$200K gift buoys school

Anonymous donor funds arts, humanities grants  

HUDSON–The city school district has received a $200,000 grant from Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in Great Barrington to establish the Hudson City School District Arts and Humanities Fund. Although the grant comes through the foundation, the money comes from an anonymous donor.

Of the $200,000 grant to launch the fund, $100,000 is a challenge to the community to match the gift for a permanent endowment by 2014. The gift includes $20,000 per year for five years for immediate grants to “enhance and enrich the educational experience of students and teachers in the Hudson City School District through access to programs in the arts and humanities that emphasize excellence, innovation and creativity,” according to a press release from the foundation.

 

Berkshire Taconic has worked with the donor and the school districts of Chatham, Germantown, Ichabod Crane, New Lebanon, Taconic Hills and now Hudson to create what the foundation calls a web of support for creative programs not funded by tax dollars. With this $200,000 gift to the Hudson district, all six Columbia County public school districts will have permanent endowments to support arts and humanities for local students in perpetuity. Together, the six endowments currently total $726,058.

The award to Hudson is the largest of the donor’s grants to schools in the county, said Jennifer Dowley, president of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. “We’ve been working with this particular donor for a number of years,” said Ms. Dowley this week. But Hudson has more students than other local districts, and the foundation felt the $100,000 that funded similar programs in the other districts “would hardly make a dent” in Hudson.

Jack Howe, superintendent of the Hudson City School District, said district officials have been working on the grant with Berkshire Taconic for several months prior to this week’s announcement of the award. He sees the challenge for the district, which has three separate campuses, as finding a way “that will impact the greatest number of students.” He also hopes the grants will help establish traditions at the schools, what Ms. Dowley called a “sense of anticipation,” so that students look forward to having cultural programs at certain points in their school careers.

The money will fund grants for projects that are outside of the school curriculum and not covered by tax dollars. Programs at other schools that have received the grants include the creation of digital portfolios for art students at Ichabod Crane, a Shakespeare festival in Chatham and the purchase of Mayan materials for a 5th grade class in the district, journalism and dance courses in New Lebanon, and an elementary grades literacy committee and circus arts courses in Germantown, among many other experiences.

For the first five years of the fund, programs will focus on students in the 2nd, 6th, 8th and 11th grades. Mr. Howe said the reason for that mix is because those are “transitional grades” for students moving between the district’s schools.

The foundation says that the activities will be designed to enhance students’ capacity to achieve excellence both in school and in the community, as well as to cultivate citizens of good character and enhance communications skills among, and mutual respect for, fellow students.

Mr. Howe said his district is now organizing the advisory committee that will guide the program, and he expects that grants will be available in “late winter or early spring” of 2010.

Ms. Dowley said that meeting the challenge of matching half the grant has not proved difficult for other districts, noting that Chatham, where the program has been active for several years, has already met its matching goal, and New Lebanon is close.

Contributions toward the district’s matching grant challenge should be sent to Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, 271 Main Street, Suite 3, Great Barrington, Mass.,  01230-1972 and marked for the Hudson City School District Arts and Humanities Fund. Hudson City School District Arts and Humanities Fund is one of Berkshire Taconic’s 25 Education Enrichment funds.

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation serves communities in Columbia and northeast Dutchess counties, Berkshire County, MA, and northwest Litchfield County, Conn. In 2008, with funds from its donors, Berkshire Taconic distributed nearly $9 million in scholarships and grants for programs in the arts and education, health and human services, and environmental protection. Berkshire Taconic is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization. 
 

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