Getting grant funds for a sizable school system is the focus of new district grant writer Ashley Byrum.
“I’m excited to tackle new challenges in a larger school district and have an impact on our students,” she said.
The setting may be different but the role is one she knows well. Byrum served as grant writer for Spencer County Public Schools for over six years.
It was her first professional role out of college and she now looks forward to investing time for the students and staff of Bullitt County Public Schools.
“My experience in Spencer County provides me with the knowledge of funding opportunities in our area for specific programs, typical grant cycles, and particular experience in the specific field of K-12 education grant writing: curriculum, interventions, diagnostic tools and assessments, pedagogy, professional development, and more,” she said.
Byrum said grants are important for a school system because of the simple fact that they bring extra money into the classrooms and the district as a whole.
“This could include money for technology, materials, support staff, intervention teachers, and more,” she said. “I’ve even seen mini-grants fund football helmets and marching band uniforms.”
She cites research which reveals that higher investment in public education leads to better long-term results for children.
However, with many systems facing tighter budget constraints, grant funding is one way schools and districts can bridge that funding gap.
“I don’t simply see myself as getting money…I’m funding programs and giving students opportunities that they might not otherwise have,” she said.
A ‘dream grant’ would be securing federal funding for early childhood education and improving kindergarten readiness.
Grant writing encompasses elements ranging from research to constructing a budget and creating a narrative that includes technical and persuasive language justifying why one organization deserves funding over another.
Byrum said a lot of work goes into an application that may not be approved for funding.
“The most challenging aspect of grant writing is that you’re never going to win 100% of the grant applications you write,” she affirmed. “Weeks and months of work often go into large proposals – with the likely chance that it will be rejected by a funder.”
While this can be discouraging to stakeholders, Byrum said each rejection letter and reviewer scoresheet is an opportunity to learn and grow.
“The work is not futile if, in the end, you create a cohesive vision for a program or project that you can use for another potential grant application later on,” she said.
Byrum enjoyed working for Spencer County and built a solid foundation of grants for an appreciative district.
She looks forward to accomplishing more goals during her current tenure.
“I’m excited to grow professionally by tackling more federal grants,” she said.
Byrum earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in Political Science from the University of Louisville in 2008 followed by Masters’ degree of Public Administration from the U of L School of Urban and Public Affairs.
She initially wanted to be a high school social studies teacher but followed a path into public administration/public policy instead.
“Most of my papers in graduate school focused on education and education policy,” she cited. “I was recruited from my department at U of L by an adjunct professor for a new position as grant writer of Spencer County Public Schools in 2010. It was the perfect opportunity to fuse together my public administration background and my passion for education.”
She and her husband, Matthew, band director at Atherton High School, have a two and a half year-old daughter, Brynn. Family time includes playing with their Labrador retriever Shadow, reading, gardening and attending symphonic and marching band contests.