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SchoolPower doles out nearly $85,000 in teacher grants

SchoolPower has awarded $84,684 to teachers at all four Laguna Beach Unified School District campuses for programs and equipment.

Officials from the nonprofit, which raises funds for the schools, announced the awards during Tuesday's school board meeting.

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A record 892 donors contributed to SchoolPower's Community Campaign, which raised an unprecedented $528,000 this year. Money for teacher grants was part of this total.

The campaign is also helping to fund music and foreign language programs, as well as a zero period enabling more academic flexibility, at Thurston Middle School. Laguna Beach High School is able to hire a counselor with the help.

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Two years ago, donors numbered 625, SchoolPower President Tom Motherway said.

District teachers, administrators and classified staff are eligible to apply for grants, as long as they can demonstrate that the money would have a direct effect on students.

At El Morro Elementary, second-grade teacher Debbie Finnerty received $4,500 for an Arts in Schools program that she said will integrate science with art in first- and second-grade classrooms.

Top of the World Elementary Principal Mike Conlon received $5,000 for Reading Counts, an incentive program in which students earn points for reading a book and passing a 10-question test. Students can also take a separate assessment test throughout the year so teachers can monitor their progress.

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Thurston Middle School's social studies department took a share of the grant money. Teacher Paul Matheson received $8,265 for an interactive white board, while Michelle Martinez received $8,000 for the Footprints through History program, which will expand a history club that started this year.

The goal is for students to research a historical topic and enter competitions, Martinez wrote in an email. Students could present their work in a variety of ways: written report, exhibit, performance, documentary or website.

Laguna Beach High science teacher Jen Merritt and her department colleagues received $11,040 for use in the school labs.

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