Clorox contest

Mount Washington School children spell out 'Vote for us" as the PTO and the school promote a Clorox-sponsored contest to win as much as $50,000. (Courtesy of Mount Washington School / December 4, 2012)

President Obama may have defeated Mitt Romney in the general election, but the blue-ribbon Mount Washington School is in the thick of another closely fought national race.

It's Clorox's fourth annual "Power a Bright Future" contest to decide which competing schools nationwide will win prizes of up to $50,000.

"The Clorox Co. is committed to making a difference both in and out of the classroom," Clorox says on its website.

Clorox is awarding seven grants in three categories, Explore, Create and Play. Three of the grants are based on merit and four are based on the highest number of votes. Nominated schools that get the most votes in each category will win a $25,000 grant. The nominated school with the most votes overall will receive a $50,000 grant. And one school in each category will win a grant of $25,000, based on merit.


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The contest "celebrates all activities, from academic to extracurricular," and the categories "focus on different aspects of educational experiences," according to Clorox. Winners will be announced in early 2013, Clorox said.

The Mount Washington School, a Baltimore City public elementary and middle school, is competing with nearly 1,600 other schools in the Explore category, which seemed like the best fit, said the principal, Sue Torr, and the PTO president, Jill Feinberg. As of Wednesday, the school was ranked No. 13.

 "It's purely get out the vote. We're like a presidential campaign right now," Feinberg said.

The former Mount Washington Elementary School, a K-5 school has been in the news a lot since 2010, when it became expanded to eighth grade and acquired the closed Shrine of the Sacred Heart School one block away. Now, the original school on Sulgrave Avenue houses older students and the old Shrine School takes the younger students.

Last year, the school received state and national blue ribbons, introduced its first 6th grade class and started an International Baccalaureate program.

Now, the PTO and Torr are chasing a $50,000 Clorox grant. The money would be spent to build a new playground, add more computers for each classroom, and help fund the IB program, which Torr said eats as much as one third of her budget.

They're pulling out all the stops to win, with promotional strategies to get parents, teachers, students and the wider community to vote twice a day by text message and online at http://www.votemws.com, which redirects visitors to Clorox's website. The text message number is 95248 and the school's code is 2366pbf. The deadline to vote is Dec. 19 at 11:59 p.m.

Clorox says people 13 and older can vote once a day, but Torr said people can vote once a day as a text message and once a day online.

The school has made posters, left fliers at businesses and restaurants like Mount Washington Tavern and used social media by starting a Facebook page, opening a Twitter account, and spreading the word on the group email networks of the PTO and Mount Washington Improvement Association.

The school has also partnered with the Mount Washington Village Merchants Association, Baltimore Community Foundation, Sinai Hospital, Ivy Bookshop and area churches, Torr and Feinberg said.

They've even made a 1-minute video to make their case, available at http://www.MountWashingtonSchool.org/video.

And, they have a strategy they won't talk about, because, "We don't know what other (schools) might be reading this," Torr said.

The school's competitiveness in the contest so far is a testament to a community that is traditionally active in support of the neighborhood's only public school, Feinberg and Torr said..

Now, they are concentrating on voter turnout.

"It's not the same as applying to different foundations for grants," Torr said. "This requires everybody in the community to help."