Mifflin School has gotten lucky twice this year.
First, it dodged a bullet when the application for String Theory charter school was denied by the School Reform Commission.
Second, the school qualified for grants from the Trolley Car Cafe’s Teacher’s Fund. Started by Ken Weinstein, founder of the Trolley Car Cafe, about 7 years ago, the fund donates money to teachers to help with the costs of educational materials and programs.
Unlike the charter school decision, which was the work of distant bureaucrats, the Mifflin/Trolley Car collaboration is a truly local success story, one that began with a post on East Falls Local and ended with a new type of collaboration between East Falls business owners and the East Falls Development Corporation that Weinstein believes “will serve as a model for the way we administer grants in all of the communities in which we operate going forward.”
The innovative program began with a wish or, more specifically, a wish list.
An East Falls Local article this past December listed numerous items required by the Mifflin teachers, from sanitary wipes and fresh underwear for the kids to reading programs and textbooks. The Amazon Wish List caught the eye of Weinstein, due in large part to Gina Snyder’s efforts to broadcast the list to the East Falls business community.
Shortly after authorizing the grant money, it became obvious to Weinstein that Mifflin’s grant process would represent an exciting new direction for the program. Members of the grant committee (Gina Snyder, Bill Epstein, Amy Cohen, and Jasmine Fields) came up with the novel idea of soliciting donations from the East Falls business community for items not specifically related to education (printer paper, office supplies, etc.).
By collaborating with business, “it made the grant money more effective,” said Weinstein, “because teachers didn’t have to choose between office supplies and textbooks when it came time to spend. It really helped make the grant go much further.”
Since it’s Mifflin’s first year with the program, Weinstein expects it’ll be more successful next year. “It usually takes a year to get a school up to speed and my colleague, Amy Cohen, does a great job of educating the teachers on the grant process. This year it was bit late to get the grants started at Mifflin so there weren’t as many applications as we usually receive. We’re hoping there will be many more next year.”
Weinstein plans to use the “Mifflin model” in all future Teacher’s Fund grants, which could have far-ranging benefits, considering that eight other schools in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill participate in the program. “We’ll begin using it in the fall, when we begin the grant process over again. I’m looking forward to trying it out.”
In the meantime, Mifflin can always use help from its neighbors. Consider donating an item or two from the Mifflin Amazon Wish List. (Just click to ship directly to the school!) The list was created by teachers in all grades and has items for every budget. Even a small donation can make a huge difference:
You can also contact the Friends of Mifflin or Principal Leslie Mason for more ways to help or volunteer your services. No matter your interests or skills, the Friends has a way for you to help!
And keep an eye out for the Trolley Car fundraiser this fall. The two-week effort helps raise the money for the Teacher’s Fund grants.