Instructional Services Division, from CVES SUCCESS Stories: Issue XI 2019-2020 (pdf)
Shelly Manchester, who oversees ISC’s Grants Procurement Service, helps school districts access millions of dollars each year for a myriad of purposes. From improving literacy, arts, counseling and physical education programs to buying new cafeteria equipment, increasing energy-efficiency or decreasing bus emissions, Shelly works to identify the needs of component districts, both instructional and operational, and finds grant funding to address them.
Shelly identifies strong partnerships with our component districts as the key to winning grants. “As a grant writer who works with school districts, the best thing I can have is an administrator, teacher or staff member acting as a point person at the district who is really passionate about what they want to accomplish. They must be willing to put the work in with me because I can’t be the expert in all areas.”
Shelly first became involved with the Peru Central School District’s Pre-Kindergarten program in March 2018, when she stepped in to help administer their state and federal grants. Peru’s grant funded Pre-K program was only about a year into operation when it was compelled to downsize due to the lack of certified teachers in their partnering agency. Even prior to downsizing, the district maintained a growing wait list of students for the program. As soon as Shelly confirmed the NYS budget included another round of Pre-K Expansion Grant funding, she went to work with Peru Primary School Principal, Michelle Rawson.
Grant writing requires a variety of skills, including data analysis, program and budget development and concise technical writing. According to Shelly, “The districts that are successful in obtaining grants are working far in advance of answering requests for proposals from the funding agencies.”
Shelly continued, “Michelle worked very hard on collecting a lot of data, which she was able to give me well in advance. I wrote this application with Michelle in about 3 weeks, which is pushing it, but Peru had a sound Pre-K program that was primed for expansion. Since it wasn’t a new program, I could write about their existing curriculum and use their assessment data, and ultimately we were successful in securing the grant.”
Michelle Rawson agreed that data, and Shelly’s technical expertise were critical to their success. “At Peru, we had a Pre-K program, so the challenge was looking at out existing program and extending those practices in the new expansion grant. We already had collected data on outcomes, so we knew that what we were already doing was working well for our Pre-K students, preparing them with a strong foundation to succeed in Kindergarten and beyond. Shelly and I collaborated over the phone and through email. Honestly, I talked to her more than I did my husband during that time, but she was great to work with. She is knowledgeable about what the funding source was looking for in the grant application.”
At Peru Primary, Michelle Rawson found space to add two new Pre-K classrooms, doubling the size of their full day Pre-K program to four rooms of 18 students per class and greatly reducing the waiting list of 85 students from September 2019. While canvasing for a collaborative partner as required for the grant, discussions with North Country Kids, Inc. uncovered their excitement to expand their working relationship with the district and their willingness to meet all program requirements to serve an additional classroom of 10 students.
The combination of Peru’s compelling need for Pre-K program expansion, data demonstrating the effectiveness of their existing Pre-K program, strong collaborative partnerships and effective writing by Shelly of ISC’s Grant Procurement Services spelled success in a highly competitive funding arena. Peru’s award of $341,847 annually will support the three new Pre-K classrooms which accepted their first students in January 2020.