Members of the Coventry Public Education Foundation (CPEF) have spent the past two years working to organize fundraisers, community events and grant opportunities for educators in order to enrich the public education experience for students and teachers.
What originally began as an alternative funding task force through the Coventry School Committee, is now a certified 501c(3), 14-member volunteer board, with an eventual goal of having 17 members (at least three of which will be non-voting members to provide guidance.)
"We're trying to raise community awareness and to get our message out there that we want to enrich public education in Coventry and get the community involved in doing that," said Secretary Audrey Levy-Lachance. "We have great schools and great teachers, but we want to be the best. Our goal is to make the whole experience for our children even better and that's what we're working towards."
Since it's first official meeting on Nov. 15, 2010, the CPEF has hosted a Basketball Shoot-Out to highlight its donation of new equipment to the high school athletic department; the distribution of 1,000 "Teachers' Aid Phonics Phone" devices to Coventry elementary schools to help with reading fluency; and the awarding of four mini grants to fund or partially fund education proposals submitted by district teachers.
The Foundation's mission is to support Coventry academics as well as extracurricular activities and does so by aligning its members with the district curricula and utilizing an objective grant process. The Grants Committee is made up of three members who do not serve as CPEF officers. Grant applications are submitted by educators and reviewed by a non-committee member who redacts identifying information about the applicant and/or program. Grants Committee members then score and vote on the applications using a rubric that measures the proposal's Effectiveness, Support of Curriculum or Improvement Plan, Development of the Whole Child, Prudence and Cost Effectiveness, Reach, Enrichment, Innovation, Collaboration and Leverage of Existing Resources. Grants may then be fully or partially funded depending on need and funding availability.
At Tuesday night's board meeting, members finalized the next grant cycle which will open on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. The application will be posted on the Foundation's website (cpefri.org). The deadline for submitting proposals will be Mar. 29 and the Grants Committee will report their recommendations to the CPEF Board on May 6 who will then vote and determine the grant award winners that evening. Recipients will be announced on May 15.
The CPEF also hosts fundraising events to support the cause. The most recent event proved to be a great success - the First Annual CPEF Comedy Night held on Nov. 9 at the Coventry-West Greenwich Elks Lodge. 160 guests attended the 18+ event that included a complete dinner and highlighted the talents of local comedians Brian Beaudoin, John Morris and Ace Aceto. After all expenses, the event raised $3,500 for the Foundation.
"The 160 guests who attended were a total cross-reference of the whole community and most in attendance were not from our schools," explained Levy-Lachance. "We spread the word through friends, family and business contacts and it ended up being so successful and so well received."
The Comedy Night did so well that CPEF members have already scheduled the Second Annual Comedy Night for Nov. 8, 2013. An additional fundraiser is currently in the works to be held before the next grant cycle begins.
One point that sets the CPEF apart from other organizations is the fact that donors can specifically designate what they would like their donation to be used towards, whether it be a certain sport, organization or curriculum. Levy-Lachance explained that Foundation's long-term goal is to create an endowment fund that the community can donate towards.
"What we're really looking forward to is the feedback from the students and teachers who received the first four mini-grants to see how this helped them in the classroom," she said. "Our goal is to provide 'outside-the-box' opportunities that teachers might not be able to do otherwise in order to make learning more interesting and innovative for the kids."
Click here to visit the CPEF website for more information on how to donate or get involved. The Foundation is currently seeking a member willing to focus on marketing efforts. Click here to contact the Foundation or e-mail email@example.com.