Harvest Moon Fall Fundraiser raises money for innovation grants
By Alison Rooney
If at first you don’t succeed in hosting a fundraising party, try again. If the second time isn’t the charm, go for three. Such was the case with the recent Harvest Moon Fall Fundraiser, which had the initial bad luck of coinciding with the freakish early winter weather, which surprised Philipstown at the end of October. Canceled, then rescheduled for the next day, then canceled again as everyone struggled with power outages, there was a sense that both the hosts and guests were more than ready for a party when the event finally took place the following Saturday.
The party, held indoors at Glynwood Center, is one of the centerpieces of several events held during the course of the school year designed to bring Haldane parents together in a social setting – for some it might be their first encounter off ‘the blacktop’ where kids are picked up from school — as a backdrop to raising monies for the Haldane School Foundation’s (HSF) innovation grants program. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, driven entirely by parents, with the support of the school administration, which raises funds to help enrich the curriculum and support staff development in the Haldane District. Over the past five years the Foundation has donated a yearly average of nearly $55,000 in enrichment grants to an extensive range of programs, services, field trips and equipment, all of it dispersed after consideration of grant proposals submitted by teachers and interested community members.
Recent grants have ranged from high school-wide ($7,000 for 20 laptops for the grades 9-12 English department) to small and very specific ($150 for “U.S. Symbols Teaching Centers for second-grade classrooms.) For second-grade teacher Catherine Scrocca, this small grant has translated into a program which has greatly benefited all of the children in her grade. She explains, “The American Symbols Teaching Centers are designed to extend on our BOCES Social Studies English Language Arts Program. They allow our students to know and understand the symbols and icons of the United States.” Asked if she had been hopeful about the granting process, she noted, “I don’t always expect to be funded, but I am hopeful since the Grant Committee members share the same great desire to support our children and their future in all areas as I do. The entire second grade staff has been able to expose the students to different symbols of the U.S. through a fun, hands-on social studies center. The center is packed with materials and learning experiences to help students understand what these important American icons mean. The activities and games certainly activate prior knowledge and give tons of practice and reinforcement of the concepts for a true authentic learning experience. In addition, we are provided with a graphic organizer to help students organize their learning which in return provides the teachers with a great assessment tool.” Scrocca is “thankful to have such a wonderful support group of parents like the Haldane School Foundation. We know that when budget cuts don’t always allow for the “extras” we have somewhere else to turn for our students.”
As teacher Jean Cendali explained, the process of applying for a grant is not a simple request: “Teachers need to fill out a grant application, including the project description, objectives, activities, timetable and assessment, and this must be approved by the administration.”
At the Harvest Moon party, where lots of donated silent auction items attracted a buzz of bidders, HSF President Dani Locastro addressed the crowd, thanking Glynwood, and its manager, Isabel Lopatin, for “juggling around dates, opening and locking doors, coordinating the helpful staff and treating us with welcome arms to finally have this event.” Expressing a special thank you to event co-chairs Andrea Maasik and Eugenie Milroy and the rest of the board, Locastro asked the attendees to “please check out the most recently funded spring grant cycle lists on the walls and our ongoing funded programs on our website. Last spring cycle we gave back approximately $19,000 in grants; during the past 5 years of grants funded we gave back $243,831 … It is because of the people like you who attend our events and support the annual appeal that help make us have a big impact our little school.”
After acknowledging the efforts of parent Sandy McKelvey in her hard work on the “Farm to School” program, , Locastro asked guests to think about pledging $25 towards a goal of the $4,500 needed to continue the funding of the program. To jumpstart this special fundraising, Locastro introduced Steve Burke and Matt Pillius of Smart Systems (formerly Burke Electric) who presented a check to the Foundation for $1,000 to get the campaign up and running.
Locastro is especially proud of the Farm to School program and the affiliated Eco-Garden at the school, both of which have had major funding through the HSF, saying, “The HSF is most proud that these programs are in sync with Haldane’s sustainability initiatives and are community-based.”
At the high school level, Principal Brian Alm has been able to apply the grants to some unique programs, saying “There is a reason the HSF calls them ‘innovation grants.’ Recently, the foundation has helped to catapult forward our high school programs in both the arts and technology, whether it is a professional music recording studio session or net books for student writing.” Another recent grant targeted specifically for the high school is the foreign language immersion weekend, a Haldane tradition that has suffered under budget cuts. Many of the grants fund improvements and programs which affect all of the grades, from enhancements to the sound system in the gymnasium to support for the multi-grade Destination Imagination teams and master music classes for students at different levels in the music program.
In another application of the innovation grant, for the past two years, each fourth-grade class now publishes a classroom anthology, a collection of stories and poems that the students have written during the year during Writers’ Workshops, and each student receives their own hardcover copy. Jennifer Windels, the fourth-grade teacher who spearheaded this program, describes its evolution: “A few years ago I realized how much students like sharing their work, and how much their classmates enjoy hearing their writing. Then I had a brainstorm to have each child submit some work into a class book that I photocopied for each student. They read them over and over until they were tattered. That’s when I came up with the idea to try and put together something more permanent.” Each of the three fourth-grade classes now participates and all of the teachers are grateful, with Mrs. LeMon noting, “The students are very excited and proud to see their special writing pieces published in such a beautiful way. We hope that they will treasure the anthology and look back on it for years to come. Mrs. Hartford adds: “The student’s did a great job with this project. They were proud to see their work in a published piece.”
Elementary Principal Brent Harrington extols the benefits of the innovation grants: “There’s no question that the support of the HSF has been critical in ensuring rich educational experiences for our students that go beyond the traditional curriculum and help to develop students’ intrinsic interests in a range of disciplines that they would not otherwise have been exposed to.”
Haldane elementary art teacher, Jean Cendali, has proposed several grants through the years. She calls the HSF “the best thing to have happened to Haldane in years. The wonderful learning opportunities that they make possible for children create the kind of memories that the children will never forget. The HSF enriches learning for children and teachers.” Cendali elaborated on one of her funded programs, “Haldane students in grades K-6 participate in the Garrison Art Center Theme Show every year. HSF grants give us the opportunity to create large collaborative works using materials that would not be possible for us to buy without their support. The children love being part of these large projects and they all take great pride and ownership in the art works. The HSF makes the elementary art program much more exciting. Without HSF support the children would only be creating 2D work on paper and would miss the opportunity to create sculptures.
Asked how the HSF has enhanced the elementary art program, Cendali was quick to respond, “’How has it not?’ would be a better question. My art program is much richer and more exciting for the children thanks to the support from the HSF. My young artists are so proud that the HSF funds projects for them; it makes them feel special and valued. I appreciate the fact that they support the arts. I feel that I am a better teacher thanks to the HSF because I want to challenge myself to think of new ideas to challenge the children and enrich their art experiences. The looks of pride on the children’s faces when they walk by the displayed collaborative projects is heart-warming. Prices for paper and other art supplies have almost doubled and the art budget has not grown. I have received numerous HSF grants over the years for large projects, enrichment, art history, multi-cultural art, assemblies and Hudson River studies. I don’t know what I would do without the generosity of the HSF, and I can’t sing their praises enough.”
On Dec. 17, the Foundation will host a big Holiday Benefit Concert at the school, specifically to support the Arts Boosters at Haldane. The concert will feature Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Dar Williams and Motherlode. Other upcoming events are:
“Black Friday,” Nov. 25, Main Street’s Hudson Valley Outfitters will donate a portion of its sales to the HSF, following in the footsteps of Payning By Caryn, which did the same recently.
Trivia Night, on Friday, Jan. 20, at St. Mary’s Church
The Crystal Ball, on March 3
Ladies’ Poker Night, in April
For more information on the Foundation, including a detailing of all of the innovation grants, visit their website.
Photos by A.Rooney except as noted.