New foundation aims to give teachers a helping hand

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Naugatuck High School nurse Gail Rossi looks over raffle items during the Naugatuck Education Foundation’s first fundraiser Nov. 25 at Jesse Camille’s Restaurant. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that recently formed in order to raise money and provide grants for borough teachers. RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Amongst the holiday festivities, residents and Naugatuck High School alumni found a new way Friday to support the borough schools that have shaped their lives.

Scores attended the first fundraiser for the Naugatuck Education Foundation, a new nonprofit that raises money for teachers who apply to get funding for specific projects.

“It’s a great cause,” said Jill Waldron, 45, who teaches at Lauralton Hall in Milford. Her older son graduated from Naugatuck High School, where her younger son currently attends.

“I know how hard it is to teach when you don’t have the right supplies,” Waldron said.

In Connecticut, 95 towns have similar foundations, which are independent from school boards but work with them to give grants to teachers.

Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson, who worked in towns such as Litchfield with nonprofit education foundations, proposed with former Naugatuck High School Principal Lori Ferreira years ago to start such a foundation in the borough.

That effort came to fruition Friday with the foundation’s “Alums and Chums” fundraiser at Jesse Camille’s Restaurant on North Church Street.

“It’s very exciting,” Tindall-Gibson said. “This is something that is really appreciated by teachers, and it spurs creativity and innovation in the classroom.”

The goal of Friday’s fundraiser was to raise enough money for $500 grants to go to five teachers. The organization has filed for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service and is waiting for a reply, said Joan Doback, chair of the board of directors.

The grant application is already developed and teachers should be able to apply soon, with the winners receiving money by the spring to complete their projects this school year, Doback said.

The $500 grants could fund smaller projects, such as one done by a neighboring foundation that bought a few iPods for children to listen to recorded books while reading the text, Doback said.

Some well-established foundations have been able to pay for science labs and greenhouses, Doback said.

Doback said the foundation is a way to raise money to improve borough schools without increasing taxes.

“It just seems like there’s never enough money to do the projects we’d like to see done,” she said.

Board member Gina Allison, who has a son at City Hill Middle School, said she was optimistic that the first fundraiser would meet the organization’s goal.

“I think that communities all over the country are suffering from economic times, and we all want more for our kids, and the only way that is going to happen is if we get involved,” Allison said.

For information about the foundation, visit www.naugatuckeducationfoundation.org.