VERNON -- Bill Mohl immediately was a popular man when he walked onto Vernon Elementary School's front lawn Wednesday morning.
That's because he brought news that his company, Entergy, is donating $50,000 to the school for interactive whiteboards in classrooms, new computers for students and a new set of playground equipment.
"In exchange for that, you all have got to work hard, you've got to get good grades and listen to your teacher and your principal," Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, told a large group of applauding students seated in a semicircle in the grass.
The announcement was welcome news for school officials, but it comes in the context of Entergy's plans to shut its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant located just across Governor Hunt Road from the elementary school.
Mohl acknowledged a connection between the grant and Yankee's demise, which is scheduled for the end of this year.
"We do a lot of things from an education perspective, supporting education as a corporation. But this is a little special," Mohl said. "Given the fact that we will be shutting the plant down at the end of the current operating cycle, we wanted to make sure that we support the very community that has supported us for so many years. And we can't think of a better way to do it than supporting the children and the education system."
Vernon Elementary Principal Mark Speno said that support will come in the form of "a new playground structure for our equipment, interactive whiteboards for classrooms that do not currently have those and Google Chromebook laptop computers -- approximately 40 with a charging station."
The latter purchase will "increase our ability to get computers in front of kids on a one-to-one basis," Speno said.
"We have a computer lab, which is a fixed station of 22 computers.
He added that "there are tons and tons of apps that you can download onto these, so they're really going to be beneficial."
The Chromebooks are expected to be up and running for student use by the start of next school year. Speno said the whiteboards also will be installed over the summer.
When it comes to ordering and installing new playground equipment, school officials plan to seek input from those who use it.
"We're going to really have the students choose and make the decision on what we end up installing," Speno said. "So from now until the end of the (school) year, we're going to create a program where we'll give students options. They'll have the ability to give recommendations on where it should go and what it should replace and what should be a part of it."
Mohl said Entergy has a corporate charitable contribution fund that the company uses to support projects like the Vernon school improvements.
"We have four key stakeholders. We've got our employees, we've got our customers, we've got our shareholders and we've got our communities," Mohl said. "And we're committed to being an active participant in supporting all those stakeholders. So this is just one example of what we try to do as it relates to supporting our communities as a company."
Added Jeffrey Forbes, Entergy's chief nuclear officer: "It's very rewarding to us that this money will be put to very good use."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.