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Support for Sparks students adds up with free calculators
by Jessica Garcia
Nov 08, 2009 | 3453 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Alice Maxwell Elementary School fourth graders Brianna Ambario-Pena and Andrew Delgado check out their free calculators on Thursday.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Alice Maxwell Elementary School fourth graders Brianna Ambario-Pena and Andrew Delgado check out their free calculators on Thursday.
Laura White is currently teaching her fourth grade class at Alice Maxwell Elementary School the concept of order of operations in math. To help check their work, they’ve been using large calculators provided by Washoe County School District that student Jorge Martin, 9, said don’t work half the time.

Martin’s situation was remedied on Thursday after the Sparks Centennial Sunrise Rotary Club donated 1,587 calculators, one for every fourth grader in Sparks at all 20 elementary schools.

“These work better than the other ones,” Martin said, who added he struggles with two-digit long division.

The students in White’s class and that of teacher Christina Duncan all had plenty of questions for Rotarians Rand Tanner, president Susan Day and Sparks Fire Chief Andy Flock, who brought boxes of solar-powered, six-function calculators.

“Do we get to keep them?” was the first question one student asked right away.

White said she’s gotten by on class sets, but added that having calculators won’t necessarily make the concepts easier.

“They still have to know the concepts,” White said. “And some don’t have the means to have their own calculator. It’s great.”

The Rotarians split up and visited all the schools Thursday. Locally, there are more than 700 members of different Rotary clubs in Reno and Sparks. Other projects members have completed include building a playset for Greenbrae Elementary School and restoring a house for residents in the community.

Tanner said math was one of the few subjects he was good at and spent part of his career working for Morgan Stanley as a stock broker. He also served in the U.S. Navy and used computers as part of his work.

The Rotarians, who select a project that benefits the community every year, were able to make the donation through a district simplified grant and made a deal with the Washoe County School District in which each entity provided half of the total amount of $2,300 for all the calculators. Tanner said a Rotarian’s connection with Creative Monogram, which placed the club’s logo on the back of the calculators, made the donations possible.

Last year, every third grader received a dictionary.

Maxwell principal Denise Dufrene said the Rotarians’ gesture will contribute to her students’ learning.

“It’s incredible,” she said. “It’s such a gift when the community steps up to support kids, especially the city of Sparks and our surrounding organizations.”

Maxwell, a Title I school, has 83 percent of its students receiving free and reduced lunches, which means the majority of its families are low-income.

“We rely on the support of the parents to help the students at home and get them here daily,” DuFrene said. “We have really great support.”

Flock said less than a year on the job as chief, he managed to find spare time and joined the Rotary group.

“It’s a fun environment,” he said. “The community’s given a lot to me so this is a way for me to give back.”
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