Anna Sullivan is the board chair of the Foundation for Beacon Schools.
What is the foundation?
We are a nonprofit organization that was formed during the pandemic to support the six schools in the Beacon City School District. We came together at a time when the future of public education funding was very uncertain. We felt it was a good time to establish an organization that could connect the community more strongly to the public schools. Our mission is to fundraise and support innovative programming that enriches and extends the learning experience. We’re in early conversations with the district around some ideas to enrich curriculum.
Was the foundation formed in response to the pandemic, or was the timing coincidental?
It was more like the stars aligned. There had been interest in reviving a foundation for the schools, so discussions were underway when the pandemic hit. But it put everyone into top gear. We formed the board a couple of months into the pandemic and worked remotely throughout the year to get registered with the state and to be designated as a nonprofit. This has been the perfect time for us to build infrastructure. We’re starting to do fundraising and we’re planning some fun events for the next couple of academic years, including our inaugural gala, which will be at the end of this school year.
Are you independent of the school district?
We are, but a successful foundation has to partner closely with the district. The superintendent and a number of Board of Education members are on our advisory board, but our board of directors is independent. That’s a strength in a lot of ways. We can apply for funding that the district might not be eligible to apply for. We can evaluate the projects that we fund from an impartial lens. As we grow, the hope is that what we’re setting up is going to outlive all of us who are parents in the district now, and having control over the direction of the organization is going to help us do that.
How will the organization benefit students and teachers?
We’re looking to fund pilot projects that teachers and/or teachers and students want to experiment with that may not be in the scope of the school budget — whether that’s an opportunity to explore learning with different technologies or adding layers to curriculum. The goal would be for the district to adopt the most successful initiatives, so it can be a testing ground. Our mission is to allow students opportunities to discover and cultivate talents. We have an amazing district with incredible teachers and administrators, but we know that there are always opportunities to reach students who might not be able to identify their greatest strengths before they leave school.
What led you to get involved with the schools?
My son started pre-K in the school district eight years ago, during a time of upheaval. There had been a lot of turnover in district leadership and the community was concerned. I started attending Board of Education meetings to learn more and I joined my son’s elementary school PTO. By getting involved and witnessing first-hand the challenges and opportunities public education faces in the 21st century, I saw how much impact community support and fundraising can have on students’ learning experiences — from helping fund field trips and artistic performances to incredible programs like the Calico Ball and the Lightbulb Lab STEM initiative. That was my starting point.