach position is that if teachers need help on figuring out how to integrate technology into the classroom, this coach will be able to help.

Another aspect of the grant is the creation of a “healthy body and healthy mind” component to the curriculum.

“There is no more ‘sit and get‘,” said Ellis. “This CDC provided curriculum will help students take ‘brain breaks’. This could be by getting up and stretching or walking across the room. After you’ve been in a block schedule for a period of time, taking these breaks is important to the health of our students.”

Additionally, this grant will create more virtual tutoring opportunities for teachers.

According to Ellis, not only will teachers will be compensated at their hourly rate, this will support tutoring students outside of the classroom through web based solutions. Teachers could also create an ‘open house’ or hold ‘office hours’, where parents can also be part of the tutoring virtually and learn how to engage with their children when it comes to their school work.

“It took 6 or 7 months to write this grant and required a team of people,” said Ellis. “There were a lot of people involved and I had a lot of help writing it. Stephanie Thetford was invaluable with this grant!”

Moving forward, the district will spread the grant out over a 5 year period. They also have the flexibility to make changes with the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity if they find that certain results aren’t being met.

“While we have the ability to tweak things with the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity, we also have to evaluate the grant 3 times per year,” continued Ellis. “Part of the grant funds will pay for a third-party evaluator to make sure that the results we are getting are as expected. There’s a lot of accountability here.”

“Receiving a $1.5 million grant to support our students in the areas of math and science makes me extremely proud,” said Marcus Chambers, Superintendent of Okloosa Schools. “Knowing that these dollars will benefit our military families and students makes this award even more special. We live in a community that is blessed with a military presence. Our military families have ingrained themselves into our community all while providing us the freedoms we experience each day. Being able to secure additional resources and opportunities to support their children academically is a source of pride!”

FUN FACT: Since 2017, the district has received approximately $3 million in DoDEA grants under the leadership of Tami Ellis. 

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