Carlisle Education Foundation: creating opportunities for Carlisle students

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Eighth graders test their egg carriers on zip lines in the Carlisle School engineering room.
(Photo by Ginny Lamere)

Excellence. Innovation. Exploration. These are just a few of the words that could be used to describe the Carlisle Education Foundation (CEF) and what it is accomplishing. There is an African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. In the community of Carlisle, students have many resources and support mechanisms to aid them along in their educational journey and the CEF plays a role in this.

The CEF was established in 1990, basically due to budget cuts. A group of parents was concerned about program cuts, namely the school library, and the impact on the education of Carlisle children, and banded together to raise the funds required to keep the library operating. Since then, the CEF has funded many programs and projects, enriching the lives of Carlisle’s students and teachers as well.

Its mission reads, “The Carlisle Education Foundation is a non-profit volunteer organization that advances innovation in the classroom, promotes excellence in teaching, and enables superior learning opportunities for students and educators in the Carlisle Public School community.” Those are some heady undertakings, but based on past accomplishments, the CEF upholds its mission.

The CEF board is comprised of ten to 14 parents, some with skills in finance and fundraising, some with backgrounds in education, who are passionate about innovation at the school. The board operates with two co-presidents, Alyson Becker and Susie Shaw. Becker says that everyone pitches in to share the workload. “Every single member works incredibly hard in a variety of roles.”

A community of acronyms

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CEF is planning to raise funds for a project to renovate a storage room in the lower level of the Corey Building into new space for music instruction. (Plan adapted by Marjorie Johnson)

The CEF, the CSC, the PTO, the SEPAC—that’s a lot of acronyms associated with the Carlisle School. What does it all mean? For starters, the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) oversees the operations of the school, and develops, approves, and revises district policies. The PTO members host 

faculty luncheons, the annual book fair, monthly coffee chats for parents, and a summer camp fair, to name just a few of the events they organize. As Becker states, “The PTO is the glue in the school community.” The Carlisle Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) is an organization that serves as a resource and advisor to parents of children with special needs and learning differences.

Grant awards

The CEF’s focus is on innovation and professional development—innovation as it relates to teaching and the improvement and advancement of school faculty. Semi-annually, the CEF awards grants to the faculty to improve skills and to keep abreast of the latest trends in teaching. The faculty has had the opportunity to attend conferences and workshops worldwide to help them stay on the cutting edge of education. This year, grants were awarded for staff to attend an art conference in New York and a literacy conference in Rhode Island. Because of CEF funding, the middle school now has a large television display monitor in the hallway that is used to disseminate information and to create community.

Each year teachers research and submit grant applications for learning opportunities. The superintendent vets the applications and then submits them to the CEF. Remaining cognizant of how many students are supported by the grant and whether there is value in the grant, the CEF chooses requests that align with its mission. In an average year, the CEF provides approximately $30K in grants for professional development and technology. 

But in addition to grants, CEF also focuses on bigger capital projects—projects that will provide for an engaging learning environment. The CEF has funded such things as interactive whiteboards, technology carts equipped with computers and iPads, and amplification systems that allow teachers and students to amplify their voices when presenting in the classroom.

Engineering and learning

Sometimes the CEF does not have the funding to support a project, as happened six years ago when it initiated the “Minds Matter” fundraising campaign to create an engineering room at the school. The campaign raised enough money to equip an engineering room and staff it with an instructor for the first year. This was then integrated into the curriculum. The CEF continues to add improvements to the room including two 3D printers.

The engineering room is used to construct hands-on, engaging, learning projects, such as a project in which 8th graders had to design and build egg carriers to travel down a zip line and fall into a basket without cracking. Soon 6th graders will be in the room constructing earthquake-proof structures and 7th graders will move in for the month of June to build, test and race robots.

For each project, students are doing research and are given materials to design, build, test, redesign, and retest, which is the engineering design process, says Ginny Lamere, the engineering specialist at the school. Lamere says, “The CEF has provided so much to the engineering room. Besides outfitting the room with cabinets, countertops and adjustable tables, the CEF has paid for the 3D printers, the filament, robot kits and tools. I cannot thank them enough!”

Learning Commons

In 2015, the CEF funded a renovation to the school library through its campaign “The Next Chapter: Library to Learning Commons.” In addition to new rugs and paint, and adaptable furniture, rolling bookcases were added to allow for more flexibility in creating open spaces to accommodate different grade levels. The technology in the library, both hardware and software, was replaced as well. 

Into the future

And now the CEF looks to the future and another capital campaign. With the project currently in its infancy, the CEF intends to fund the renovation of a storage room into additional space for the music program. “The long-range goal of the organization is to provide the school with a modern facility for instrumental and choral music,” states the CEF. (See “New life proposed for Carlisle School ‘Mistake Room’, March 2,” and plan below.)

Upcoming gala

With professional grants, an engineering room, and an anticipated new music space, fundraising is a critical component for the CEF. Annually, the CEF sends an appeal to Carlisle residents and businesses asking for financial support, but the biennial auction is its main fundraising vehicle. This year, the CEF gala, “Hot Havana Nights” will be held on April 7th at the Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord. Boston comedian Jimmy Tingle will be the emcee and auctioneer for the evening. 

The CEF has come a long way since the days of saving the library some 28 years ago. With the grants and capital projects made possible by the CEF, and its commitment to innovation, the students of Carlisle have had and will continue to have an exceptional public education. ∆