In order to support the Southold School District as it struggles with financial pressures, mandates and standardized testing, a school board member has established a foundation designed to expand the district’s ability to support enrichment programs and opportunities for students without digging into its own pocket.
The Southold School Educational Foundation’s mission is to enhance learning environments both inside and outside the classroom, officials said, and become a single point of contact for multiple projects initiated by teachers, parents and members of the community. It will also provide opportunities to enhance the district’s curriculum, facilities, scholarships and alumni development through donated funds, goods and services. Essentially, it will function as an academic and cultural version of a school booster club.
School board vice president Judi Fouchet, the organization’s founding member, said the nonprofit group will help maintain quality education as the district faces increasing pressures from state mandates.
“We have many people within our community with a desire to ensure that students are able to experience learning in a variety of ways that schools can no longer guarantee due to budget constraints,” she said.
The idea for the foundation stemmed from the public-private partnership created three years ago through the school garden initiative. The school garden trend has grown in recent years through first lady Michelle Obama’s efforts to promote programs that encourage healthier lifestyles for children.
Southold biodynamic farmers K.K. and Ira Haspel helped the district construct the 12,000-square-foot garden. It now has more than 36 beds that produce a mixture of greens, such as lettuce, arugula, cabbage and romaine. Other vegetables include broccoli, radishes, shallots and red potatoes. Additional areas around the garden’s perimeter will grow pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. After the vegetables are harvested, students and staff enjoy freshly prepared salads in the cafeteria.
Foundation president Claudia Ramone said although the community’s volunteer work and financial support for the garden has been “fantastic,” she believes the foundation is needed to choreograph ongoing community support for educational innovation.
The foundation’s 501C status will allow the garden to qualify for a variety of grants and enable donors to make tax-deductible contributions, officials said.
Superintendent David Gamberg said he’s pleased the community has come together to organize a method to support student programming.
“We look forward to enhanced opportunities for students and all stakeholders in the Southold learning community for years to come,” he said.
Donations to the Southold School Educational Foundation can be sent to P.O. Box 4, Southold, NY 11971. For more information, contact Ms. Fouchet at 631-765-8191 or email [email protected].