New leader steps forward for NEF

Matt Fortney is the new chairman of the Naugatuck Education Foundation. –CONTRIBUTED

Matt Fortney is the new chairman of the Naugatuck Education Foundation. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Matt Fortney’s parents, mother-in-law and wife are all teachers. All three of his children are attending public school in the borough.

Fortney, who was named chairman of the Naugatuck Education Foundation earlier this summer, joined the organization that provides grants to teachers because he personally has seen its benefits.

“We think it’s a win-win for everybody involved,” said Fortney, 37, who lives on the borough’s west side near Naugatuck High School. “It’s a way to improve the quality of education without increasing taxes.”

Fortney replaces former Chairwoman Joan Doback, who was instrumental in starting the foundation two years ago. When Doback’s two-year term expired, the foundation’s board chose Fortney as her successor.

Fortney said his main goal is to build on Doback’s success and market the organization.

“Now that we’re up and running, the big thing that I want to push for for the next couple of years is getting recognition and awareness of what the foundation is and how it helps our teachers and our students,” Fortney said.

After Fortney’s name came up as a possible chairman, the board reached an immediate consensus that he should be given the position, member Seth Bronko said.

“He quickly grabbed on to the vision for the board and his passion for our mission was very evident from the beginning when he came on, so he was just a natural,” Bronko said.

Fortney, a financial planner with Barnum Financial Group in Shelton, has lived in the borough for 15 years. His wife, Valerie, a former dean at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, is a lifelong resident who is now looking for jobs closer to home. They have a 10-year-old daughter and sons aged 8 and 6.

The education foundation awarded $2,500 in grants for school projects in its first year, but this spring it was able to quadruple that amount, giving out $10,000.

Andrew Avenue Elementary School’s outdoor classroom and greenhouse is this year’s biggest project paid for by the foundation, Fortney said. The foundation also paid for video book report equipment for Salem Elementary School’s book club; a student news website at City Hill Middle School; an extracurricular program at Hillside Intermediate School that uses comic books to get students involved in graphic arts; and a Western Elementary School initiative to provide parents with materials that prepare their children for kindergarten.

The foundation does not pay for the extra time that teachers and administrators dedicate to the projects, Fortney said.

Fortney expects to be able to give out at least $10,000 again next year. Applications will probably be due in January and awards will be made in the spring.

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