Mini-Grants Bring New Programs to Teaneck Schools

Proposals focused on improving student achievement and performance in public schools

The Teaneck Organization for Public Schools (TOPS) has announced the winners of the teacher mini-grants for the 2011-12 school year. All instructional and support staff in the Teaneck Public Schools, as well as PTO groups, were encouraged to submit proposals aimed at improving student achievement and performance in the classroom.

Twelve applications were submitted, and after being reviewed by TOPS board members, eight proposals were awarded grants in amounts ranging from $250 to $500. The recipients are expected to begin their programs as soon as possible.

“Some of them got the total amount they requested; some of them got half of what they requested,” said TOPS President Barbara Ostroth. “It all depended on what they were buying and whether or not we felt they could supplement it with other means.”

Ostroth said the TOPS board reviewed the applications in terms of merit, “and we reviewed in terms of the requests we felt were above and beyond what a school system should provide.”

This is the fourth time that TOPS has handed out teacher mini-grants since the non-profit organization was founded in 1991.

“I am always impressed by the creativity and dedication that our teaching staff provides when I read these grant applications,” Ostroth said. “What was even more heartening was to be able to expand this for the first time to include applications from local PTOs and the Teaneck Council of Parents and Teachers. A successful school system can only be enriched by nurturing the home-school connection.”

The eight mini-grants will go to fund the following:

  • TJ Journalism Club: Proposal by PTO, providing funds for publication of a literary magazine or journal to showcase student creative writing. Award: $250
  • Districtwide Spelling Bee: Proposal by Laverne Lightburn and Shelley Worrell, presidents of the Teaneck Council of Parents and Teachers. Funding will help create an annual spelling bee for each grade, K-12, reinforcing spelling, dictionary and grammatical skills. Award: $250
  • Mathematics Awareness through Technology: Proposal by Carolyn Arkenau of , providing Leap Frog Math Adventure to the Moon software to encourage kindergarten students to reach and surpass instructional goals. Award: $250
  • Anti-Bullying Prevention Project: Proposal by Lottie Watson of , funding materials for reinforcement of conflict resolution teaching and encouragement of better decision-making skills in social settings on the part of high school students. Award: $250
  • Lunchtime Investigations Club: Proposal by Janet Bus and Pamela Koutrakos of , increasing the school’s library of nonfiction reading materials required by Core Curriculum Standards. Students will read and discuss texts on topics during lunch. Award: $300
  • Bringing Student Stories to Life: Proposal by Sue Luckman Jacobs of , providing Logitech headsets with microphones for the technology lab to enable students to record and share their original stories. Award: $400
  • Mini-Language Learning Lab: Proposal by Caridad Clavelo of Teaneck High School, funding the purchase of headsets, microphones and support materials for high school Spanish students to more consistently practice the oral language skills required for Honors and AP tests. Award: $500
  • Improving 6th Grade Math Assessments: Joint proposal by Roger Davis, Tim Aumack, Fran Guzy and Valerie Johnson Beavers from Thomas Jefferson Middle School, purchasing the IXL.com program currently used in BSIP classes to provide ongoing assessment and evaluation of student math performance throughout the school year, giving feedback to staff, as well as students and parents. Award: $500

TJMS’s Valerie Johnson Beavers, who co-wrote the joint proposal titled “Improving 6th Grade Math Assessments,” said the IXL program provides almost instant feedback to all involved.

“It will provide teachers with a great deal of information that will help us address one of the district goals of increasing data-driven instruction while pinpointing specific areas of concern for individual students,” said Beavers in an emailed response. “It will also provide a means for addressing content areas that need additional resources. We will be able to purchase enough licenses to use throughout the sixth grade, and we expect to get started as early as the end of this month.”

Hawthorne’s Pamela Koutrakos, who co-wrote the proposal titled “Lunchtime Investigations Club,” stated in an email that the club “will provide an opportunity to encourage reluctant readers with engaging nonfiction texts during the cold, winter months when students are often unable to play outside for recess.”

Koutrakos said she and her team were grateful for the funds and that they hope to move along with their project pending the approval of book purchases sometime next month.

Lottie Watson, Dean of Students for the THS Class of 2013, wrote the proposal titled “Anti-Bullying Prevention Project.” She stated in an email that she hopes to begin implementing the fundamental elements of the program in February.

“The Bully Prevention Project is one in a series of mini-awareness programs that will not only focus on addressing the mandates set forth in the N.J. Anti-bullying Bill of Rights, but to empower the Teaneck High School students with the courage to advocate for themselves and their peers when someone is in violation of the Student Code of Conduct to a degree where it hurts, damages, or negatively impacts the character of another human being,” Watson said. “Careful implementation of a Character Education and Bully Prevention program is the basic foundation of this project. The way you communicate with young people will ultimately determine the way young people communicate within our society.”


Created in 1991, TOPS is a non-profit education foundation that operates independently from the Teaneck School District. Its nine-member, volunteer board of directors is comprised of private- and public-sector residents. Funding for the group comes from donations by PTOs, local businesses and private individuals.

For TOPS’ latest fundraiser, the group has partnered with Liberty Tax Service in Hackensack, which has offered to give new clients a $20 discount off their income-tax preparation and will in turn make a donation to TOPS.  More information about this fundraiser is available through the principal’s office at each Teaneck school or by contacting Ostroth at 201-965-3105.

According to a press release from TOPS, over the last several years the organization has distributed thousands of dollars to Teaneck public schools for the purchase of computer equipment, literacy and math software, and other types of educational technology.

Anyone interested in making a donation to TOPS, can send contributions to: TOPS, P.O. Box 1095, Teaneck, NJ  07666. To offer fundraising suggestions or to inquire about volunteering, call Ostroth at 201-965-3105.

Karen Southwell January 23, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Thank you to TOPS for all that you do. Your time, generosity and support of our school system is greatly appreciated. A big "thank you" to my friend Barbara Ostroth.


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