What is MSF? The Mamaroneck Schools Foundation was founded by parents and community members in 1996 to raise funds and encourage excellence in our public schools by funding innovative programs that fall beyond the scope of the regular school budget. It offers a way for individuals, foundations and corporations to donate money to the public schools, and for teachers and administrators to get extra funding for new programs and equipment. MSF is a non-profit organization run by volunteers, independent of the school board and administration, though it operates with their cooperation and support. *
How is MSF different from the PTA? MSF generally funds larger initiatives, often specifically related to curriculum, and provides seed money to pioneer new programs, technology or approaches to teaching, rather than funding ongoing expenses. The Foundation considers requests with a view to the needs of the school district as a whole, and particularly welcomes multi-school grants. In short, MSF funds grants in areas that are often beyond the scope or purview of the PTAs. MSF does not compete with the PTAs, but rather complements the work they are doing within each school. The Schools Foundation is also a separate entity from the Student Aid Fund, which solicits funds for college scholarships for worthy seniors.
We pay high taxes to fund a large school budget. Why is there a need for MSF to ask for donations as well? MSF was founded not only to raise money, but also to encourage and reward innovation in teaching. By encouraging teachers and administrators to develop new programs and creative approaches to teaching, and to incorporate new technologies and equipment in their classrooms, we provide incentives for teachers to stay on the cutting edge of their field, and to stay motivated and excited about teaching. We reward their efforts by funding “wish list” projects for their classrooms that might otherwise never come to fruition, and we allow teachers the opportunity to dream bigger and to try out new ideas as pilot programs. We provide a way for parents and community members who want to make our schools the best they possibly can be to give teachers and students the “extras” that create a truly outstanding school system. The vast majority of the school taxes and budget go toward fixed expenses such as salaries, building costs, pensions and insurance. Only about 1% of our district’s $96 million budget represents discretionary costs. Within that context, the Foundation’s annual budget of approximately $300,000 can have a huge impact, and in the face of rising costs and decreasing state and federal aid, helps ensure that our schools continue to excel.
How are grants chosen and awarded? Anyone—teachers, administrators, community members—is encouraged to apply for grants. A copy of the MSF Grant Guidelines as well as the Grant Application can be found on our website, www. MamaroneckSchoolsFoundation.org. We request that the relevant school’s principal or program administrator be made aware of the grant proposal. A committee of MSF board members carefully reviews and evaluates all grant requests, questioning grant applicants thoroughly, and then, depending on funds available, votes to award grants to as many programs deemed worthy as possible. The superintendent of schools also reviews all grants, and then the funds are accepted by the school board.
How much money does the Foundation grant? Grants range from $1,500 to as much as $50,000. Overall, we have contributed more than $1,500,000 for over 160 grants to our schools in past years.
I have an idea for a new program. How do I apply for a grant? Obtain a copy of the Grant Guidelines and Grant Application as explained above. Talk with any teachers or administrators who would be involved in implementing the program to gauge their interest. It is important that any program have the support of a faculty member to implement it. Parents and community members can play an important role in suggesting new programs, and in providing assistance in the grant-writing process. We also award grants to education-related programs for community organizations such as the Community Counseling Center, the Mamaroneck Library, the Hispanic Resource Center, and the Sheldrake Nature Center.
How does the Foundation raise its money? The Foundation raises almost all its funds from two primary sources: A fall fund-raising mailer, sent out to all district families in early November, which raises over $100,000; and through a Spring Gala and Silent Auction held in May. We also receive a portion of proceeds from the Antiques Fair held at the High School in March. In past years, we were especially fortunate to receive substantial directed donations from generous anonymous donors in the community that were used to fund a specially created pre-K literacy program and for teacher training and staff development.
How are board members for MSF chosen and who are they? All members are volunteers who simply express interest and enthusiasm for joining in the work of the Foundation. All start as members of the Advisory Board and then, as they demonstrate a commitment to the organization, may be named as members to the Board. Interested faculty members are also members of our board. The Board generally meets on the second Wednesday of each month at the High School. We welcome new members: Please contact the Foundation office at 698-9079 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Do most public school districts in Westchester have schools foundations? Yes, they do. Districts ranging from Bronxville, which has one of the oldest and most successful foundations, to Eastchester, which has more recently formed a foundation, are finding it a worthwhile way to raise funds and enhance education in their communities. And across the country, there is greater emphasis on private and corporate giving for public schools. Mamaroneck has one of the most successful foundations in the area in terms of both money raised and grants awarded. A strong schools foundation is considered an important sign of a community’s commitment to education, and is often noted by realtors and in descriptions of our community.