Grant efforts centralized for Ann Arbor schools, coordinator in place

Teacher Grant-Writing Workshop

Chris Barry
Contact Chris Barry for the Jan. 13 workshop.

What: A how-to workshop on applying for the spring cycle of teacher grants through the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation.
When: Thursday, Jan. 13 at 4:15-5:15 p.m. at the Balas Administration Building instructional services conference room, 2555 S. State St.
Details: Reserve a spot by Monday, Jan. 10 by e-mailing Chris Barry at


By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service

For the first time, the Ann Arbor Public Schools will centrally coordinate its efforts to secure grants for the district and individual schools.

Chris Barry has been hired as the district’s Grants and Volunteer Coordinator, tapping grant resources and assisting teachers and other staff members who are pursuing individual grants.

Chris Barry
Chris Barry is the new Grants and Volunteer Coordinator for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Although she will devote most of her time to creating and running the grants office, she will also coordinate the district’s volunteer program, previously handled by Norma McCuiston who retired in 2010. McCuiston’s job duties were restructured and divided among several people.

“We have never had a designated grants person,” explained Director of Communications Liz Margolis, who oversees the grants function. “Having a person to do districtwide grants and be a point person for staff and teachers will be a huge benefit for us. “

Margolis said one of the goals in filling the position is to eventually have it be self-funded with grants. The position is a one-year contract post.

Barry most recently served as the communications and programs director for the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation and as executive director for the Wild Swan Theater in Ann Arbor. She has experience with grant writing and administration at a number of other theater venues in the Chicago area and also held a secondary teaching certificate and has taught high school English.

She grew up in Ann Arbor, is married and has two children who have attended the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

“I’m really excited and honored to be part of this district,” Barry said. “I really respect the teachers here and I hope to help them with their important work. It’s a fun kind of job to start – meeting with people and seeing the possibilities of serving our district.”

Barry said she will actively seek out grant opportunities, write some of the grants herself, and work with staff members to get large numbers of grant applications into the pipeline. “I want to get as many ‘asks’ out there as possible,” she said. “It’s like auditioning: The more you do, the better you get at it.”

‘I’m really excited and honored to be part of this district. I really respect the teachers here and I hope to help them with their important work. It’s a fun kind of job to start – meeting with people and seeing the possibilities of serving our district.’ – Chris Barry

Her role will include ensuring that grant requests are clearly focused and articulated. To that end, she plans to centralize a clearinghouse of information including a history and mission of the district, a grant writing tips booklet and other pertinent information that can be used to help secure grants.

She will create sample grant funding letters, requests for proposals and other information that will be available at her office in the Balas Administration Building and online. Her plan is to have a website linked to the district site for staff to access online resources to streamline the grant-writing process.

“I need to be the big eye of the district to see what grants are being written,” she said. “I will get a handle on what is out there and who is pursuing grants so that we don’t duplicate efforts. I can confirm there are a lot of resources we have not pursued.”

She will help staff in reviewing their grants and assist with their timely application, but will also do direct grant writing, especially for larger, district grants. Her role, she explained, is to match a funder with a teacher’s needs: “I liken it to being a librarian: Putting the right book in the right person’s hand at the right time.”

In her new post, Barry will work closely with AAPS Educational Foundation Executive Director Wendy Correll and with newly appointed Business Partnership Coordinator Annette Ferguson to assess needs and match those with grant opportunities – both in direct dollars and in kind. An online staff resource assessment survey will be conducted this month to determine district needs, where grants might be sought, how many teachers and staff members are already actively seeking grants and to begin the process of tracking applications and opportunities.

A teacher grant-writing seminar is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 13 at 4:15 p.m. at the Balas Administration Building to instruct teachers specifically about applying for grants through the AAPSEF for the spring teacher grant cycle. Barry said she plans to host other workshops through the grants office.

Barry has begun looking into grant opportunities and is also researching how school districts similar in size to Ann Arbor are handling their grants offices. She said that, although institutions of higher learning have pursued grants for years, grants offices for K-12 school districts are still in their infancy.

In the volunteer area, Barry is expecting to spend about one-quarter of her time with that part of her job. She is catching up with individuals and volunteer groups since McCuiston’s retirement and is reviewing that program to determine what changes she will recommend.

Between the two programs, she sees unlimited opportunities in her new role. “I’m trying to meet a lot of people in the district and get an idea of the vision and where we want to be in 10 to 20 years,” she added.

Grants and Volunteer Coordinator Chris Barry can be reached at or by calling 734-994-7702 (internal ext. 51288.)

Casey Hans writes and edits this newsletter for the Ann Arbor Public Schools. She can be reached at or by calling 734-994-2090 (internal ext. 51228.)

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