How Parent-Led Foundations Fund School Projects — Part 1

School budgets are funded by the taxpayers and state and federal grants, but the four districts in River Journal’s circulation footprint also get money from another source – education foundations. Croton-Harmon Union Free School District, Peekskill City School District, Hendrick Hudson School District, and Lakeland Central School District work with foundations that raise money to benefit projects and programs at the schools.

In this two-part series, we feature all four foundations (see Part 2), showing how they work in concert with administrators and faculty to benefit students.

Croton-Harmon Education Foundation (CHEF)
Cooking Up School Projects For 20+ Years

CHEF Co-President Ricky Yu (Photo > Supplied)

Since its founding in 2000, CHEF says it’s given more than $1 million in grants to the district, and it’s ”able to kickstart an idea into action, without having to find room in the tight school budget. We are proud to support activities in the arts, STEM fields, humanities, and beyond.”Co-Presidents Ricky Yu and Cathy Blazek say, “We take our responsibility on this board so seriously because our funding comes completely from the community. We have generous people who believe in this cause and have been faithfully donating to this foundation.”

CHEF Co-President Cathy Blazek (Photo > Facebook)


The donations have been put to good use for both academic and arts programs – including a new lighting system in the auditorium, an electronic music program, and support for a TV studio at Croton-Harmon High School. Blazek and Yu describe some of the other programs CHEF has supported as “professional grade studio equipment and large format plotter printers at the high school, 3D printers and Cricut machines at the middle school library, and a coding and robotic program in the elementary school.”

Blazek and Yu say they work closely with the schools: “Project proposals come directly from school faculty who are identifying these needs and ideas based on their firsthand experience and feedback from peers, parents, and students. However, decisions on which projects are funded are made solely by the CHEF board.”

Superintendent Stephen Walker says, “We consider CHEF to be essential partners in helping us to envision and create ‘What School Can Be.’ We are in regular contact about project ideas and applications, work collaboratively to communicate CHEF’s impact on our schools to the community, and support each other’s efforts. CHEF allows the district to provide innovative opportunities for students that may not otherwise have been available.”


Peekskill Education Foundation (PEF)
Funding Projects and Programs Since 2002

PEF President Meghan Sheldon-Brungard (Photo > Facebook)

PEF has donated nearly $200,000 to the district since its founding in 2002. Foundation President Meghan Sheldon-Brungard says its mission is to “Identify and foster partnerships between residents, businesses, and the Peekskill City Schools in order to develop a higher level of community involvement and financial support.”

She says the foundation “Raises funds to support and develop new program initiatives designed to improve academic achievement in reading, science and math; expand cultural enrichment experiences and opportunities in music and the arts; create new opportunities for higher education for the district’s students; and to assist with equipment purchases and physical improvements to the district’s schools.”


Sheldon-Brungard says PEF has funded a wide variety of academic and arts programs, including “MiFi WiFi Hotspots (funded as part of the Peekskill Technology Equity Community Coalition); Ozobot (coding robots) at Oakside Elementary School; a Music Wishlist Grant (written by music departments of all the schools) and kicked off by a concert with world-renowned violinist Daisy Jopling,” and various scholarships for students.

Says Sheldon-Brungard, “We have a very open and communicative relationship with the district. “ Superintendent Dr. David Mauricio agrees: “The Peekskill City School District collaborates with the Peekskill Education Foundation to ensure the projects being funded are aligned with our curriculum and district needs. PEF funds items and initiatives outside of what our district budget can reach.”



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About the Author: Larry Epstein