Brian Klasner faced a safety and security issue at East Side High School in Newark, NJ, but that problem was only slightly more daunting than writing the grant application to solve it.
“I have applied for grants before. Usually, it includes finding all the materials and searching for the grant myself. It’s a lot of pressure and anxiety.”
But as the school’s Director of Innovative Academies, Brian knew something had to be done. East Side had over 2,045 students to protect in an urban environment. Low household incomes qualified over 80% of them for free or reduced-price lunch, 26% needed extra help as English Language Learners, and 17% were students with disabilities. Those needs all demanded funding, yet the school’s need for security resources was equally profound.
Brian had built a relationship with School Specialty as a trusted supplier. Together they learned about the availability of grant dollars from the School Violence Prevention Program, part of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program at the US Department of Justice.
“Our relationship became very organic as we discussed the needs for our school,” Brian recalls. School Specialty offered him its specialist former state police security expert Joe Wilson.
“As Brian and I worked on a solution to the school’s security concerns, the district Board of Education communicated its policy that any solution had to be districtwide and benefit all buildings equally,” Joe recalled.
“We recognized that Brian would be able to get the safety benefits he needed with a product solution called Classroom Evacuation and Lockdown Kits for all the district’s buildings—something that the Board of Education was happy with and could endorse.”
“School Specialty has been amazing,” Brian enthused. “They helped us put together support for the grant and helped us start the process for it. Having a support team like them just took some of the pressure off. It was great having somebody to help share the work.
Brian also appreciated that School Specialty understood the realities of his job. “Most of the items we work with are time sensitive. This group was very professional and quick to respond.”
For his part, Joe was happy to lend a hand. “Brian saw that we understand the complexities of getting funding in today’s environment. He saw that we stay flexible and always keep the school’s best interests up front to work towards successful funding.”
The job of applying for this grant is done, but Brian’s gratitude is lasting.
“I recommend School Specialty to any school looking for a reliable and transparent group of people to help them navigate the challenging nuances of grant writing,” he emphasized. “I look forward to continuing this partnership as I move forward, finding the funds to make this school better.”