, Muskogee, OK

December 4, 2012

Grant sets stage for improvements

Jimmie Johnson Foundation speeds help to MPS schools

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— A $90,509 grant to renovate Alice Robertson Junior High’s stage came just in time, said choir director Shalyn Gallaway.

“We are in big time need of help,” Gallaway said before poking her hand through a rip in the front curtain. “The grant will help replace the curtain, replace black curtains, get a new sound system, lights, a video projector and screen.”

AR was one of four Muskogee schools to receive a Jimmie Johnson Foundation/Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Champions Grant this week.

Other grant recipients are:

• Creek Elementary, $42,696 to create a fitness course and cooling station.

• Irving Elementary and Pershing Elementary, $50,000 for digital keyboard labs.

The schools were among 10 schools receiving grants, totaling $600,000. Other schools were in California and North Carolina.

“We are excited and very blessed,” Gallaway said about receiving the grant.

The grant will help refinish the stage’s wood floor as well as replace curtains.

She said that when she was notified about the grant Monday, she called AR video production teacher Joe Owens and said, “Are you sitting down?”

Owens said the school needed a new sound system for a long time.

“I’ve been here 20 years, and we’re still using the same sound system,” he said. “The sound system and lights will help students gain skills they can take to high school.”

The grant also could help the school open up stage space currently used for storage, Gallaway said.

Creek’s grant will fund a fitness trail with 12 stations where kids can build muscle and dexterity, Principal Rick Hoos said.

“We see on the news about kids needing to be more fit and needing more activity,” Hoos said.

Fitness stations include horizontal bars and pieces where students can climb hand over hand, he said. There also will be a shaded area where kids can rest.

The fitness trail will go next to the school’s jogging track. Hoos said he hopes to have the fitness trail finished in March or early April.

Music students at Pershing and Irving will have the chance to learn basic piano skills, said Pershing music teacher Teresa Pointer.

The grant will fund 12 to 24 keyboards at each school, and each keyboard is hooked up to the teacher’s keyboard, Pointer said.

“We found that many of our students don’t have opportunity to learn piano by a private teacher,“ she said, adding that studies show a link between piano playing and improved spatial and learning skills.

 Each grant recipient received a custom 2012 Jimmie Johnson Foundation/

Lowe's Toolbox for Education Champions Grant display. The displays, which are authentic aluminum race car doors, were provided by The Real Art of Racing.

 Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or