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After a bit of misdirection, Stoneleigh on receiving end of $10,000 NFL grant

Stoneleigh Elementary School will hold a Purple Tuesday celebration on Nov. 27, where several Baltimore Ravens players will be on hand to honor the Towson school as Baltimore's 2012 NFL Play 60 Super School.

Players will join Stoneleigh's students for an assembly on in the importance of health, hard work and education — and present a $10,000 check.

Stoneleigh's selection for the grant was announced by the NFL on Oct. 30, but as recently as last week, Baltimore County Public Schools officials, members of Stoneleigh's administration and the PTA were meeting to make sure the school would be able to accept the honor — and the money.

In her role as Health and Safety chairwoman of the Stoneleigh Elementary School PTA, parent Aimee Freeman had applied in August for the grant through NFL Play 60, a program that emphasizes health and fitness. Freeman answered questions about how often the students have gym class, and also noted how students celebrate the Ravens.

She submitted the entry and forgot about it.

"I didn't take it too seriously, because who ever wins those things?" Freeman said. "(Then) got an email about being a potential grand prize winner."

She was asked to verify her connection to the Towson school. At that point, she told Principal Christine Warner of the potential coup, and the $10,000.

But there was a sticking point: Although NFL contest rules say principals, administrators and PTA leaders could enter, BCPS rules for such things stipulate that certain protocols must be carried out before any grant money can be accepted. That triggered the meetings to determine how to best use the money.

Ultimately, officials decided the grant will go to the BCPS Foundation — with a stipulation that it be used to support health and wellness programming and equipment at Stoneleigh.

BCPS spokesman Charles Herndon said that while the school system was "very indebted and appreciative" of Freeman's efforts, it had to ensure appropriate oversight of money and its distribution.

"Once those hurdles were overcome and our legal office and attorneys took a good look at things … the school was able to accept this very generous award from the NFL," Herndon said. "We were very pleased to be able to move forward with it."

That happiness extended to the student body, said Warner, who announced the school's selection on Thursday morning, Nov. 15.

"It is incredibly exciting for Stoneleigh to be chosen as a NFL Play 60 Super School," the principal said in an email. "There was a collective cheer by students and staff alike as I made the announcement."

Stoneleigh was one of 34 schools named as Play 60 Super Schools, and is the third school in Baltimore County to win in the last three years. Grange Elementary School in Dundalk won in 2010, and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Towson won a visit from a contingent including Ray Rice, Torrey Smith and Ricky Williams last December.

As for Stoneleigh, Warner credited Freeman for her advocacy, especially considering the school's unique circumstances this year — Stoneleigh is receiving an $18.8 million addition and renovation, and is holding the 2012-2013 school year at the old Carver Center for the Arts and Technology building while construction is under way.

"Fully aware of the challenges we were facing with our move to Carver and knowing our Green School theme for this year, 'Going Green Inside and Out,' she saw the alignment in the NFL Play 60 Super School campaign," Warner said. "She was able to convince the NFL that what we were doing singled us out as a Super School."

Though some of the administrative red tape was frustrating to Freeman, she said Thursday she was glad the process was moving forward.

"I did this for the Stoneleigh students," she said. "I think they're going to be really excited."

The event at Stoneleigh will not be open to the public. This week the school is reminding parents that they need to fill out and return a student release form, which accompanied the school's announcement, by Wednesday, Nov. 21.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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