How Parent-Led Foundations Fund School Projects-Part 2

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 support projects and programs at the districts’ schools.

In Part 1 of our March 2024 issue, we featured two Foundations, and complete the coverage with Part 2 here focusing on the other two,  again showing how these Foundations work in concert with administrators and faculty to benefit students.  

Larry Epstein, a River Journal regular contributor, is an Emmy award-winning writer and producer who works at News 12 and previously was at Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and MSNBC.  

Lakeland Education Foundation (LEF)
A 30-Year Legacy Worth $2 Million 

‘We are always mindful to ensure the grants enhance learning opportunities’ – Lakeland Superintendent Dr. Karen Gagliari

Over the past 30 years, LEF has raised nearly $2 million for the district, and that money has funded a wide variety of projects of all sizes. Foundation President Diane Kness says they work closely with the district. “Grants are submitted to the Foundation from staff of the Lakeland Central School District. Each grant that is funded aligns with district goals and curriculum.” Superintendent Dr. Karen Gagliardi adds, “There is a whole process teachers go through to make proposals. After applying for funding, the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, and LEF Board collaborate on final selections on funded grants. We are always mindful to ensure the grants funded enhance learning opportunities for students and that support current curriculum. “ 

Since 1994, the foundation has supported a litany of projects, including, for example, grants for the marching band and an outdoor park at Walter Panas High School; winter snowshoes at Lakeland High School; 3D printers at Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School, coding robots and a mindfulness room at George Washington Elementary School, and a climbing wall at Van Cortlandtville Elementary School. 

Superintendent Gagliardi says it’s a team effort. “We have ongoing communication. The LEF has a place on our District website, we hold regular meetings together, and we attend and promote their fundraisers.“ She also says the projects funded by the foundation don’t impact the district’s budget. “No taxpayer funds go to them, it’s purely fundraising on their end for projects and grants.” 

This is a milestone year for LEF. Kness says, “We currently are in the process of planning our 30th anniversary celebration fundraiser. “  

Hendrick Hudson Community Educational Foundation (HHCEF)
Granting Scholarships and Funding Projects at all Levels 

‘I serve as a liaison to the Foundation, providing feedback on projects being considered’ — Hendrick Hudson Superintendent Michael Tromblee

Since 1995, the Foundation has awarded nearly $600,000 in grants and senior scholarships. Beth Gruber, HHCEF Vice President in charge of grants and scholarships, says they work closely with everyone – including the kids themselves. “Administrators always have a say in the process since their approval is required before we will accept a grant application.  Grant requests are typically driven by teachers and/or administrators, but we have had some requests that have involved students from clubs or other student groups.” 

Superintendent Michael Tromblee, who started that job late last year, says he’s involved in the process. “I serve as a liaison to the Foundation, attending meetings and providing input and feedback on projects that are being considered to ensure that they align with any Board of Education policies and educational law, as well as ensure that the projects align with our strategic directions, such as our instructional focus.” 

For nearly 30 years, HHCEF has funded projects at all levels, including equipment for a summer speed and agility program for grades 6-12; equipment and supplies to create a digital art studio at the high school; digital cameras, printer and graphics software for three new art electives at Blue Mountain Middle School; tablets and software for the instructional speech and language program at Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary School; and support for the Sparks after-school program, teaching social skills to elementary students through the Hendrick Hudson Special Education PTA (SEPTA) 

Tromblee says it’s all done without district funds. “The Foundation allows us to provide supplemental items and activities for students that are not contained in the operating budget.”  

Gruber says that “Without support from both the community and the district, Education Foundations can find it nearly impossible to thrive. We feel very fortunate to have the level of support we do from our district community.”  


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About the Author: Larry Epstein