Foundation grants schools $102,000

For the second year in a row, the Wilton Education Foundation has topped six figures in its annual donation to the Wilton Public School District. The foundation recently announced it gave $102,000 to support academics, enrichment programs and teacher development. This year’s gift tops last year’s by $2,000.

Specifically, the money will be used as follows:

• $45,000 to purchase Smart Boards and nine accompanying mounted projectors at Wilton High School and Miller-Driscoll School.

• $20,000 in faculty development.

• $23,000 to support the iPad Institute.

• $4,000 for the I-STEM programs at Middlebrook and Wilton High School.

• $5,000 for enrichment to support performing arts.

The money set aside for Smart Boards will bring the school up to “100% deployment” of the technology in all core academic areas in all the schools, a press release from the foundation said. This has been a district priority for several years. The Smart Boards and projectors will be installed in Wilton High School and Miller-Driscoll School.

Faculty and staff members from across the district took advantage of 17 opportunities to further their professional skills. The foundation will pay the fees for them to participate in reading and writing institutes, professional conferences, workshops, and Advanced Placement training. Travel and other expenses are the responsibility of each participant.

The iPad Institute is a training program to help improve the use of iPads in the classroom. The foundation gift will enable 20 to 24 teachers — one per department or grade level — to attend iPad training with a representative from Cooperative Educational Services in Trumbull. These teachers will in turn help their peers better incorporate the iPad into their classwork. Teachers will also write curriculum that integrates the iPad. Currently, there are a number of iPad carts available to teachers in each school.

With the money given to the I-STEM programs, Middlebrook sixth graders will now have access to Lego Mindstorms kits previously offered only to seventh and eighth graders. These kits provide motors, sensors, Lego bricks, and other elements to create robots that walk, talk and move. The grant will also be used to purchase camcorders to enable students to record and present their projects.

The final $5,000 was set aside for miscellaneous gifts to the PTA, Wilton Youth Council and a trebuchet.

This year’s gift was supported by contributions from residents, businesses, corporate donors, and Ambler Farm.

Budget supplement

The money raised by the Wilton Education Foundation does not replace public school funding included in the annual budget, but exists “to improve public education, enhance available opportunities, and bring additional resources.” The foundation’s board worked with Superintendent Gary Richards and the Board of Education in determining which programs to support.

The Wilton Education Foundation has been in existence for a number of years, but over the last several years has ramped up its fund raising. Co-Chairman Scott Weber said credit goes to those who came before.

“Leading up to this, an enormous amount of work was done to give us a platform on which to build,” he said. “The folks doing this before, the new members, gave us a great foundation.”

He credited Kit Smith, the previous chairman, with “getting a focus around mission and vision. It was under his watch we were able to give the first $100,000.

“It is really a function of the volunteers putting the time in. The programs and events we are developing really resonate with the community,” he said. “And we’ve started to pick up more individual donors and sponsors that are helping to get us to the next level.”

Although he did not want to talk numbers, Mr. Weber said the foundation is off to another good start this school year.

Each year, the Wilton Education Foundation hosts nine signature fund-raising events and five educational programs. They include Reading Rocks!, a read-a-thon promoting literacy in elementary students; Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?, a game show pitting fifth graders against teachers and older students; Career Awareness Day and Real World, opportunities for students to gain exposure to various professions; the Get Smart 5K; Acoustic Wilton, a showcase of local talent; and more. Upcoming events include Read Aloud Day, which is held in October at Miller-Driscoll and Cider Mill schools, and the Annual Appeal, which kicks off in November.

With the new school year under way, Mr. Weber and Matthew Greene will continue their roles as co-chairmen. In addition, the foundation has elected three new board members — Janet Duff, Kate Filaski and Brian Kesselman — and appointed four advisers — Debbie Rowland, Heidi von Hoffman, Heather Borden Herve, and Kit Smith. Also, there are three new roles, one to address volunteer engagement, another to connect with faculty and students, and a third to do the same with the Board of Education.

The Wilton Education Foundation as a group will be honored Saturday, Oct. 19, with the Wilton YMCA Distinguished Citizen Award at a celebration at Rolling Hills Country Club.