At the Wilton Public Schools Board of Education meeting last night, superintendent Dr. Gary Richards announced that the Wilton Education Foundation has donated more than $97,000 to the schools.

“We have some wonderful partners in this schools system and one of our very special partners, in addition to the PTA groups, is the Wilton Education Foundation. Our partnership means so much as their donations have helped us move forward on so many fronts. I can’t say, ‘Thank you,’ enough.”

“We are extremely proud of our fundraising efforts and our funding allocation philosophy and our decision-making process. The funding decisions made by the WEF board of directors for the 2013-14 school year will impact generations of Wilton students, their families and our incredible teachers,” Scott Weber, co-chair of WEF, said, “Our board worked tirelessly this past year to develop and execute community-centric programs that really resonated with people in town who kindly opened their checkbooks and contributed to our cause.”

The superintendent and other administrators made presentations to the WEF board in June and September, outlining specific funding requests for areas where they saw need. Based on those presentations, the Foundation approved a total donation of $102,293, with $97,293 allocated to the schools and the remaining $5,000 for other programs.

Richards outlined the intended areas for which the Foundation earmarked funds. “One area is continuing professional development–our Summer Institute. Annually they give us about $20,000 that lets us send teachers to Teachers’ College at Columbia University for readers and writers workshop. We send some of our special educators for additional training. We send some teachers to take classes at institutes designed to promote best practices involved with advanced placement courses, and other opportunities for teacher growth. It’s a very nice opportunity we have to provide this support, thanks to the Foundation.”

In addition, WEF gave funds to help the schools complete their SMARTBoard technology coverage. “We’ve been able to make substantial progress with our SMARTBoard implementation–$22,010 is going to be allocated to the high school for SMARTBoards; $7,700 to Middlebrook, and $15,886 to Miller Driscoll School,” Richards said, explaining that the different amounts reflected a varying degree of implementation in each school. According to the Foundation, funding this program gives the district “100 percent coverage in core academic areas in all of the schools.”

“A third program that they are very excited to support is something [technology director] Mathew Hepfer and his staff have been working on–the iPad Institute. That is developing approaches to using the iPad to organizing carts that can help us expand, from one or two computer labs in a school to having multiple labs in the sense that we’ll have mobile labs. This has been terrific, and they’re donating $22,697 for that,” Richards said. The iPad Institute allocation covers training, iPads, and curriculum development as well as teacher-to-teacher training.

In addition, WEF allocated $4,000 to help expand Middlebrook’s I-STEM program, for the purchase of LEGO Mindstorms Robotics kits and camcorders for classroom use; and $5,000 for performing arts. Richards said the latter funds would potentially help support the Arts Week Festival at the high school. WEF also set aside $5,000 for miscellaneous projects, including $1,000 of that earmarked for the “Pumpkin Chuckin’” Trebuchet competition that Cider Mill teacher Kevin Meehan has led.

The Foundation fundraises throughout the year through events like “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader,” “Reading Rocks,” “Get Smart for Wilton 5K,” commemorative bricks, Acoustic Wilton and an annual appeal. In addition, WEF conducts educational events in the schools, including Career Day, Read Aloud Day, the Middlebrook Science Fair and others.

According to it’s stated mission, the Wilton Education Foundation is dedicated to enriching the learning experience for Wilton students by providing ongoing professional development for teachers, the latest in innovative and interactive teaching tools, support for music and the arts, and “beyond the classroom” experiences to provide students with the confidence and skills to succeed in college and beyond.

Editor’s Note: editor Heather Borden Herve is a member of the executive board of the Wilton Education Foundation.