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Public schools alone can't meet the rising needs of students state-wide, the outgoing state superintendent told a room full of educators and others Tuesday.

"It takes an entire community, even those who don't have children in school," Elizabeth Burmaster said.

"The La Crosse Public Education Foundation does that by

bringing the entire community together in support of public education."

The foundation awarded more than $40,000 in grants Tuesday to the La Crosse School District for the 2009-10 school year - including $20,000 for new, creative projects that otherwise would not be possible.

The organization receives its funding from community members, businesses and endowments before making annual distributions to the schools and educators.

While the financial support provided through foundations is vital, they also provide strength through human capital, Burmaster said.

Through education "we can ensure that the next generation will be prepared for the workplace and for citizenship," she said. "We are all going to be better off … if we keep our schools strong."

Burmaster did not seek re-election to the post she's held since 2001 and will leave office July 6 to head Nicolet Area Technical College in Rhinelander, Wis.

She anticipates her final three months will be among her busiest as she works to distribute federal stimulus money.

"It's a historic time in education, to really transform our school system and deliver innovative and creative programs to our children," she said.

Other honors

The La Crosse Public Education Foundation on Tuesday also honored Sue Peterson as volunteer of the year, Logistics Health Inc. as corporate investor and Cameron and Rachel Gundersen as dedicated supporters.

Venture grants

The La Crosse Public Education Foundation awarded the following Venture Grants for the 2009-10 school year at its "Invest in Education" awards luncheon Tuesday at the Logistics Health Cargill Room:

  • Developing a Sense of Place: Richard Frost, Longfellow Middle School, Rachel and Cameron Gundersen Grant Recipient, $1,060. Eighth-grade students will develop a stronger awareness of the lands and rivers in the La Crosse and Mississippi River regions.
  • Traveling Art Suitcases: Amoreena Rathke, Angela Szabo, Maria Mason and Lyndsey Beck, Franklin and Roosevelt Elementary Schools and Coulee Montessori, $388.45. Small suitcases filled with art supplies will be available for check out to foster artistic growth and development outside of class.
  • Marching Band Experience: Nancy Pilmonas, Logan Middle, and Mark Pomplun, Lincoln Middle, $1,283.50. Marching percussion sections will replace old equipment. Students will play in parades.
  • The Bowl Throwing Project: Mai Chao Duddeck, Longfellow Middle, $1,555. An after-school project to make bowls on pottery wheels and sell them at a public chili cook-off, to give students an opportunity for community service, artistic expression, promote the arts and to study pottery.
  • Writing by Dictation: Sue Retzlaff, Mary Robinson and Cathy Sobania, Central and Logan high schools, $509.64. Some students cannot express themselves in writing, but through the technology of speech-recognition software can increase career options.
  • Reading Comprehension Board Games: Abby Ryan, Emerson Elementary, $287.41. The games reinforce classroom learning while capturing students' attention.
  • The Reading Café: Karen A. Condit, Hamilton Early Learning Center, $492.36. The Reading Café will be a place where young students can eat lunch while enjoying stories read by community leaders, school personnel and other guests.
  • Playaway Library: Lisa Altreuter, Emerson, $374.91. Playaway technology will give struggling or reluctant readers a step up in the classroom or independently through small devices that allow them to listen to books or follow along.
  • Wildlife Movement Study: Ryan Rieber, Tim Sprain, Gina Morken, Jeff Hansen and Randy Ketelhut, Logan Middle, $1,769.97. This wildlife study will use real-time technology to study the movement of animals in their natural habitats.
  • Walking Across America: Chester Janke, Logan Middle, $900. New technology will record distance, pace, and calorie intake during exercise workouts at Logan Middle School's new Global Village.
  • Virtual Travels through Bugs, Coins and Scavenger Hunts: Linda Watson, North Woods International, $650. Using handheld GPS devices, "travel bugs," and custom designed "geocaching coins," students will be able to track the travels of the coins and bugs across each continent and the U.S. through the use of the Internet and field trips. The bugs will continue to move from cache to cache for years through international guests that visit the school.
  • School Zone News Show: Cindy Halter and Debra Keller, Franklin Elementary, $1,500. This grant will fund updated technology for Franklin's video production news show that is broadcast on their Web page.
  • Restoring a Prairie From the Grassroots Up: Gregg Erickson, La Crosse Central High School, $2,000. Students will work with the town of Shelby and other partners to help restore a wetland and become part of the studying, planning, cutting, burning, planting and maintaining of a wetland prairie.
  • ODYSSEY: A Science Exploration: Elizabeth Ramsay, Longfellow Middle, $108. A new class subscription to the science magazine, "Odyssey."
  • In and Out of the Classroom Research: Jean Crayton, Lincoln Middle, $3,107.40. Handheld technology will give students the ability to conduct research for their presentations, experiments, demonstrations and papers, and to use online tools such as graphing calculators to encourage critical dialogue between peers and educators.
  • Globally Connecting with Kids: Robin Fleig and Samantha Parkhurst, Logan Middle, $1,000. Digital cameras and video cameras will allow students in the new choice program, The Global Village, to explore possibilities of cross-cultural interactions.
  • Fishing for Fun: Fred Kusch, Friends of the Upper Mississippi Fishery Services, $1,000. Backpacks will be assembled and maintained by the group and kept in four elementary and two middle school building libraries for students and parents to check out.
  • Social Skills - LIVE!: Beth Young, Longfellow Middle, $900. Through review of video camera clips, students can focus on the nonverbal behaviors that frequently affect relationships and limit their potential.
  • Hmong Education Project: Wendy Mattison, fine arts department, La Crosse School District, $1,304.36. La Crosse schools and the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association will create an educational experience about Hmong history and culture for all district fourth-grade students and teachers at the Hmong Cultural and Community Center.
  • Euro Gamers After-school Club: Amanda Garlock, Northwoods International, $482.89. An assortment of international Euro games focusing on strategy, geography, math and spatial reasoning will help students of all academic levels learn history, culture, social skills and cooperation at an after-school club.

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