BIDDEFORD — In its inaugural Pillars of Pride event last month, the Biddeford Education Foundation raised more than $15,000 to benefit Biddeford students while honoring two longtime friends of the Biddeford School Department.

The dinner and silent auction raised $15,195 for the newly-reinstated education foundation, which provides resources outside the normal school budget for innovative classroom opportunities.

Honored were Roland Eon and Jim Godbout, longtime supporters of Biddeford schools. School Superintendent Jeremy Ray said Friday the two have been instrumental in several aspects of the School Department’s programming.

Eon, he said, was the department’s insurance agent for a number of years, and Godbout was a leader in the development of the curriculum at the High School’s Center of Technology.

This was the first Pillars of Pride event, Ray said, held to give back to those who have given to the schools over the years.

“I think it’s really important to us because many different people contribute to the School Department in different ways, and our thing isn’t just about somebody giving financial support,” Ray said. “What we really appreciate is when people are donating their time to kids. There’s a lot of different pieces that support kids and their education and that’s what we want to try to honor.”

In addition to thanking those who have dedicated their time to the schools, Ray said the event was great way to raise money for and awareness about the Education Foundation, which was reinstated on Aug. 4 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

“This community has a longstanding history of peoples’ volunteership and people helping in the schools. We thought it was time to start a process and what better way to do that than through the Education Foundation,” he said.

The purpose of the foundation is to manage and distribute funds raised to enrich the educational experience for the students of Biddeford, Karen Chasse, president of the foundation, said Friday. 

“This nonprofit will provide us with resources outside the normal school budget which are now necessary due to decreased state funding and the increased needs of our student population,” Chasse said. 

As a nonprofit, the organization will establish the ability to “grant” teachers funding for innovative classroom approaches. The money isn’t intended for school supplies, Ray said, but rather to help instructors take their teaching to the next level.

“We want to be able to build up those funds so we can look at ways we can augment and support initiatives in the classroom,” Ray said.

Chasse said she hopes the reimplementation of the foundation will encourage teachers to take new approaches, with the peace of mind that they won’t always have to pay out-of-pocket costs.

“We would like to see our teachers and students be inspired by their creativity and given the opportunity to explore those ideas through learning prospects, proposals for which will be considered by the foundation’s board (of directors),” she said. “We like to think of it as the academic equivalent of athletic boosters.”

Chasse said support may also go to provide resources for the School Department’s three new “academies,” and that funds raised from the Pillars of Pride event will go toward the middle school’s new academy for science, technology, engineering and math, the field known as STEM.

“Other innovative efforts will most likely mirror the future pathways as they are developed, support of (Advanced Placement) testing exam, costs for students in need, etc,” Chasse said. “Like any other granting nonprofit, we know that our applicants (teachers) understand the needs and opportunities better than we.”

Chasse also said that, since the days of parent-teacher organizations with several volunteers — and the days of additional state funding — are over, the foundation will work to fund education in a way that won’t burden taxpayers and hold the line on spending.

“Student needs and academic innovation can’t always be budgeted for 12 to 16 months in advance,” Chasse said. “The BEF will be a responsive, flexible supporter of academic innovation in Biddeford’s schools.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected] 

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