July 17, 2008

Group’s Aim: Raise Funds for Schools in Tyngsboro

By Chris Camire, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Jul. 17--TYNGSBORO -- During her six years on the Tyngsboro School Committee, Diana Keohane watched a school system in distress.

Athletic fees became the highest in the Merrimack Valley. Dozens of teaching positions were cut. Bus fees were instated at $200 a student.

Keohane retired from the committee this year, and now she and a group of concerned parents are banding together to create a nonprofit organization to raise money for the town's schools.

"When I was on the School Committee that's what I said I always wanted to do," said Keohane, who left the committee this year to become a math teacher. "That was always my plan to start this education foundation."

Called the Education Foundation For Tyngsboro, the group's goal is to provide funding for one-time expenses, like supplies, field trips or special programs eliminated from the budget in recent years.

"What we see happening is the educators in our schools applying for grants to do things, and then we'll approve the grants," said Keohane.

About 18 members have been recruited to the group so far, said Keohane, mostly through Tyngsboro Citizens, a list serve on Yahoo! Groups.

Educational foundations are not new. Many already exist throughout the state.

In Lexington, more than $2.3 million has been funded by the Lexington Education Foundation since 1991. The Newburyport Education Foundation has done everything from holding a spelling bee to selling the naming rights to its high school's

band room to raise money.

A group of citizens in Tewksbury are in the early stages of forming their own non-profit to help the town's cash-strapped schools.

Keohane stresses that the Tyngsboro group is still in its infancy, having met twice with a third meeting scheduled for tomorrow. As their first fundraising event, members hope to hold a road race to coincide with the town's Pig & Apple Festival in the fall.

The Education Foundation will be the only group in town with the sole purpose of raising money for academics.

The Friends of Tyngsboro High School Athletics was founded several years ago to raise money for high school sports programs. It primarily focuses on purchasing individual items for the athletics program.

Selectmen also recently appointed a committee to oversee the town's education fund, an account subsidized by voluntary contributions residents make when paying their tax bills. Approved at the Special Town Meeting in October of 2006, the fund contains about $5,000.

Christine Miceli, a mother of two school-age children who is likely to serve as the Education Foundation's president, said the group is the result of concerned citizens acting on their desire for change.

"Most of us have been concerned for years over the decline of what's been offered in the schools," said Miceli. "You can only feel down about it so long."


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