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St. John the Baptist School receives $50,000 grant

Students pictured working together on a project are, from left to right, Stephen Reinardy, Allison Wentzler, Tyler Kuhn and Billy Wilson. (Submitted photo)

St. John the Baptist Catholic School, Vermillion, has a long-time tradition of providing academic excellence for it students. 

The tradition was enhanced last week with the announcement that the Schulze Family Foundation at the Catholic Schools Center for Excellence in Minneapolis (Richard Schulze is the founder of Best Buy) has presented a $50,000 grant to the school to fund immediate needs in learning service for students, technology upgrades and offer additional scholarships. The school had submitted a grant application earlier this year.

And the grant amount could grow even larger. The restricted gift requires the promotion of a $25,000 alumni and friends challenge event which offers the potential to reach $75,000.

The Rev. Cole Kracke, parish pastor and school administrator, praises the grant and what it means to the school.

“We are overwhelmed at the generosity of Richard Schulze, his foundation’s priority around Catholic education and their strategic guidance for the use of these designated funds we have gained through CSCOE,” he said. “These are the high-priority areas of our small school that will see fast improvements with this injection of funding to ensure the viability of our parish school for generations to come.”

The 100-student school, located five miles southwest of Hastings, plans to establish and staff a student resource center within the school to specifically target the learning needs of students who might not qualify for government-funded Title One learning assistance, but who still need help in meeting the standards for learning. Plans also include programming for accelerated learners. The school hopes to begin planning and construction for the space immediately, with a grand opening date of September 2016.

For the short-term, a licensed teacher helps students on a one-on-one basis and in small groups during the afternoons, in addition to district Title One staff in the school.

“For years, we have not been able to offer the on-site extra help that some students need on both ends of the learning spectrum,” said interim principal sister Tresa Margret. “This grant will enable us to provide the staff and tools our students and their families deserve.”

Other uses of the money will include an upgrade to technology in classrooms, such as upgraded laptop computers, a mobile device cart, a foreign language curriculum, robot kits and information technology security and connectivity. The school will work with Tierney Brothers, an information technology consulting firm through CSCOE, to assess and prioritize technology needs.

“We are striving to provide the most-differentiated education experiences for our students who learn in many different ways,” said Kracke. “Technology enables this to happen along with our gifted teachers.”

What has occurred this year with the Schulze Family Foundation monies included the replacement of eight-year-old laptop computers with Chromebooks for sixth grade students.

Grant money previously received from the Schulze Family Foundation will fund continuing education experiences for teachers as a way to keep them current with the latest teaching strategies and techniques. The school is currently in a two-year relationship with a national consultant to bring differentiated instruction and multiple intelligence methods into the classrooms.

According to the Catholic Spirit newspaper, CSCOE, a nonprofit headquartered in Minneapolis, was created last spring to support the 79 Catholic prekindergarten-grade 8 schools in the archdiocese to help build enrollment and increase excellence.

The organization’s board includes Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens and representatives from the Aim Higher Foundation, the Catholic Community Foundation, the GHR Foundation and the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, all long-time Catholic school supporters.

Alumni and friends of the Vermillion school founded in 1958 can expect an invitation to contribute to the challenge grant event through a tax-deductible donation to the school. Checks may be mailed directly to St. John the Baptist School, 111 Main Street W., Vermillion, MN 55085; processed electronically online through the school and parish websites at www.stjohns-vermillion.com, or via a fundraising page set up at www.givemn.org (www.givemn.org/organization/410826791-7931342), look for Vermillion area code “55085” or Church of St. John the Baptist. Donors may also call the school office at 651-437-2644 to receive a donation envelope.

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