The Paxton-Buckley-Loda Education Foundation’s board of trustees held its annual meeting on Aug. 9, electing new officers for the 2018-19 school year.

Elected were Robin Niewold as chairman, Leslie Cottrell as vice chairman, Theresa Rueck as finance chairman and Connie Ross as secretary.

Also, the 2018-19 board of trustees was appointed, comprising PBL School District Superintendent Cliff McClure, PBL school board member Doug Wolken, Scott Allen, Josh Houtzel, Carl Hudson Jr., Jeff Shaffer and Justin Swan.

$45,000 given to program
The nonprofit foundation’s board also reviewed the funds raised by the foundation during the 2017-2018 school year and what contributions the foundation made to the PBL school district using those funds.

Notably, the foundation gave $45,000 to the district for the purchase of two high-powered laptop carts for the math and science departments at PBL Junior High School and PBL High School.

Both carts of 25 computers each have been purchased and are already being used at the two schools. The computers are essential to power the Project Lead The Way courses offered at the junior high school and for the advanced math and science courses at the high school.

Project Lead The Way is an innovative program, offered through a grant from the University of Illinois, which provides hands-on learning opportunities in computer science, engineering and biomedical science.

The foundation’s $45,000 gift is one of the largest given to the PBL school district in the foundation’s 20-year history.

“This STEM curriculum is quite impressive and gives our students a very relevant experience,” said PBL Junior High School Principal Joshua Didier.

In addition, the foundation committed to investing $3,000 over a three-year period to help kickstart the Prairieland CEO Program. CEO stands for “Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities.”

The CEO program is a year-long course that utilizes partnerships with local business partners and local schools to create project-based experiences for students by providing funding, expertise, meeting space, business tours and one-on-one mentoring.

Business concepts learned through the CEO class are critical. The 21st century skills of problem-solving, teamwork, self-motivation, responsibility, higher-order thinking, communication, and inquiry are at the heart of a student’s development. The foundation joined other area organizations and businesses in its commitment.

The CEO program is expected to be started next fall at PBL High School.

Innovation grants
The foundation’s board also reviewed “innovation grants” that were awarded to PBL school district staff in the previous school year. The grants, limited to $1,000, were awarded to:

• Kirsten Wyatt, a PBL High School agriculture teacher. Wyatt was awarded $1,000 toward the purchase of a welding simulator. The computerized system allows students to practice welding skills without using consumables. The school district also contributed to the purchase. The simulator is already being implemented in the classroom.

• Leann McPike, a PBL High School business teacher. McPike was awarded $1,000 to purchase four robotics kits for use in a new computer programming course. Students will first learn Python, a coding language, and then use the language to write a computer program, which will navigate the robot.

• Ata Bird, a PBL Junior High School librarian. Bird was awarded $1,000 to substantially help fund the school’s makerspace and make it ready to go this school year. Makerspaces are areas where groups and individuals can collaborate to create and produce items using technology. The makerspace will include a complete green screen setup, video editing software, three Kid’s Kindle Fire HD tablets, and two Sphero robots.

• Emily Wood, a PBL High School art teacher. Wood requested and was granted funds for 25 portable easels so that she can add a unit in landscape painting to the art program and also provide students a different perspective in any drawing or painting project. The cost was $861.

Opportunity grants
In addition, five “opportunity grants” were distributed, with a limit of $500 each, to:

• PBL High School art teacher Emily Wood, who was awarded a second camera for her graphic design course, which focuses on photography and the editing of pictures. Enrollment has doubled for that course, and one camera was no longer sufficient.  The Canon camera, memory card and camera case totaled $321.

• Third-grade teacher Emily Ross and sixth-grade teacher Jodi Coplea, who are both beginning robotics units in their respective classes. Ross requested and was granted two Sphero SPRK EDU app-enabled robots with protective covers. Ross also requested a wireless tablet, which will allow her to write on the Promethean board using a digital pen and use the computer mouse anywhere in the classroom. Her total grant was for $484. Coplea asked for four Sphero robots for a total of $500.

• Lindsey Alred, a PBL Junior High School special-education teacher, who requested supplies for her math class. Alred wanted a way of doing short, quick assessments with immediate feedback. To that end, she requested a set of 24 dry-erase lapboards with erasers and four packs of dry-erase markers at a cost of $136.

• PBL Junior High School science teacher Matthew Duffy, who requested and received four new microscopes. The cost was $500.

Fundraising campaign begins
It was also announced that the foundation is preparing to kick off its annual fundraising campaign, which raises funds that allow the foundation to provide grants and equipment that have a profound impact on students’ lives.

New, updated website
The foundation also announced that it has a new, updated website — — and is capable of taking secure online donations via the “donate” tab.  Alumni and community members are also encouraged to connect with the foundation on Facebook at “PBL Foundation.”