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Grant will aid P.E. programs

The Butler County School System has received an approximately $45,000 grant to help boost its physical education program with the help of Auburn University. Pictured from left to right are Auburn graduate assistants John Jones, Britney Wis and Christopher Rhodes, Greenville High School principal Joseph Dean and Auburn professor Peter Hastie. Advocate Staff/Patty Vaughan

With the help of Auburn University, the Butler County School System will be getting an enhancement to its physical education program.

Tera Simmons, curriculum director for Butler County Schools, got word on Tuesday that the school system has received a grant worth approximately $45,000 that will help bring three graduate assistants to Butler County to assist with the system’s physical education programs.

About $27,000 comes from Auburn University and the remaining $17,000 will be matching funds from other resources according to Peter Hastie, the grant writer and a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Auburn University. The grant will allow three graduate assistants to come to Butler County to help in Greenville High School, Greenville Middle School and either Georgiana School or McKenzie School.

“We started last year trying to think of some ways that we could improve our physical education programs,” Simmons said. “We already have good ones but we wanted to make them better.”

In the edition of the 2011 Alabama Kids Count, the Voice of Alabama Children advocacy group ranked Butler County 53 out of 67 in the state in the wellbeing of the children in the county. The ranking is based on five indicators that include low weight births, births to unmarried teens, children in single-parent families, children in poverty and the high school graduation rate.

Armed with this information, Hastie decided that he would put something together for Butler County to help the schools as well as the Office of Outreach at Auburn, which was seeking grant applications.

“The nature of my proposal was to get some of my students who are graduating this term, who are interning at the moment, but will be certified teachers working in the schools in Butler County,” Hastie said. “The grant doesn’t pay for a teacher’s a salary but it pays for graduate assistantship.”

It will allow the three graduate assistants to receive free master’s degree tuition while receiving a salary of $1,000 per month. The graduates will take classes online to gain the master’s degree.

“The system gets free teachers and the students get a free master’s degree,” Hastie said. “It’s a win-win.”

The graduate assistants will be coming for the 2012-13 school year. Hastie plans to come to Butler County every two or three weeks to evaluate the program. He will be traveling to Butler County, to provide professional development for current teachers, observe the physical education programs and decide where to spend money to purchase new materials.

“I think there was a commitment from the superintendent’s office and the schools as well to try and see what they could to do to get better,” Hastie said. “I went down there and met with the teachers, and the whole plan is that we can do some professional development that will sustain itself once these three folks are done with the year.”