ILION – With the ever intensifying financial strain on schools, there is only so much a district can afford – only so many educational programs, so much equipment, so many field trips, if any at all. Thanks to the Central Valley Central School District Foundation, Central Valley students and teachers have someone to fall back on to help maintain some of these things that might otherwise end up on the chopping block.
The express purpose of the foundation is to enhance education by providing equipment and funding trips and projects above and beyond what the district’s annual budget can finance, said Foundation President JoAnn Duga. In the past this has included purchasing lab coats, microscopes and slides for Barringer Road Elementary School, high school Ecology Club trips to Hawaii and the furniture in the high school lobby.
“The school can’t afford everything,” she pointed out. “But these are things that are education based and are a real benefit to the students.”
Anyone in any of the district’s four schools can ask the foundation for full or partial funding for anything school-related, Duga said. After the request is made, the board considers it, the person making the request will often present their idea before the board, then a decision is made.
“We don’t just hand out money,” Duga said. “We consider carefully. But at the same time, we aren’t difficult and we do our best to meet the requests.”
To support these financial requests, foundation members must work hard at fundraising. Current members have a lot of ideas up their sleeves for the coming year including a daily draw in the month of January, selling Central Valley bracelets and key chains, a 5K road race, Bingo nights, the revival of the memorial brick program and a booth at the three on three basketball tournament during Ilion Days next month.
The foundation is also part of the Amazon Smile program. Anyone shopping on Amazon.com can go to smile.amazon.com and choose a non-profit organization to support. Once chosen, that organization will receive .05 percent of every purchase made by that user
The foundation isn’t all about money. Something new the board would like to try is a quarterly recognition program that would encompass students, staff and faculty.
“We all can pick out someone who doesn’t look for recognition and doesn’t get recognition, but deserves it,” Duga said. “Someone who goes out of their way to do something nice.”
“And it’s not going to be just academic-based but character based too,” added Molly Bonnell, foundation publicity chair. “And anyone in the school will be able to be recognized. Maybe there’s a custodian who goes above and beyond. For example, I still remember when I was about 5 or 6, it was winter and my coat zipper got stuck. The custodian of the school came over and fixed it so I was able to zip up my coat. That made a big impression on me, obviously. Here it is 30 years later and I still remember that.”
The foundation also serves as the keeper of scholarship money, though the foundation’s board has no part in picking scholarship recipients.
The organization began in 1995 as the Ilion Central School District Foundation. With the merging of Ilion and Mohawk schools in 2013, it became the Central Valley Central School District Foundation. The foundation board allows a maximum of 20 member volunteers.
In recent years, the foundation experienced waning support and its members dwindled to four. In March 2019, veteran foundation member Duga was brought back on board after having stepped down a number of years prior. She immediately began recruiting more members and drumming up support. The foundation currently has 16 members comprised of non-district teachers, fire fighters, police officers, parents, non-parents, retired teachers, company executive directors, funeral directors and more, Duga said.
“I’m very excited about this group,” she said. “I’ve been thrilled at the response I’ve received to the call for members. We’ve gathered members from a variety of ages and backgrounds that bring a lot of good ideas and input.”
“Everyone seems dedicated and passionate about it,” added Bonnell.
Pictured above, from back left, are foundation board members Robert Raffle, Joe Helmer, JoAnn Duga, Rebecca Gillette, Deborah Schoff and Cory McDowell, and, from front left, Melanie Crisino Sonja Levi, Krissi Newtown, Jaclyn Moore, Kristen Rich, Sara Herringshaw and Molly Bonnell. Not pictured are members John Brewer, Michael Conover and Scott Pizer.