Bright Ideas Land Local School Innovative Grant Funding

Neuse Charter School’s cast of the Wizard of Oz rehearses in late-February. The cast of nearly 70 students is made up of 3rd-12th graders and opens at JCC on April 6, 2017.

By: Shannon Mann

While most teachers really wish there was a pot of gold somewhere over the rainbow, a few clever Neuse Charter School teachers found exactly that when they recently earned a Wake Electric Bright Ideas Grant for their musical production of The Wizard of Oz.

Jamie White, Jessica Brank and Leah Williams, drama, music and band teachers at Johnston County’s only brick-and-mortar public charter school, wrote a grant proposal at the start of the school year entitled, “A STEAM Powered Oz Expedition.” The proposal demonstrated how the performing arts could be paired with science and technology to benefit students in grades 3-12.

Williams, the elementary music and middle school band teacher, explained that the proposal aligned with many principles found in the Wizard of Oz story.

“Each character in the story believes that the Wizard of Oz holds the key to what they desire,” Williams said. “Our students desire to make this show a success by working together to make tough decisions, learning life skills and discovering a new world of knowledge.”

Williams demonstrated the concept by explaining that the Cowardly Lion asks the Wizard for courage and nerve. Neuse Charter thespians will demonstrate courage through their work on-stage and behind-the-scenes. “Courage is something they need in a global society,” Williams explained.

Each of the lessons in the famous story paired with what students would learn as they rehearsed and worked together over a three-month period.

“We have 70 students participating in this musical,” said Williams. “Students are asking questions, researching, collaborating and giving feedback in order to figure out the best solutions for the show.”

The grant, which is sponsored by North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, has funded education grants to K-12 teachers for more than 20 years. Two million students have participated in 9,800 Bright Ideas projects with more than $10.2 million given out. Representatives at Wake Electric say that while grant money has funded instruments in the past, this is the first time a grant has been awarded for a musical production.

Williams was excited that the Neuse Charter proposal was fully funded. The grant monies received help secure the show kit, supplies for the set and a few costumes.

“We were also able to purchase 20 “The Wonderful World of Oz” books for our school library,” said Williams.

While the grant goes a long way in helping the school produce the show, community support is still needed to help it reach its full potential.

“We’re thrilled to be able to perform our program at Johnston County Community College’s Paul A. Johnston Auditorium on April 6th,” said Williams. “Our students really want to see a full house that night. They’ve worked so hard to bring this show to life and incorporate the lessons of the grant. They want the entire community to see what they’ve learned and achieved. Ultimately, just like Dorothy wants to go home, our production is for our home…our community.”

Tickets went on-sale on Feb. 8th and are $10 at the box office and $11 on-line. More information can be found at