The $1 Million Shopping List

The $1 Million Shopping List

Sheppard Elementary bulks up on globally competitive resources in math, reading, science



Since 2015, Sheppard Elementary has received two grants totaling $1 million. The two grants, each worth $500,000, are in the process of injecting $1 million in supplies and equipment into the school to better serve its military children in math, reading and science.

$1 million -- That’s some shopping list. In fact, it’s so intense that the first year of each grant is set aside as a “planning year” so research can be done on how to match school needs with appropriate equipment.

The school is getting great results from the money it’s already spent. For example, Sheppard spent money to bring in more classroom tutors, then 100 percent of 5th grade students passed their reading and math STAAR tests. Nobody thinks that’s a coincidence!

Lauryn Taylor is DoDEA Project Director. She oversees the research and the outlay of funds from both grants given to Sheppard. She wrote the second grant. Here, she tells us what it’s like to spend $1 million over a period of eight years from 2015-2022.


How did this money come to town?

A: In 2015, we received a grant titled, “Sheppard Jets Aim High in Math.” It focused on math achievement of military dependent students in grades 3-6. It will improve students’ math achievement by giving them the chance to use BOXLIGHT Television Panels and Qwizdom OKTOPUS Software as new instructional tools.

Teachers are using these tools to implement the WFISD elementary math curriculum. The goal is to help students meet or exceed standard on the STAAR tests.

Each grant is incorporated into the school over a period of five years. With the first grant, we’re in Year 4 now.


In 2017, we received a second grant titled, “Project AIRS: Advancing Instruction in Reading and Science.” This grant was designed to improve the College and Career Readiness outcomes of military dependents by giving them more in-class supports in reading and science. Those in-class supports will come through project-based learning, tutors and substitutes.

Sheppard will also create a Media Center and a Makerspace to expose students to 21st century learning. The grant also provides a 1:1 ratio of technology for every student – putting a Chromebook in every student’s hand.

The grant will pay for field trips to inspire students with college and career opportunities and to bring in contracted professionals who can teach students new skills in enrichment clubs.

This grant runs from 2017 through 2022. We’re in Year 2 now. The first year was a planning year; now we are starting to spend the money from this second grant.


Q: So let’s talk about exactly what this money will buy.

A: OK. To start, each Sheppard student has received his or her own Chromebook in a 1:1 initiative. In 2016, everyone in grades 3 through 6 received a Chromebook. Then pre-K through grade 2 received Chromebooks in 2017. Even 4-year-olds have a 1:1 device-to-child ratio in each classroom. It’s been amazing to see the difference the Chromebooks have made.


For example, Jennifer Tanksley is a 6th grade science teacher. She has a digital science classroom and uses Chromebooks every day. Students log into Google Classroom. There is student-centered learning going on. They will participate in activities like, and students will review concepts they’ve learned in class by competing live in a digital quiz of their knowledge. They work as teams to achieve the best score.


Q: What else did you buy?

A: Our two math classrooms have what we call BOXLIGHT TVs. These are interactive touch screen panels with build-in computers that cost about $7,000 apiece. Each one can be used like a flat screen TV or can be collapsed horizontally. Kids can circle around it and work on its multi-touch surface in small groups. It’s great for tutoring.

Our second grant will bring flexible seating to all Sheppard classrooms. We started the process with District funds, but now teachers will have about $2,500 per classroom to spend. Teachers are preparing wish lists of what they need. Every classroom on this campus will have flexible seating by the end of the year. The flexible seating will provide kids with a space that can be comfortable for them to do their work in small groups and individually.

Sheppard will get a variety of seating, including standing tables, wobbly stools, stability ball chairs, lap desks, pillows, and white board tables.

Our second grant is helping us turn our library into a media center. We will have an interactive touch panel TV in there. The Library will also include a Maker Space so students can build hands-on projects.

Our library will also get flexible seating. Sara Rennhack is helping teachers oversee the media center by purchasing a 3D printer, robotics kits and Break Out EDU kits. We have a vision to include computer coding instruction in our library.

Our Student Council’s broadcast studio – the JetTV Room – will also get an upgrade of its studio equipment.

We purchased the Lego Robotics kits that students use to build robots. The grant also pays a $800-per-teacher stipend to give them the incentive to pour back into kids, plus supply money for their enrichment clubs.

We are not a Title 1 campus, so we do not receive Title 1 funding. This grant funding has opened up a lot of possibilities and given us things that kids in Dallas school districts have. It’s been amazing so far.


Q: Anything else?

A: We are making sure that we’re using our funds to support our teachers. We sent seven teachers to technology conferences during the summer, trips that were fully paid for by the grant.  They come back and train the rest of our teachers.

We also now have the funding to pay for in-class tutors. We have three certified teachers coming in two days a week. They are working in the math classes for grades 3-6, helping the teachers. This has been the biggest benefit: to see other certified teachers in the classroom. It’s a night-and-day difference. We had 100 percent of students pass math and reading STAAR tests in 5th grade. It’s those in-class supports that helped Sheppard achieve.

We are also using Imagine Math with grades 2-6 on Chromebooks. They are differentiated math lessons based on each student’s individual level. Originally this resource was provided to us from the state free of charge, then the state stopped paying for it. It now costs $6,000 for a one year site license for one campus. We re-allocated grant funding to continue this amazing program and it shows in our students’ progress in math.


Q: How many students are enrolled at Sheppard Elementary?

A: We have 315 students, total. As crazy as it sounds, to purposefully spend $1 million on 315 students is hard. We don’t want to overwhelm ourselves. We would like to continue the cycle of winning grants so that we can use the money to continue to grow our students and staff. Sheppard Elementary is a blessed campus.