Help improve instruction by supporting innovation and creative thinking about teaching and providing opportunities for teachers to improve their skills and practice
Create a simple, teacher-friendly grant process
Create a teacher centered process for grant distribution, giving teachers primary responsibility for initiating and implementing grants.
Build an endowment of $250,000 by year ten (2014).
The Somers Education Foundation was named the Best New Foundation of the Year by Connecticut Consortium of Education Foundations (CTCEF) in 2004 and Foundation of the Year in 2014. In 2014 there were 79 foundations in Connecticut.
Many people have volunteered countless hours to SEF’s formation and growth over these years but none more than Paul Salva and Louis Bachetti.
Paul grew up in Enfield. He earned a BA in Chemistry from The College of The Holy Cross in 1976 and a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Connecticut. He then lived in Texas for 6 years, initially in Austin working as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Texas (UT) and then earning an MD at Texas Tech in Lubbock. While in Texas, he came aware of the Permanent University Fund (PUF) which provides very specific funding to UT and Texas A&M. He learned about its formation (land grant in the 1880s), purpose and its success. The major takeaways were that the land could never be sold and any profit created off the granted land could never be touched. Only a percentage of the income earned from the principle could be spent on capitol improvements, never on salaries or benefits.
After Texas, Paul spent 3 years at the Univ. of Arizona in Tucson for a pediatrics residency and then 3 years at Indiana Univ. Medical Center in Indianapolis for pulmonary fellowship. While in Indiana, he traveled the state on scores of medical transports and again learned about Community Foundations in the smallest of towns and how they supported town libraries along the same concept as the PUF in Texas. Today, he practices in the Springfield area as a pediatric pulmonologist.
Paul settled in Somers in 1994 with his wife Ann and 3 children who successfully graduated from the Somers school system. Paul had an idea for creating what has become the Somers Education Foundation based on what he had seen in Texas and Indiana, to supplement the public school system for projects that wouldn’t be funded through its usual budgeting process. Paul proposed the structure, its permanent endowment concept and the first-10-year financial plan which was to award 50% of whatever money came in per year and the other 50% going to build the endowment which was invested in a broad spectrum of mutual funds. After the first 10 years, the endowment would be tapped for no more than 4% of a rolling 5-year average. He started presenting the concept to groups in Somers in 1996. However, it wasn’t until he met Lou Bachetti in 2002 that the SEF became a reality.
Lou received his undergraduate and Master Degrees from Springfield College in 1964. In 1973, Lou became President and CEO of Goodwill Industries and led those efforts to support and better the lives of the underprivileged for 32 years. He served as chairman of the Somers Economic Development Commission and was a proud member of the Springfield and Somers Rotary Clubs. He was co-founder and first President of the Somers Education Foundation. He also proposed a $250,000 ten-year goal for the endowment.
Paul and Lou, both living in Somers and both members of the Rotary got to talking and decided that they wanted to work together to put Paul’s idea into action. Fortunately, by this time Lou was retired and had some free time to dedicate. He was instrumental in getting the idea into the hands of the right people, of co-writing bylaws (with Mike Parker, JD), of registering with the State of Connecticut, obtaining the 501(c)3 status (non-profit, tax exempt) with the Federal Government and coming up with its first fundraising events.
Lou Bachetti passed away in 2013, but he got to see the endowment reach his 10-year financial goal. In fact, it surpassed his goal, having $310,000 at that time. Everyone that knew Lou always thinks of his generosity, his winning way with people, helping the underdog and for his way of “thinking BIG.”
Paul was encouraged by friends to present his idea to the Community Partnership Council of which Lou was Chairman. Paul pitched the concept, structure and financial plan. Lou immediately grasped the idea and its potential and signed on to make it happen. The two became a team.
Other folks who contributed to the formation include Dan Roulier, Evan Plotkin, Tim Keeney, Tom Mazzoli, Mike Parker, Terri Henderson, Amanda Vesce, Kathy Devlin, Zanis Gazis and Mark Maniscalco. Many, many meetings on the formation were held in people’s kitchens, at the Warming House at Worthington Pond Farm and Gardens and anywhere else they could find. Many long hours were spent figuring out how the foundation should work and in setting goals.
The group agreed on the following organizational basics:
In early 2004, the original Board Members were sworn in by Town Clerk, Ann Logan at a ceremony in the Warming House at Worthington Pond and Gardens and the Somers Education Foundation officially came into being. When asked about his idea, Paul is very modest and puts the project in these terms: “I built the skeleton and Lou put the meat on the bones.”
After the formation of the non-profit, it was time to figure out how SEF was to build its cash reserve. SEF wanted to be sure that there were always funds for awarding of deserving projects and supplies even if they had a year of high expenses or lower donation levels. An endowment assures financial bedrock for the organization.
Funds were raised to start this financial base through donations and fundraising events. The founders decided that the awarded funds were to be only a certain percentage of the interest earned on these funds. That way, the endowment would always be there and always earning interest.
One of the original cornerstones of the Somers Education Foundation was to build an endowment of sufficient size to allow it to grant awards every year regardless of the state of the general economy. The plan was to grant 50% of its income yearly and use the other 50% to pay expenses and build an investment portfolio. The first ten-year goal was to have $250,000 in the endowment. The SEF has been successful in meeting its goals – both of providing funds to the schools and building its endowment. The endowment growth goal was actually exceeded! The SEF had $310,000 in its endowment on its tenth birthday on 6/30/2014.
The SEF was started in 2004 with generous gifts from its original Board Members, allowing it to award $5,900 in grants in its first year. The endowment has grown in subsequent years through community fundraising events and investment.
The first ten years were used to build the endowment. Since then the endowment has been actively used to support grants and awards employing “The Prudent Man Rule” of minimizing risk. We exercise this caution by never taking more than 4% per year from it. The endowment funds will be used exclusively for grants and awards and not Foundation expenses.
Lou Bachetti (2004 – 2013)
Paul Salva (2013 – present)
Paul Salva (2004 – 2013)
John Mailhot (2013 – present) Secretary:
Michelle Bernier (present)
Chris Castonguay (present)
Present Board Members:
Tracy Formica, RN
William Kirkpatrick (present)
Robin Munson (present)
Board of Education:
Bruce Devlin (present)
Timothy Keeney (present)
Jennifer D’Amour (present)
Superintendent of Schools:
Brian Czapla (present)
Kathy Welch (present)
Kathleen Devlin (present)
Marissa Marks (present)
Over the last 17 years, the Somers Education Foundation (SEF) has awarded more than $575,000 in professional development and education grants. The number of grants awarded and the size of the grants has grown steadily since the Foundation’s inception.
This unique grant program allows staff to request a grant they believe would benefit their students. The grant is reviewed by the principal and superintendent and they provide comments. The grant then comes to the grant review committee to review. This process allows staff to request seed money for creative, innovative projects they would otherwise not be able to pursue in the regular school budget. These grants and the accelerated technology supported by SEF have changed the way our students, staff and families interact, communicate, and engage while providing valuable knowledge and experience to our students.
A wide variety of grants has been given out, enriching all three schools and every grade from preschool through 12th, and have impacted all departments, including Special Education. The grants have changed the way students are learning and have also helped to bring new programs to the district. For example, classrooms now have technology such as projectors, Mimeo smartboards, and iPads. Teachers and students communicate and interact in a more individualized, engaging way. The Vex Robotics program and the Tech Ed department have grown because of the generous funding of these programs. Our Special Education program has benefited from the addition of a calming room, sensory tools, sensory chairs for the entire district, and the ongoing support of the staff through professional development. Also, SEF has supported the school district’s Music departments through the purchase of numerous instruments, the Art departments with the acquisition of a beautiful new kiln and display boards for the District Art Show, and the Physical Education departments with the addition of heart rate monitors and a climbing wall. The Foundation has also purchased Vernier probes and microscopes for the Science department at the high school, which has allowed our AP programs to keep up with current technology. Our media centers have continued to benefit from SEF funding through various projects with our most recent grant, the Makerspace – a communal area that provides students with the opportunity to be creative, innovative and explore personal interests. On a broader level, the School Messenger has allowed the entire district to better communicate to parents, teachers and the community, as well as the grants that support inter-school communication through WMBA and the Spartan News Network.
The donations named above do not capture the extensive variety of grants awarded by SEF over the past 17 years, nor the dedication of the school district’s teachers, who have submitted education grants and taken advantage of the professional development grant opportunities. The Somers Education Foundation continues to encourage teachers and administrators to submit creative grants that allow our school system to grow and remain at the forefront of education.
Lou Bachetti (R), SEF President, accepting award for Best New Foundation of the Year in 2004 by the Connecticut Consortium of Education Foundations (CTCEF).