We at the Record applaud the College for increasing the number of school districts the Olmsted Award program will give grants to this year.
We commend the College for giving the money directly to the local districts. The individual schools know how to best serve their communities, so it is fitting that the individual districts come up with the proposals and the College is not simply telling them how to spend the grants.
While this increase clearly benefits the local districts to which the grants go, it also benefits the College to help improve local schools. Having good schools in the area helps to attract professors with children, who will want to send their children to good schools. Put succinctly, better schools attract better professors. Assisting the local schools also helps to benefit the College’s relationship with the Berkshire area outside of Williamstown.
Not only does giving money strengthen Williams’ reputation in the Berkshires, but reaching outside of Williamstown proper is also a great move by the College. We are a part of this community, and we should want the schools in the area to be as good as they can be. Giving additional funding helps to accomplish this goal.
However, we at the Record have some additional recommendations. It could be beneficial to have a staff member or two from the Center for Learning in Action on the committee that decides which school districts to fund, as these people, more so than the average College employee, have a better sense of how to use the additional money most effectively.
Additionally, it might be interesting to increase participation in the process in order to educate students on the surrounding area and grant-giving and to increase student involvement with the local schools. In recent years, the College has encouraged students to become more involved in the local community, and this project seems like an excellent opportunity for that to happen.
Finally, it appears there is a bit of inequality in this system. All districts receive the same $5000 grant regardless of size. As larger districts theoretically will have more ideas than smaller ones, larger districts receive less money per idea. It would be nice to have the size of the grant be proportional to the number of affected students. It would also be beneficial for the grants to take into account need, as some schools might benefit from additional funding more than other schools. If the College is considering broadening the scope of the grant, it should reexamine how the funds are distributed.