$50,000 grant supports plans for Butler schools

The Duke Energy Foundation recently partnered with the Middletown Community Foundation to provide a $50,000 grant to support its initiative to improve educational attainment and school performance in the greater Middletown area.

Duke foundation officials said it’s important to “advance vital programs” in several local school districts.

Tim Abbott, Duke Energy community relations manager, said by giving back to the community where its employees work and live, it strengthens the development of young, successful students.

Ready!: The Campaign for Our Kids’ Future resulted from a community planning process led by the Middletown Community Foundation in partnership with the Middletown, Monroe, Edgewood, Madison and Franklin school districts, United Way, Butler County Educational Service Center, Miami University, Cincinnati State, many of the area’s largest employers and other stakeholders in the community, said T. Duane Gordon, the foundation’s executive director.

He said the Ready! plan, with a five-year price tag of $4.25 million, identified specific strategies and partners to improve early childhood education and strategies to work with the five school districts on supporting workforce development. Some strategies are those that have been proven work locally but require increased capacity to include all children needing the services, while others are innovations that have proven successful elsewhere and will be brought to the community for the first time, he said.

“The work we’re starting with several partner organizations will have a transformative impact on thousands of children in our community for years to come,” said Gordon, who added that about $2.7 million has been raised.

Other major contributions include AK Steel, the Miriam G. Knoll Charitable Foundation, Akers Packaging Service, Premier Health/Atrium Medical Center, Cohen, Gary and Sarah Kaup, Tina Breitenbach, Larry and Cathie Mulligan, David and Carole Schul and Tom and Mary Deas Wortley, with smaller donations from nearly 200 local families. The effort has been officially endorsed by all local school districts, all local Chambers of Commerce and the Middletown Area Unit of the NAACP, Gordon said.

Parts of the Ready! plan have already been implemented with other parts being phased in over the course of the next several months. The plan will:

• Expand the Educational Service Center’s home visitation program for local at-risk families with children birth to age 3 and age 3-5 if not in preschool programs;

• Create peer-to-peer parent ambassadors and expand parenting classes at the Robert “Sonny” Hill Community Center’s Parent Resource Center;

• Provide incentives for local preschools to work with 4C for Children to achieve state quality rating standards;

• Provide sliding-scale Bob Flagel Preschool Scholarships for local children to attend high-quality rated private preschools;

• Support transportation to local early childhood programs;

• Continue the Ready Schools kindergarten orientation program in the five local school districts in partnership with United Way;

• Work with local elementary schools on literacy enrichment programs for grades K-2;

• Provide community resource liaison social workers for local elementary schools;

• Staff a coordinator and professional evaluation position at United Way dedicated to Middletown early childhood programs;

• Provide grants to local school districts to support technology needs, standardized testing vouchers, and guidance assistance regarding workforce development, college prep and vocational education.