A pro-education group in Selma — believing that better schools make a better Selma — has given nearly $25,000 to teachers for classroom projects in the last two years. The group is a registered nonprofit called the Selma Public Education Foundation.

 Teachers have used the grants to buy extras for classrooms, including: Rock and mineral kits, folding music stands, sculpture supplies, badminton nets, rockets, computer software, trombones, high-interest novels, elementary band shirts, math manipulatives and more.

 “The whole thing is to create the best learning environment for students in Selma,” said Louis Franco, president of the foundation’s board.

 Without the grants, students might have to do fundraisers to make the purchases possible, Franco added.

Selma Unified Superintendent Mark Sutton said: “It is truly inspirational to see what a small group of individuals can do to help over 6,000 students and over 300 teachers.”

 The foundation raises money in three ways:

l Some Selma teachers make automatic payroll contributions each month. The contributions go to the foundation.

l Local businesses make donations. California Water Service has contributed the most money so far, Franco said.

 l The foundation puts on fundraising events like a wine tasting scheduled for Saturday, May 5, in Fresno.

 Teachers can apply for grants each semester. A committee composed of foundation members and parents from Selma Unified campuses reviews grant applications and awards the money.

 Most grants are for a maximum of $500.

 Selma High teacher Russell Mitchell has used several grants to buy a Vernier Dynamics System, which he described as “a high tech Hot Wheels track” for math and science experiments.

 “This allows the students the ability to better understand the mathematics they are learning in class and apply their knowledge to real-world problems,” Mitchell said.

 He added: “The grants allow teachers to dream big and think of ways to reach students beyond the textbook.”

 Selma attorney Jeff Shepard started the Selma Public Education Foundation in the early 1990s, and it operated until the early 2000s, Franco said. A few years later, Franco — a 1984 graduate of Selma High — revived it. The revived foundation gave out its first awards in the fall of 2010.

 Other foundation officers are Marla Grey, Randy Orosco, Yvette Montijo and Pete Esraelian.

The reporter can be reached at dhoagland@selmaenterprise.com.

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