On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian destroyed parts of Southwest Florida. Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) was unable to resume school on Monday, October 3, 2022, because of staffing shortages not because of structural issues of the schools. Dr. Patton expressed deep concerns about the retention of the CCPS educator workforce. Due to the storm, our educator workforce is facing serious challenges with housing and transportation.
The Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions For Learning leaped into action to help address the CCPS retention challenges. We joined voices with the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations to secure an initial $350,000 gift from the Volunteer Florida Foundation’s Florida Disaster Fund which set our strategy in motion.
Champions For Learning has extensive experience in selection processes. We leaned on our experiences and developed a grant application, borrowing from a disaster relief nonprofit to build our Hurricane Ian application. Our grant application was posted on the CCPS website, and our application window was November 11, 2022 through November 30, 2022.
Eligible applicants must work for Collier County Public Schools (including CCPS Charter Schools). Applicants must demonstrate that they have sustained damage to their home or vehicles due to Hurricane Ian. Applicants were required to document all financial information related to all insurance claims and possible temporary living situations and temporary transportation solutions.
Champions For Learning put together a selection committee 100% composed of dedicated members of our community to make the award decisions. The committee utilized a selection rubric designed to identify educators with the greatest relief needs while removing any opportunity for personal biases. The committee maintained the goal of anchoring the Collier County educator workforce with intentionality, consistency, and fairness in their methodology for awarding.
As we gleaned a deeper understanding of the individual needs and shared our methodology and process, securing additional funding was less of a challenge. Champions For Learning secured a $587,830 gift from the Collier Community Foundation. We worked with Consortium of Florida Education Foundations to approach Governor and First Lady DeSantis for an additional $250,000 from Volunteer Florida Foundation’s Florida Disaster Fund.
The committee reviewed 179 applications, and we are providing funding to 177 applicants. Two of the applicants are no longer employed by Collier County Public Schools.
On Friday, January 20, 2023, Champions For Learning began distributing the funds to educators and staff. This funding will help with 1) deductibles for homeowners, flood, and car insurance, 2) rental increases for those who had to change rentals due to the storm, 3) first last and security deposits for those who had to move due to the storm, 4) those whose homes or mobile homes were not insurable and they experienced a total loss, 5) those whose homes or mobile homes were not insurable and they experienced a partial loss and were displaced, 6) storage expenses incurred for items that were salvaged, 7) household items (furniture, etc.), and 8) home repairs not covered by insurance. Our efforts are affording Champions For Learning to allocate more than $1.2 million for our Hurricane Ian response.
The Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions For Learning has been committed to ensuring that these funds that have been entrusted to us for distribution achieve the goal of our donors to assist educators in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. We are proud to be the conduit to ensure that our educators are anchored. We are proud that our donors invested in our Hurricane Ian response due to the integrity and intentionality of our selection and award process. We are proud that we can assist with ensuring Collier County Public Schools with their most pressing issue around educator retention. We are proud to be champions for learning. Education is everything.
Barbara Evans, CFRE
President and CEO