Bloomingdale Education Foundation

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Bloomingdale Education Foundation strives to provide learning tools

In its short existence, the Bloomingdale Education Foundation (BDEF) has accomplished a lot for the school district's students, and it would like to do even more with continued community support.

Nicole Mahoney, co-president of the foundation, said the BDEF has been in existence for roughly a year since securing nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Mahoney and her husband Michael, who also serves as a co-president, started the foundation as a means of helping the local schools acquire equipment and innovative and creative programming that is not funded by the school budget, but will enhance the educational experience. They have a daughter, Mikael, who is a seventh grader at Walter T. Bergen School (WTB).

Nicole Mahoney, a teacher at Richard Butler School in neighboring Butler, knows firsthand the financial constraints districts are under with a 2-percent annual tax increase cap and how inventive educational tools and programs can make a difference with students.

"We wanted to find a way to get things that teachers need for their classrooms but the district cannot afford. The teachers in all three of our schools in Bloomingdale can apply to the foundation for grants to fund what they need in the classroom to enrich students' educational experience," said Mahoney.

So far the foundation has awarded grants for impressive purchases that promote an excitement for learning and support problem solving and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) skills.

A grant for the purchase of a wireless weather station for Samuel R. Donald School (SRD) was one of the first awarded by the BDEF. Rebecca Calvi, a third-grade teacher at SRD, applied for a grant to purchase the Ambient Weather WS-1400-IP Observer station, which has been installed at the school.

According to Calvi, third graders have been using it to gather data such as temperature, weather conditions, wind speed/direction, humidity, and rainfall. The collected data will be used in many lessons and shared with the other students through student-led weather reports during morning announcements.

Jennifer Saltzman, the art teacher at WTB, applied for a grant to purchase Doodle3D pens, which allow students to create 3-D objects from their drawings. The software runs on a Wi-Fi Box and the user can connect to it through a browser. After creating a simple line drawing on a tablet or computer, the user presses "print" and layer by layer the printer creates a 3-D object from the 2-D sketch using plastic.

The BDEF has also purchased 11 Chromebook laptops and the accompanying licensing for WTB. Chromebooks run Google's Chrome OS (operating system). These devices are designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, with most applications and documents living in the cloud. With the new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) using a computer-based test, computer skills have been brought to the forefront across the state.

The educational community enthusiastically greeted the start of the BDEF, with a team of parents signing on to be BDEF trustees including Laura Cole, who serves as treasurer; and Nancy Okken as secretary. Other BDEF trustees include Sharon Bleibtreu, David Fierro, Lisa Fleming, Dawn Kopec, Maryellen Passanante, Robyn Smentkowski, Yocelyn Verrico, Lynn Schiffman, and Karen Fierro.

So far, the BDEF and its fundraisers have seen significant support. The BDEF held a three-month raffle, where tickets were $20 and the prizes were donated by local businesses. Now the foundation is looking for support for its largest fundraiser to date, a 50-50 raffle where the top prize is $18,500. The BDEF is in the process of selling 500 tickets at $100 each. A second prize of $4,500 will be awarded and a third prize of $2,000 will be distributed. The tickets will be drawn at the May 18 WTB band concert, and winners need not be present.

"People have been very excited about what we are doing for the schools. All the feedback has been positive. The school superintendent and the principals have been our biggest supporters. They know this gives teachers the opportunity to purchase things they need for the classroom," said Mahoney.

To buy a 50-50 ticket, contact the Mahoneys at 973-291-4178. Donations to the BDEF can be mailed to P.O Box 42, Bloomingdale, NJ 07403. For more information, email BDEF@optimum.net.

Email: walshde@northjersey.com


Education foundation under development in Bloomingdale

LAST UPDATED: MONDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2014, 12:16 AM

BY DEBORAH WALSH

STAFF WRITER SUBURBAN TRENDS

A local education foundation is being developed to provide private financial assistance for the borough’s public schools.

At the Dec. 15 school board meeting, interim Superintendent of Schools Mario Cardinale announced that a parent, Nicole Mahoney, is spearheading an effort to launch an education foundation that would benefit the borough’s public school system. Cardinale said the education foundation would run fundraising activities and provide financial backing for programs or purchases that are not covered under the school budget.

"I am excited this is a great opportunity for the school district," said Cardinale.

The superintendent added that it is his understanding that a core group of parents has started the ball rolling on getting an education foundation off the ground. Letters to residents have gone out to drum up interest in the initiative, he said.

The letter that was sent to residents of the community said the foundation is looking for candidates to fill 17 trustee positions for the upcoming school year. The letter also said the foundation is seeking volunteer members that represent a cross section of parents from all three Bloomingdale schools, and any interested community members who are willing to serve a two-year term.

According to the flier, the foundation will be a registered 501(c) (3) tax-exempt non-profit organization and its mission will be to enhance public education through private funding. Additionally, the foundation will endeavor to support innovative and creative educational programs and special projects that will be designed to "enrich the mind and spirit" of all district students enrolled in the borough’s three public schools. The foundation will operate independently of the Board of Education and the PTA.

Anyone interested in participating in the foundation should contact Nicole or Michael Mahoney at BDEF@optimum.net by Jan. 1. Nicole Mahoney is a teacher in the neighboring Butler school district.

School board trustee Carol Marcus said educational foundations, such as the one being proposed, provide support to many school districts. Educational foundations are a great vehicle to get the community involved in the local system, and to gain a better understanding of the needs of local public schools, she said.

Another school board trustee, Sheldon Bross, said there has been talk of creating an education foundation in the past, and the board should do whatever it can to support the start of the latest proposed foundation.

Email: walshde@northjersey.com