Teachers were all smiles at the Braintree School Committee meeting last night, as a giant check for $42,500 was presented by the Braintree Fund for Education to the public schools for teacher grants and technology upgrades.
The BFFE, made up entirely of volunteers, has raised over $200,000 for the schools by hosting fund-raisers throughout the school years. As fund members handed over this year’s check to Superintendent Peter Kurzberg, it was clear that their efforts have paid off once again.
Items ranging from Kindles to iPads to interactive LCD projectors were awarded to 31 teachers at the joint banquet and meeting, with a total of $25,000 in grants given out to staff. The remaining $17,500 will go toward short-throw projectors and Elmo projectors for each of Braintree’s nine schools.
“It’s the students that will benefit, and the time and effort it took to put together [is amazing]. It’s a great program,” said Melissa Berman McDonald, a member of the School Committee.
The program, which was started in 2006, hoped to initially fix Braintree’s poor statewide ranking for technology use. In four years, the group has purchased more than 100 LCD projectors and trained more than 100 teachers in how to use them.
Although BFFE’s main focus continues to be on upgrading technology, it has been giving out awards to teachers since 2008, and the teachers themselves couldn’t be more pleased.
“If you take the parents together, and the money they’ve put into the town, we could never afford it without their help,” said first grade teacher Waureen Alpert, who was awarded an Elmo document projector for her classroom. “When people get together and pool their resources, you can get a lot done.”
Kurzberg agreed, saying that what started as a PTO event between all 10 PTOs has grown into a community cause, sponsored by businesses, individuals, and community organizations that have cumulatively done more for the schools than any one of them could do individually.
The teachers themselves look like kids when describing the technology that will be coming to their classroom.
Liz Roberts, a special education teacher at the Morrison School, described how the two iPads she received will help her students understand academic skills through technology.
Julianne Quintiliani, also a special ed teacher at Morrison, said the value of her award, Reader’s Theater, comes not only from its academic value, but from the enjoyment her kids get out of the program, which turns well-known books into scripts.
“Kids really get into it, acting [plays] out,” she said with a smile.
For Braintree Mayor Jospeh Sullivan, the awards were more than just grants for the schools, but a representation of the community's gratitude toward its teachers.
“There are days where we as a committee and as an administration have to take an approach that is perhaps opposite or in opposition to what you do, but I hope that you understand that we as a community in Braintree do value you, and prioritize the importance of education,” Sullivan said.
“What you do every day in the classroom, what you demonstrate for the students has a ripple effect that none of us can fully measure … and seeing the talent displayed tonight, knowing that you represent other talent in the school system, offers us a great comfort. So we appreciate your work, and recognize it tonight, but we value it every day,” he said.