There is nothing that gives parents more pleasure than the well-being of their children. And when a community rallies around to support all children, magic can happen! The Byram Hills Education Foundation (BHEF) is an outstanding example of this very alchemy.
What is the BHEF?
Created in 1994 by parents, faculty and community leaders, the BHEF crafted a mission statement “to enhance the educational experience of all children within the Byram Hills Central School District (BHCSD) by generating community support to fund innovative grants that encourage learning and personal development.”
This mission is as focused and strong today as it was at its inception. The BHEF Board consists of 35 dedicated all-volunteer members: four teachers (one from each school), the BHCSD Superintendent, two Board of Education members, one PTSA member, eight district representatives and the remainder made up of parents of current students and alumni. This group comes together to discuss and make final decisions regarding grant proposals, takes the lead in raising funds to support the proposed initiatives, and maintains an on-going supportive relationship with BHCSD administration and Board of Education.
The start of the school year also marks the beginning of the annual grant-cycle. A subset of the Board, the Grant Review Committee, meets to review all teacher-submitted applications. After thorough discussion, finalists are presented to the full Board for a vote. The awarded grant is often part of a long-term plan of action, with expected implementation over a two-year period.
Additionally, the BHEF supports a monthly grant opportunity known as Insta-Grant. This forward-thinking option provides teachers with up-to-the-minute flexibility for quick projects and initiatives; Insta-Grants may not exceed $2500 and must be used within six months or before the end of the academic year.
Recently, annual grants have revolved around technology: 2012/13 laid the groundwork for digital programming, 2014/15 saw One-to-One mobile learning which provided Chrome books for district students, 2015/16 expanded earlier tech initiatives with Full STEAM Ahead!, and this year’s awards include Fall’s Reinvention of the Library Experience at Coman Hill, Wampus and H.C. Crittenden MS as well as Spring’s recent approval for two BHHS grants: Professional Development for Global Competency Initiative, plus TV and FILM Curtained Production Area with Cyclorama: a curved green screen wall and lighting system.
Also worth noting: The Debra Leipman Yale Memorial Fund (DLYMF) was established with the Yale family as a meaningful way to honor the life and memory of devoted wife, loving mother and five-year Board Member (including two years as Chair) Debra Leipman Yale. Contributions to this fund are used towards future grants, with the Yale family working in collaboration with the BHEF to select and approve a grant in honor of Debra.
As Debra was passionate about the foundation and its cause, this fund offers Yale family members and friends a meaningful memorial.
*For full details, please see the BHEF website.
The BHEF takes a three-part approach towards raising the funds that help to support and sustain the innovative programming for which the Byram Hills Central School District is renowned.
There is a fall “annual appeal” mailing to all community members. In recent years, this appeal has added the opportunity to allow for “directed giving.”
According to former BHEF president and current Board Member Leslie Ilany, “Donors want to designate where their donations go; having a choice greatly appealed to the community.” With a goal of 100% participation, the foundation proudly notes that so many step up to contribute. Another popular fundraiser is the annual fall visit of the Harlem Wizards; this event particularly appeals to young families and tickets often sell out within hours.
Finally, there is the annual Spring Gala, a fun-filled evening featuring highly anticipated auction items as well as giving opportunities. This year’s recent gala, held at Brae Burn Country Club in nearby Purchase, was a smashing success. Honoring both retiring and beloved School Superintendent Dr. William Donohue and H.C. Crittenden’s Dr. H. Evan Powderly, the community turned out in force. Close to 300 people joined together to celebrate and support the foundation’s important work.
The BHEF welcomes all community members to get involved. Says Ilany, “Getting involved offers so many opportunities; the chance to meet many wonderful people–teachers, administrators and other parents. I hope this article helps spur others to take advantage of a great and meaningful experience.”