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WMS receives $266,500 grant for sustainable school improvements and 5 faculty-staff $1,000 ‘excellence’ awards

Gail and Tom Gimbel, above left, pose for a photo with WMS Principal Matt Horne, Community Liaison Patti Cook and Waimea Middle School students, from left, Lilly Lindsey, Kahealani Etherton, Dillon DuPont and Gavin Hannum, to enable the school to become more financially sustainable. The Gimbels recently presented their Neilen Foundation check for $266,500 to Waimea Middle School. (PHOTO COURTESY OF WMS FOR NHN)
Gail and Tom Gimbel, above left, pose for a photo with WMS Principal Matt Horne, Community Liaison Patti Cook and Waimea Middle School students, from left, Lilly Lindsey, Kahealani Etherton, Dillon DuPont and Gavin Hannum, to enable the school to become more financially sustainable. The Gimbels recently presented their Neilen Foundation check for $266,500 to Waimea Middle School. (PHOTO COURTESY OF WMS FOR NHN)

Waimea Middle School recently received a $266,500 school improvement grant from Tom and Gail Gimbel’s Neilen Foundation to help the public conversion charter school become financially sustainable to better support academic improvement for all students.

The Gimbels, who are becoming Hawaii Island homeowners after having visited frequently for decades from California, made the first sustainability grant received by the school through its not-for-profit Ho’okako’o Local School Board. The grant will address expensive, ongoing operating costs such as electricity and busing. WMS currently spends about $50,000 annually on electricity and $140,000 on student busing. The goal of the grant is to convert the school from high cost fossil fuel dependency to a “green” photovoltaic system, and also “seed” purchase of a bus.

“These substantial investments will reduce what the school must spend annually and allow us to re-invest those funds into the classroom to support students and teachers,” said WMS Principal Matt Horne. “The funds were donated to Ho’okako’o, which immediately put them to work for the school.”

The grant also will help fund meaningful enrichment opportunities for students such as WMS’ popular but modestly funded afterschool athletics and K(Arts) programs.

This past week the Gimbel’s surprised everyone at the school by inviting faculty and staff, families and students as well as the entire Waimea community to nominate outstanding WMS teachers and staff for one of five new $1,000 cash “Culture of Excellence” Awards.

“The key to a bright future for all of us lies in today’s classrooms,” said the Gimbels in announcing the awards program. “The purpose of these awards is to recognize those outstanding educators at Waimea Middle School who are beating the odds and showing strong growth for all students, strong implementation of best practices, and the leadership to share their success and grow the school as a whole.”

“Culture of Excellence” awards recognize that making a dramatic impact for all students is multi-faceted. All contributions may be considered, both within and outside the classroom.”

The five categories for the new “Culture of Excellence” awards include:

1. Student Academic Growth – Some outstanding individuals, be they teachers or other school staff, have a measurable and profound impact on student achievement through their persistence and focus.

2. Teacher Leadership – The recipient of the “Culture of Excellence – Teacher Leadership” award not only demonstrates exceptional professional practice, but also intentionally shares his or her successes, resources, and struggles with other to improve their practice as well. .

3. Personal and Professional Growth – A “Culture of Excellence” is characterized, primarily, by continuous improvement for the organization and for individuals.

4. Caring and Inspiration – Everyone can think of that adult from their past who has made an extraordinary impact on them through being a caring adult and inspiring them to greatness.

5. Community Connections – To provide the best education possible for students and to create a “Culture of Excellence” that lasts requires resources and connections beyond the schoolhouse walls.

Nominations for these new “Culture of Excellence” awards must be submitted by April 4 using the online nomination form found at http://goo.gl/DP0eRz and should include as much evidence as possible to support how the nominee demonstrates the characteristics outlined in the selection criteria, said the Gimbels.

After the nomination period has closed, candidates will be invited to accept candidacy and submit additional materials by April 25 and the awards will be announced before the end of the school year. Questions may be emailed to Tom and Gail Gimbel at neilanfoundation@gmail.com. To read more about these awards, visit www.WaimeaMiddleSchool.org and click on the link at the top of the home page.