The Rockville Centre Education Foundation recently presented the village school district with a check for more than $50,000, which will help fund additional programming throughout the school year.
“Their generosity is unparalleled in terms of how it helps our students, and allows us to think about new ways to innovate and allow us to try new programs,” Superintendent Matthew Gaven said of the foundation at the Board of Education meeting on Sept. 8. “We are extremely grateful for that collaborative spirit.”
The Education Foundation was created in 1991, with the goal of enhancing the district’s quality of education by providing financial resources for school enrichment and innovation, with a focus on programs that reach beyond the normal scope of the curriculum.
“Each year we have an annual fundraising event to secure the funding to provide a response to district staff grant proposals,” foundation President Mayda Kramer told the board at the meeting. “We get great grants every year, for an incredible array of different programs. In 2022, after a pause, we were once again able to have a fundraising gala event, and as a result of the community’s generosity, we were able to raise over $50,000 and provide funding for nine grants.”
According to Kramer, the grant money will support programs in the district as well as the community at large. “To date, we’ve given nearly $1 million to the district,” she said.
This year’s funding will help provide “maker spaces” at the elementary schools, which Kramer said would be filled with tools as part of the district’s Success in Technology Enrichment Literacy Library and Research program.
At South Side High School, the money will fund a science research room, with equipment for a wide range of experiments and research.
The grants will also fund a program at the public library, in which first- through sixth-grade students learn to play the ukulele.
The district’s arts director, Brian Zuar, said that Ed Foundation funding helped the district launch the Residencies Inspiring Student Excellence, or RISE, program in 2009.
The program invites professional artists and musicians to visit the schools and share their knowledge with students.
Over the years, the participants have included opera star and civil rights activist Barbara Smith Conrad, the drum group Ethos Percussion, and Carol Ott, a University of North Carolina professor and an expert in vocal improvisation.
In March, thanks to a RISE grant, members of the high school and middle school wind ensembles had the chance to learn from New Orleans-based composer Eric Morales.
“It’s rare for students to have the opportunity to interact with a living composer,” Zuar said. “As you know, many of our composers are dead. So they had somebody who’s alive and was able to share with them, and they soaked up all the intellectual, emotional and creative energy that comes with that process.”
Morales shared his creative process with the students and coached them through a performance of an original composition, which was commissioned by the school district for the program. The work was designed specifically for a simultaneous performance by both young and advanced wind ensemble students.
“After the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is my wish that music experience a renaissance, a period of regrowth, where all people can rediscover the magic of finely crafted instrumental music performed live,” Morales said in a written statement.
His composition, titled “Out of the Doghouse,” was performed by students at a school recital in March.
After a video presentation of the performance at a school board meeting on Sept. 8, two members of the high school wind ensemble thanked the board and members of the Ed Foundation for the chance to work with Morales.
Sophia DeMarco, an International Baccalaureate music student at South Side High and a pianist with the ensemble, said that learning from Morales was a great experience. “He had a lot of insight for us based on his experience, where he’s played and where he studied,” DeMarco said. “So we were able to get his input on our interpretation of his piece, which was very interesting.”
She added that Morales, who also plays the trumpet, worked with the students individually to help them prepare their solos. He also visited the I.B. music class to talk about composing. “Not all of us knew that there were so many professions in the musical field, especially composition,” DeMarco said. “I don’t think a lot of us realized that we can make a career out of that.”
Tobey Maguire, who plays the euphonium and the trombone in the high school ensemble, echoed that sentiment, telling the board how working with Morales was a rewarding experience.
“He was able to articulate his intentions for this piece, which he wrote specifically for us,” Maguire said. “Being able to work directly with him really gave us a much deeper understanding of the music, and much deeper appreciation for this experience.”
“As someone who wants to pursue music in college, this is really something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” Maguire told the board.
“That’s what school should be all about,” Gaven replied. “We should definitely be giving you experiences that allow you to see if this is an area that I wish to pursue, or I’m excited about something and I could take time to learn deeply about it. So we really, truly are humbled and grateful to the Ed Foundation for allowing us to share these experiences with students.”