Payson people love their schools.
At least, the district has gotten some big-dollar donations this month.
A grateful Payson school board this week accepted $54,000 in donations from the community, which will fund a program to boost college attendance, art programs in the elementary schools, sports, student clubs and provide school supplies.
The biggest donations came from Sherry Cowan, a Payson woman who donated $30,000 to hire an art teacher for the district’s two elementary schools. Currently, classroom teachers offer art lessons and projects, but the district doesn’t offer a comprehensive art education program in the lower grades. The new art teacher will interject expertise and resources to bolster art programs in the lower grades, where creativity flourishes.
One recent study by the Brookings Institute compared schools that expanded their arts programs to similar schools that did not. The study found students in the schools that added arts education showed a 3.6% decrease in disciplinary problems, a 13% improvement in writing scores and an 8% increase in showing “compassion for others.”
The board also celebrated a $15,000 donation from the MHA Foundation to launch the new AVID Leadership Program in the district. The national program has provided teacher training, curriculum and support to help boost college attendance and high school graduation rates — especially in schools with lots of low-income families. The district has already started sending top administrators to training programs to learn ways to interject group projects, new learning tactics, critical thinking skills and other techniques.
The MHA Foundation also paid for an honors banquet for students at Rim Country Middle School, which was listed as a non-cash, in-kind donation.
Moreover, the district received several major donations from the Mogollon Sporting Association, which every year raises money to support both high school and outdoor sports. The donations included $2,560 for the high school wrestling team and $4,000 for the high school softball team.
Assorted individual donations rounded out the heartening show of community support.
Jere and Sharry Jarrell donated $1,000 to help buy supplies for homeless students. The district has a dismaying number of students who are either physically homeless or displaced by problems at home so they’re couch surfing with friends and relatives. The district used to get federal grant money to provide services for homeless students, who often struggle in school amid a family crisis. Community donations have made up for some of the reduction in grant money in the past few years.
The district received three donations to the food service program to make sure kids get a good meal in the day. That includes $600 from Shalice Brockett, $100 from Catherine Stearns and $200 from Community Presbyterian.
Other donations included $200 from the Kiwanis Club to support the Key Club, $500 from Forrest Gressley to support the wrestling team, $159 from Quality Movers for the basketball team, and $200 from Michael Ledoux for JRE school supplies.