The Rockville Centre Education Foundation donated $70,000 to the school district at its Board of Education meeting on June 5. The money will go toward more than a dozen grants focused on bolstering learning in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math — also known as STEAM — as well as supporting students’ mental health.
“I’m very excited this time each year,” said Dr. Chris Pellettieri, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “We partner throughout the year with the Rockville Centre Education Foundation.” Since 1991, the non-profit foundation has funded initiatives proposed by district teachers and administrators to expand educational opportunities. A total of 27 grant applications were submitted for the 2019-20 school year, Pellettieri said, requesting about $90,000.
“This year there was a different kind of call to action by the teachers and the staff,” Education Foundation Audra Cerruto said at the meeting. “They were requesting innovative ways to address the mental health and the well-being of our students, and it resonated with our foundation very much.”
Such initiatives include a therapy dog pilot program at South Side High School, during which students can visit canines in the Commons Room to reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem and increase empathy; and sensory items to help students at Francis F. Wilson Elementary School gain the skills to self-regulate, improve focus and increase participation, allowing them to become more available learners.
The largest grant, totaling more than $12,000, will pay for a Group Education Controller at South Side Middle School, which will link together workstations in the school’s STEAM Lab, so that the teacher can control and guide instructions from around the room, desktop to iPad. It will allow students to work together during projects and the technology connects with other STEAM Lab equipment, such as computers, piano keyboards and guitars.
At Riverside Elementary School, a $4,000 grant will fund STEAM games and activities to explore critical thinking in the classroom and at recess during inclement weather; Materials at William S. Covert Elementary School will support student-driven STEAM activities. In addition, a $10,000 for all the district’s elementary schools will go toward Science Connection, an online membership that provides information for teachers to help enrich science curriculum through hands-on lessons.
Other initiatives include “Soaring to New Heights,” a year-long project at Floyd B. Watson Elementary School to support social and emotional issues that culminates in a night-time event where a hot-air balloon inspires soaring to new heights under the balloon of wellness; and “Rockville Centre Must Reads,” a program at Jennie E. Hewitt Elementary School that allows students to make book recommendations and displays to spark excitement about reading.
Also at the meeting, representatives of South Side High School’s class of 1959 presented the Education Foundation with a check for nearly $43,000 as its class gift, to commemorate 60 years since graduating and their late classmate Stephen Langfelder.
More than $15,000 of that money was included in this year’s $70,000 donation and will fund upgrades to South Side’s television studio and materials for a new filmmaking program. The remaining $25,000 from the class of 1959 would be used for future initiatives in the fields of broadcasting, journalism, film, music and art, Cerruto said.
Beau Gardner, a member of the class of 1959, said, “We also hope that this leads the way for other classes to follow in our footsteps.”