Donation to Greencastle-Antrim Elementary will be used for literacy and STEM programs

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot
VerStandig Media employees and their children who attend Greencastle-Antrim schools presented a check for $10,000 to school district representatives Oct. 7. The money will be used for elementary STEM and literacy.

Literacy and creativity at Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School got a boost last week with a $10,000 donation from VerStandig Media.

Chad Stover, elementary principal, said the call about the donation left him speechless at first, and nothing like this has happened before in the 15 years he's been principal.

VerStandig likes to support the community its employees live and work in, according to Blake Truman, vice president of the media company that owns five local radio stations — 104.7 WAYZ; 101.5 Bob Rocks; 92.1 The GOAT; and 1380 AM and 100.9 FM The Line.

Three employees have four children in the school system. They were on hand to learn about the school district's plans for the donation.

"We've been able to be a productive part of the business community and are able to give back at a time when perhaps others can't," Truman said about the donation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was accompanied at the elementary school by Ed Chapa, program director, and sons Bronson Whipple, fifth grade, and Alejandro Chapa, second grade; Stacy Blair, account executive and daughter Blaire Flanagan, fourth grade; Stacey Haynes, program director, and daughter Savannah Lundberg, first grade; and Lisa Wolfe, sales manager.

"We came up with two big ones," Stover told them, explaining the money will be split between literacy and STEM programs.

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Half of the money will be used to purchase very expensive libraries of books that would have been hard for the district to afford, but can quickly change the course of a child's reading ability, according to Dr. Lura Hanks, superintendent.

The district's "dream" list for literacy includes hi-lo books and decodable texts used in the intervention and learning support classrooms, Hanks said.

Hi-lo stands for high interest, low lexile or reading comprehension. They look like the chapter books the students' peers are reading. The books have interesting stories and compelling characters to interest children and build their confidence, according to Hanks. Decodable texts help bridge the phonics gap.

The books engage children in the joy of reading and "within a couple of weeks you can change the course of a child's reading," said Hanks, who talked about what happens when a child lights up and says, "I can read this."

Bronson Whipple, a Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School fifth-grader and son of VerStandig Media program director Ed Chapa, is shown with a 3-D printer in the STEM classroom at his school.


The elementary school has long offered a computer class, but that's been rearranged to a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum of 21st century skills, Stover said. Teachers at the elementary and primary schools are collaborating with their counterparts at the middle and high schools to develop a K-12 STEM curriculum.

Teacher John Root, who is converting the elementary computer program to STEM, called the donation a "godsend."

"There are great materials out there, but they're pricey," said Root, who plans to purchase a rock testing kit, digital microscope, wind generator and building bricks.

They will be added to the hands-on classroom where learning materials range from Popsicle sticks to 3-D printers. Projects such as building a weight-bearing bridge, a "Scream Machine" roller coaster or a bird's nest also include research and reports

"It's an exciting class, the kids get excited ... It's huge to get kids hands on," Root said. "The kids are excited when they go home."