Will the Foundation accept money from my company’s matching gift program? Will the Foundation accept gifts of securities?
Yes to both. Please indicate on the Donate form that your company will match your gift and/or that you wish to make your gift using securities.
How can I become involved with the Foundation?
The Foundation plans to host several fundraising events and campaigns each year and accepts donations at any time. Click Donate to make a contribution, or click on Support, and let us know how you might wish to be involved. We are always looking for help and new ideas from parents and community members.
How much of the donated money actually makes its way into the schools?
Not all funds raised will be authorized for grants depending on the number, cost and quality of proposed grants and the possibility of significant projects being proposed in subsequent years. Almost all of the costs incurred by the Foundation are either event-related (e.g., facility, printing and food and beverage expenses) or minimal overhead expenses (e.g., audit fees, postage and insurance).
Will donations be tax deductible?
Yes! The Ridgefield Education Foundation is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt charity under the Internal Revenue Code section 501 (c)(3). We will mail each donor a receipt for any contribution made.
What future projects do you envision?
Working closely with district administrators and community leaders, we have strategically planned to focus on the changing role of the teacher. There is much to navigate in the field of education. Mandated changes such as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Strategic Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), new teacher and administrator evaluations, not to mention the new technology that is meaningfully used to deliver the new curriculum as well as 21st century skills, the fact that we are taking part in a major shift is an understatement. It is all for the good and great opportunity. It is also a time where we need to be available to support the role of teacher as their job changes to that of a facilitator.
It is our hopes that we can offer professional development, beyond what the district provides, so that the progressive leaders in the district have the tools to move education forward. A 3 part symposium for teachers is planned for Summer 2014 with the hopes of an accelerated, innovative and prolonged institute of learning in coming years for the same group.
Have you done any community outreach or programming?
Yes! The Ridgefield Education Foundation introduced itself to the community in the Fall of 2012 by hosting an entertainment basketball game between Ridgefield Public School staff and teachers versus the Harlem Wizards. It was an outstanding, community-building event that drew over 900 residents and included 30 RPS team members. We will host the game again in the Fall of 2014.
In addition, the foundation has organized a teacher appreciation program called the HERO Awards. Parents purchase a certificate declaring their teacher, administrator or support staff a HERO in recognition of their hard work, innovation, creativity and dedication. This program is intentionally aligned with Teacher Appreciation Week which is generally held in early May. We also had a creative delivery method, where a “caped crusader” aka Mrs. Incredible, hand delivers the certificate to the teacher bringing an element of fun and surprise to the awardee.
I pay high taxes, doesn’t that cover education, why should I contribute more?
Taxes are a concern for everyone in our community and they have gone up over time. A large part of our taxes go to the school and help to achieve the community’s goal of excellence for our students. However, there are costs that are outside of our district’s control such as pension requirements, state-mandated programs and insurance that have increased dramatically over the years. Even so, our tax increases have been consistent with those in similar communities and school districts. While our taxes may be considered high – our property values remain strong and the quality of our school has a direct impact on the strength of housing values. There are important factors that accentuate the need for even greater Foundation support for our school in the future. It also places more demands for the type of programs that the Foundation makes possible, which tend to be directly used by students (like computers). In this rapidly changing, competitive, and technology driven world, it is critical that we have the necessary resources available in our school, and to maintain the excellent caliber and reputation of our school. Our taxes fund a school district that is already considered very good. Foundation grants can spark the enthusiasm and creative collaboration among teachers and students that can make our school district GREAT!
What kinds of grants have you supported?
To date, we have supported 2 grant cycles. These grants supported our criteria to move education forward and focus on technology, curriculum or professional development. We want projects to be considered new to the district, a pilot to learn and grow from, and have innovative, creative and collaborative qualities.
|Digital Art Tablets||$500||Elementary level eBook collection||$1,500|
|Wireless Tablet and Computer Integration||$500||Physics Lab Stations||$750|
|Skyping with Authors||$125||iPads for Science Lab tables||$2,310|
|Share a Story – iTouch||$500|
|Draw-On! Goes Green||March 15 -March 30, 2014 Aldrich Museum||Check out the exciting events supported by REF.|
What are the criteria for grants and how often will they be provided?
Grant requests will likely focus on progressive and innovative classroom projects, teacher development, and technology investments that align with our mission. We like to consider the following:
- Is the grant for a new project, professional development workshop or technology?
- Is the grant request not covered by the Ridgefield school budget?
- Does the grant directly relate to curriculum?
- Does the grant directly impact students or the classroom experience and how?
- Is the recipient willing to share their experience from this grant with other staff members?
- A group will review the grant requests; ensure the goals meet the mission of the organization and 21st century education. Yearly, there is a Spring grant cycle for project consideration that will be implemented the following school year.
Are there restrictions on what the Foundation is allowed to pay for?
Yes! The Foundation may not pay directly for operating costs of the District, costs that would be considered clear mandates of the school budget, including faculty salaries. Technically, funded grants are gifts to the District, which must be formally accepted by the Board of Education.
How independent is the grant process from the goals of the administration if you have the Superintendent and a School Board member on your board?
An education foundation can be successful if we actively engage our administration and school board in a non-voting advisory role. By doing this, we have ensured consistency in prioritizing needs and working toward the common good of the school. This does not mean that the administration or school board dictates what we choose to fund. Instead, they provide meaningful input into our direction and level of support for the school, as does each member of our board.
Who will decide how the money is spent?
We have a board, which is comprised of over 15 volunteer community members, a member of the PTA Council, one school board representative, and the superintendent. The community members represent a broad cross section of our overall community– school families, empty nesters, alumni, etc. As representatives for all our donors, our board takes their responsibility in considering all grants very seriously. We are focused on ensuring that the grants awarded are beneficial for a large number of students, are consistent with the goals of the school, and our mission.
What makes the foundation different from a PTA or other educational fundraising entity?
The Foundation and the PTA are organizations that exist to provide strong support that is critical to our school’s success. Ridgefield school children benefit greatly by the unique strengths of our PTA and The Ridgefield Education Foundation. They are, however, different in structure and focus. The PTA is part of a national membership organization, which encourages parent involvement on a broad range of important parent and child issues affecting the overall education, health, and well being of school children. The Ridgefield PTAs provides invaluable parent and school tools such as directories, classroom support and coordinating communities. The PTA is non-partisan but does lobby on behalf of school needs at a national and local level.
As a local education foundation, The Ridgefield Education Foundations seeks to have a district wide impact with grants and projects aligned with curriculum goals. It has been founded not only as a response to budget tightening on local and state levels but, also in recognition of the rapidly changing and competitive educational environment. Working closely with local education leaders, we want ensure we are not left behind in the nationwide movement that is implementing progressive tools and techniques to improve the educational experience. We intend to support unique learning opportunities for teachers to engage in new, creative instructional practices by providing grants for progressive technology tools or professional development skills that will have immediate educational benefit for both teachers and students. Over time, as more teachers benefit from the education foundation’s support, we believe there will be a positive, systemic improvement in the overall education experience for students, parents, teachers and the community at large.
While there is no national affiliation or membership, The Ridgefield Education Foundation is a member of a professional organization called the Connecticut Consortium of Education Foundations, which provides non-financial resources to help Connecticut-based education foundations be the best they can be. We are independent but work in partnership with the school district and community to support excellence in Ridgefield schools by addressing specific needs targeted by administrators, teachers, and community members.
Where will the money come from?
The entire budget of the Foundation will be raised privately from sources committed to driving excellence in our schools. To begin with, foundation board members will solicit contributions through personal requests with potential donors, as well as foundation and corporate grants. In the future, a variety of methods will be used to support the foundation, including direct marketing; event sponsorship; annual campaigns; special events; employee giving; endowments; memorial/named funds; employer matching; and planned gifts.
Fundraising is not meant to compete with other non-profit educational organizations. We simply support all efforts to promote education in Ridgefield and wish to concentrate our work in areas where a need is not being met.
Why does Ridgefield need an education foundation?
Ridgefield schools, like many others, must balance education goals with the realities of reduced state funding, local pressure to keep taxes low, and federal and state legislation like the Common Core State Standards, Strategic Balanced Assessment Consortium and teacher evaluations. The Ridgefield Education Foundation works independently but in partnership with local schools and organizations to help meet needs unique to our district and keep our schools at the forefront of education.
Please be clear that education foundations are not a substitute funding source for items that are the clear mandate of school budgets. They do not assume financial responsibility for items, salaries, and programming that would typically be funded via the Board of Education.
REF seeks to help move education forward by addressing key areas that go beyond the scope of the local school budget:
- Teacher and classroom grants to support innovative curriculum, pilot new programs, and inspire students and teachers alike
- Professional development to support our teachers engagement, motivation, and to encourage an out of the box approach
- The increasing need for meaningful technology in our schools
Are there other education foundations in Connecticut?
Yes, per the Connecticut Consortium of Education Foundations, there are 100 local education foundations supporting Connecticut’s 166 school districts. That means 60% of school districts have an education foundation as a resource. There are well over 4,800 education foundations across the country
What is The Ridgefield Education Foundation?
We believe education is at the heart of our community. Our mission is to strengthen the bridge between the community and our public schools by encouraging private philanthropy to enhance the educational experiences of Ridgefield School districts learners of all ages, families and professional educators.
The goals of the foundation are to help move education forward with creativity, innovation and collaboration:
- Prepare and develop a 21st century learning environment;
- Serve as a catalyst for the development and promotion of innovation programs;
- Enhance the educational training, resources and technology available to educators;
- Increase the community’s awareness and support of the schools.
In April 2013, we obtained our 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
Who does the Foundation serve?
The education foundation is a separate organization from Ridgefield Public Schools; we aim to support educators, families and learners of all ages in the Ridgefield community.
What is an education foundation?
Local education foundations are non-profit organizations whose boards represent local community and education leaders and who are socially and financially committed to the ongoing development of progressive education in their communities. Each is unique in its operation, its programs, and the resources it provides to the community, but all share a common commitment to improving education at the local level. Education foundations:
- COLLABORATE with other non-profit groups (local historical society, PTA, public library, senior center, arts council, garden club, local businesses….) to address community issues relating to education.
- LINK people and organizations in their communities with public schools, developing awareness and resource support.
- INCREASE teacher morale by, supporting their professional development and recognizing their importance in the community.
- BROADEN support and awareness for public education and local schools by promoting advocacy and pride for progressive learning strategies.