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NEW ALBANY, Miss. (WCBI) – A diverse crowd of educators, business and civic leaders gathered Monday at the Magnolia Conference Center in New Albany for an announcement that impacts thousands of public school students.

“The Create and Toyota Advisory Committee are pleased to announce today that we’re going to allocate a million dollars in grant initiatives,” said Doug Formby, vice president of Toyota Mississippi.

The money will be available to all eight school districts in Lee, Pontotoc and Union Counties . Six years ago, when the automaker announced it was building a plant in the area, Toyota committed to donate $50,000,000 over a 10-year period to enhance public education in the three-county geographic area, also known as the PUL Alliance.

Toyota’s gift is being made to an endowment fund at the CREATE Foundation. School districts often find themselves trying to fund mandated programs from the federal and state level, but the grant from Toyota is a welcomed change.

“In this case what Toyota has said, we have money, now tell us how you can enhance education yourself, that’s a flip, that’s not ‘do this, you find the money.’ This is we’re providing some money, you tell us how you’d like to use it to enhance education in your district,” said consultant Chuck Garrett.

Superintendents say they are looking forward to submitting grant proposals that will help students stay on the cutting edge of technology.

“I think with this money our plan is to put I-pads. We want technology equipment that we can put in every students’ hands, we want students to touch the equipment and be able to use pieces of equipment,” said Pontotoc City Schools Supt. Karen Tutor.

“Everyone benefits from those monies, not just students, but Toyota manufacturing as well because they are helping to better educate hopeful future Toyota employees,” said Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks.

Superintendents have an Aug. 15 deadline to submit grant proposals. Decisions on how the grants will be awarded are expected in September. School districts are also required to measure how the grants impact student achievement.

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