Families gathered around tables adorned with green and yellow balloons at the Lynbrook High School cafeteria last Friday for the Excellence in Education Foundation Inc.’s inaugural Grant Recipient Award Reception.
The organization was revived last year to collect funds for the Lynbrook School District’s extra-curricular programs, after it was disbanded in 2005 because of declining membership. Ivy Reilly, a mother of children in the district, led the effort to bring it back, she said, because she wanted to support the district despite the community voting down its $46 million bond in 2016.
At the reception, she recalled how she asked the school board what she could do to help the district, and Trustee Lesli Denino suggested she re-form the education foundation. “And I did, and this is what we have a year later,” Reilly said, adding that she was “amazed” by the amount of residents who donated to the cause. “So I’m very proud that we can do this and that there’s so much support in Lynbrook.”
The organization raised more than $11,000 in grants this year for teachers and administrators, who will use the funds to purchase tools and equipment for the students. Adam Callahan, the vice president of the organization, and Sean Murray, the treasurer, presented each of the five grants that the organization awarded this year.
The first grant they presented went to science research teachers Charles Vessalico and David Shanker, who will use the money to buy a miniature polymerase chain reaction lab that students in advanced science classes could use to make copies of DNA sequences. The equipment is lightweight and can be transported to different classrooms, Vessalico said, and is currently being used on the International Space Station. “So to be able to give our kids in Lynbrook access to this type of equipment is just an amazing opportunity,” he said, “and we’re really thankful to the foundation for supporting this grant.”
Another grant went to high school art teacher Susan Ehrlich to purchase a large format printer. After she received the award, Ehrlich presented a video explaining that only the students whose artwork gets put on display can currently have their large-scale artwork printed, but with the printer, she said, every art student would be able to print their work.
The third grant went to Neil MacDermott, the district’s instructional technology coordinator, and will be used to buy a green screen and programmable robots for students in the three elementary schools. He said the new technology would offer students other ways of demonstrating what they have learned in class.
The last two grants funded flexible seating, or alternative seating arrangements, at West End Elementary School. One went to teacher Daniela Mahouski for sit-and-stand desks for her classroom, and the other went to teacher Theresa D’Amato for flexible seating in her classrooms. “The idea here is also to give students other ways to be in the classroom besides the traditional sitting at the desk,” Murray said, “which is going to help their learning.”
Reilly said she would like to raise more funds next year, and as guests left the reception, she joked, “Please feel free to give us more money.”