The Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools continued to celebrate its 20th anniversary with a surprise donation of $1,250 to each of West Hartford's 16 schools.
The donation's grand total, $20,000, signifies the foundation's 20th anniversary.
The nonprofit made the unexpected gift at the West Hartford schools monthly leadership meeting, on Dec. 14. Only Superintendent Tom Moore knew that each principal in attendance that day would be receiving the donation.
"Because of our anniversary, we wanted to do something really special to give back to the schools," said Cyndi Brown, co-president of the nonprofit. "We came up that if we were going to give back $20,000 to the schools, we'd divide it by the 16 schools."
The foundation was started in 1997 by Hall High School parents Dougie Trumble and Heather Congdon. Board member Sherry Feinglass, a retired West Hartford teacher, said that first year, they probably only gave out around $5,000 in grants. This current school year, they've handed out $88,000 in grants.
With this, Brown and fellow co-president Cathy Woods hope to see some unique ideas come from each principal about how to spend it. What they do with it is totally up to them. They hope principals will come to their West Hartford's Cookin' event on March 24 to tell them what they used it for.
"We really wanted to think outside of the box and do something different," Brown said. "We thought this year, if we were to give back to them, the goal is for them to let us know during West Hartford's Cookin' how they're going to spend the money. What type of enrichment program are they going to provide the students of their school?"
Brown said this donation gives principals the opportunity to provide their students and teachers with something that's not found in the normal school budget. There might be something the principal has always wanted to add to the school, but never had the funding for.
"What would they like to do for their school or their students that's outside of the box?" Brown said.
"The goal of our grant program is always to enrich the existing curriculum that they don't have the funding to implement," Feinglass said.
The money could be spent on a residency from an artist or scientist, add technology or equipment to classrooms, or bring in a guest speaker.
"There are so many things they can do with this," Brown said.
As the foundation makes this gesture during its 20th year, it also finds it an opportunity to reflect on how it is able to benefit the town's schools.
"It's a long time to keep going as a nonprofit," Brown said. "We're continuing to evolve. The teachers are thinking outside of the box and it says a lot for us that we're able to give back to the schools. Giving this gift... it's a wonderful thing that we're able to do. The principals are really excited about it."