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Brunswick foundation supports school programs

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Brunswick foundation supports school programs

BRUNSWICK — A foundation that has been several years in the making aims to provide public schools $50,000 a year for special programming.

But the new Brunswick Community Education Foundation has to raise that money before it issues any grants to teacher-led programs this fall.

Melissa Fochesato, the foundation's chairwoman, said her group is only accepting pledges for now and plans to begin accepting donations by summer.

"Just talking and asking if people would be interested in donating, I'm very confident we will be able to raise (the money)," Fochesato said. "I think people are interested in this kind of outlet for schools."

Fochesato said the purpose of Brunswick Community Education Foundation is to enhance, not supplement, programs and services offered by public schools.

That means its funds won't be used to fill gaps in the school budget or to reduce the town's tax commitment.

Instead, it will be used to fund programs like a robotics club that could help students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Or to fund a field trip to see an orchestra.

"We want to see our School Department be competitive, and have that technology or music edge that some parents are looking for," Fochesato said. "I'd love to see more hands-on activities to put students' learning to work."

She said her group will begin meeting with teachers this month to promote the foundation and have them start thinking about potential project ideas.

The foundation is expected to begin accepting grant proposals in the fall for projects seeking $1,000 to $5,000, which means the first foundation-funded programs could begin by the end of the year, Fochesato said.

A BCEF committee will rank proposals and decide whether to make a recommendation. The foundation's Board of Directors, which includes two high school teachers, will then issue a final decision.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski will have the final say on all proposals.

"We certainly have been looking forward to (the foundation beginning) for a number of years," Perzanoski said. "It's really fortunate that we have folks that are willing to support public education."

Fochesato said the foundation originated a few years ago with former School Board members Becky Shepherd, Malcolm Andrews and Allen Springer. It is modeled after similar groups, like the Falmouth Education Foundation, which has raised nearly $1 million over the last 20 years.

In the last year alone, the Falmouth group raised nearly $58,000 to fund several programs and events, including a talk by Holocaust survivor Max Slabotzk.

Fochesato said the foundation gathered steam when the former School Board members approached Brunswick High School teachers Rick Wilson and Jon Riggleman to organize a new board, which has now been meeting for a year.

Mary Herman, the wife of U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, serves on the foundation's advisory committee, along with Shepherd.

Fochesato said the foundation's tentative goal is to raise $50,000 every year, although she's already confident that can be exceeded.

"I wouldn't be surprised once we get going to see it be even more," she said.

Pledges can be made by emailing one of the foundation's board members, who can be contacted at www.brunswickcef.org.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.