Community group’s focus is to provide funding
for innovative K-12 classroom programs
TRENTON — A broad-based group of community leaders have undertaken an ambitious effort to bolster the learning resources and opportunities for students of Trenton Public Schools.
Through the formation of the Trenton Educational Foundation, the group is working to raise funds to provide “enhancements” not available through traditional funding sources.
“We feel as if we’ve already got an outstanding school system, but what we’re trying to do with this foundation is encourage new innovative learning experiences,” said Paul Frost, a local businessman serving as the group’s chairman. “We are not trying to replace state aid or local tax funding, so monies collected will not become part of the general budget.”
The TEF is an autonomous organization with its own bylaws and a 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, separate and distinct from the district’s Board of Education, which oversees the public funds that pay for the schools. Rather than operating on tax dollars, the foundation will be funded through the voluntary, tax-deductible donations of residents, alumni and others who are supportive of the schools.
“Our district is doing a great job with the resources it has, but our purpose for existing is to offer new opportunities outside the traditional funding realm,” Frost said. “This is a way to encourage out-of-the-box-type thinking. We want to provide a funding vehicle for innovative educational ideas for the district that would be not normally be part of the operational budget of the district.”
The foundation’s mission is to help achieve and maintain an extra margin of excellence by securing private resources to supplement traditional school funding. The group was able to generate an initial seed of funds with a charter donor campaign that generated more than $40,000.
From that funding the group was able to award six initial grants within the district: one for each elementary school, one for Arthurs Middle School and two for the high school. More information about the awarded grants can be found online at www.trentonedfoundation.org/.
The foundation is getting ready to initiate the fall grant process, during which officials will review grant applications for approval for funding.
“Our hope is to have continued variety of grant applications that would enable innovative learning experiences for our students and are aligned with the foundation’s primary areas,” Frost said.
The foundation has identified six primary areas of education to target for support: Technology and Learning, Scholastic Enhancement, Arts and Education, Cultural Enrichment, Continuing Education and Professional Development.
The district’s teachers currently have the option of applying for grants in two different categories: “mini-grants” (those under $750) and “collaborative” grants (ranging from $750 to $1,500). After it becomes more established, the foundation officials hope to add a “major” grant category that could provide larger awards.
Frost said that initially at least, the foundation will focus on the smaller grant categories, as the organization tries to build its funding resources. He also believes that, since the use of the smaller grants will enable the TEF to give out a larger number of awards, officials will be able to do a better job of “spreading the news” about the availability of those funds. In addition, the initial grants will offer examples of what types of projects and programs would be candidates for future submissions.
“We are trying to encourage ideas that are truly innovative,” Frost said. “We want the teachers to know that these funds are available and have an understanding of the types of things that will be approved for funding.
“We hope to see some really creative ideas.”
The TEF board comprises a wide cross-section of community leaders and educators. Along with Frost, the other officers include former teacher and City Councilman Jack Kripowicz, who is the vice chairman; Paul Jocks, a certified public accountant, who is treasurer; and Kellee Howey, also a CPA, who is secretary.
The rest of the board is made up of directors Scott Church, Thomas Dickman, David French, Ed Neubecker, D. Brad O’Connor, Vince Porreca, Roy Schrameck, Laura Trosien, Randy Wiseman and Susan Yee.
TPS Supt. John Savel and Wayne Sieloff, president of the Board of Education, also serve as ex-officio directors on the TEF board.
O’Connor believes the foundation has the ability to have a significant long-range impact on the district.
“It’s exciting to be on the ground floor of something that has the potential to have great influence on the community,” he said. “I believe that 20, 30 or even 40 years from now, we’ll be able to look back and say that this was a terrific thing we did.”
Frost, the owner of Jack W. Frost Insurance on Kingsway Court, said people looking to invest their resources in the future of the local community will be able to get a firsthand look at how their money is invested both through annual reports the foundation will provide, as well as through postings on the foundation’s Web site — or they can stop by the schools to see for themselves.
“These days, when people donate to a cause or a charity, they want to have a closer relationship with what the organization is doing with their money,” Frost said. “This is as close to home as it gets. This is a great way to help create added value to the community, no question.”
Frost said the grants and programs are made possible only with the generous tax deductible giving of the community. The foundation offers various ways for people to participate in the success of these grant programs.
Staff tributes, alumni campaign and annual giving are some of the methods to help ensure this foundation remains a healthy and sustainable entity for generations to come. Information on how to contribute to the foundation can be obtained by visiting the Web site or e-mailing [email protected]