Selling Rockwell painting pays off for schools
Teachers receive first grant awards from fund
GARDNER — A stroke of good fortune for the city to possess and sell a Norman Rockwell painting culminated with inaugural grant awards being celebrated Thursday.
Mayor Mark Hawke and his ear-to-ear smile paraded around the school district making check presentations to teachers and administrators, as the Williams-Rockwell Educational Gift Fund Committee awarded almost $50,000 in funding for 15 different purchases.
“It’s just gratifying that after a seemingly long time this has come to fruition. The funds are being put to excellent use,” Hawke said.
He was joined visiting Gardner High School, Elm Street School and Gardner Academy for Learning and Technology with Superintendent Denise Clemons and other gift fund committee members.
The committee recently announced the awards prior to the check presentations, with Clemons saying she was “pleased that these funds will be able to impact the school district as a whole, both academically and through the arts.”
In 2014, the city sold an original 1941 Rockwell painting “Willie Gillis in Convoy” to Sotheby’s auction house in Boston.
Rockwell gave the painting as a gift to Gardner High Principal F. Earl Williams in the ‘50s after he visited the artist in Vermont, and the painting remained with the school from then on.
Upon the sale, Sotheby’s provided the school with a replica painting, which hangs in the main office.
In 2015, the City Council and Hawke reached an agreement to create the Williams-Rockwell fund that was subsequently approved by the state Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker as a Home Rule Petition.
The fund was to be invested with profits distributed among art and other projects at Gardner Public Schools.
Investment began in 2016, with the idea being to use most but not all of the accumulated interest every year, which allows the fund to continue to grow over time.
Hawke explained that about 78 percent of interest was used for this year’s grant awards, and the fund sits just below $2 million.
Gardner High School received funding for six different initiatives, including a career decision making system that guidance will use for students, money for developing an engineering and physics course, new equipment for the art room and field trips to Boston.
“This is definitely expanding our programs in a way I don’t think we could have done in our traditional budget,” said Gardner High Principal Mark Pellegrino, calling it a “real boon for the school.”
Art teacher Francie LeMieux successfully applied for a set of kilns for ceramics and large drying cabinets.
In addition, she received funding that will cover bus tickets for a field trip with students to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
“That’s the one I’m most excited about,” LeMieux said. “Some kids have never been to Boston, believe it or not, and hopefully (the trip) will make them want to go back to art museums — think they’re not so stuffy.”
Science teacher Joy Yan is teaming up with technology education teacher Henry Richard to develop the engineering and physics course that will feature lessons on how cars work.
Yan explained that Richard will teach the course, while she will work on designing the motion of cars to be developed for classroom use.
“Eventually the students will do an in-house demonstration, a car race,” she said.
At Elm Street School, gift fund committee members joined Principal David Fredette in speaking with students about the fund and how it was created.
“This is awesome, awesome news for Elm Street School and students,” Fredette told the children.
Among the awards for the school are purchasing visual art books, musical instruments and hosting artist Bren Bataclan and his program “The Smile Project” later this school year.
Teacher Stephanie Curtis explained that his project will involve lessons over the course of a week, culminating in making a mural with students.
“He really does the project to instill the love of art, spreading kindness and caring through art work,” she said.
At Gardner Academy, grant awards included funding for an after-school art program, an intramural basketball program and mindfulness training for students and staff.
“We are extremely excited about all three endeavors and grateful for the Rockwell committee for valuing our ideas on increasing student success and allowing a more inclusive education for all students,” Principal Timothy McCormick told the School Committee this week.
The Williams-Rockwell Educational Gift Fund Committee was formed about a year ago and includes a mix of 10 city officials and residents.
In addition to Hawke and Clemons, current members include City Treasurer Charlene Daigle, School Committee member James Abare, Dr. James Faust, Dr. Paul Damour (a high school teacher), Theresa Thompson, attorney Robert Rice, Calvin Brooks and City Councilor James Walsh.
Walsh said the fund “provides us with the ability to fund programs that might not otherwise see the light of day” and added he is proud to have worked with the committee, calling the experience “very rewarding.”
Abare said the fund has been well-thought-out, a mix of arts and education project selections. He added the presentations by applicants were excellent and with new offerings available, the fund can entice kids to stay in the district.
In total, the committee announced 24 applications were received for this year before the final selections were made. The next round of applications will be reviewed next academic year.
Rockwell grant awards
Donna Murphy, art teacher, Elm Street School, purchase of a light table to allow students to trace their art work, $775
Donna Murphy, art teacher, Elm Street School, purchase of “Explorations in Art” series of visual art ebooks, $4,626
Dawn Murphy, special education teacher, Elm Street School-second grade, online membership to Reading A-Z, $989
Kathryn MacKay, teacher, Elm Street School, purchase of musical instruments, $6,342
Kathryn MacKay, teacher, Elm Street School, music books for second, third and fourth grade, $2,041
Denise Ulrich and Stephany Curtis, guidance councilors, Elm and Waterford Street schools, host “The Smile Project” program presented by Bren Bataclan, $3,500
Janet Henderson and Tim McCormick, principal of Gardner Academy for Learning and Technology, Art on the Rocks after-school program, $1,200
Derek Beauregard, math teacher, Gardner Academy for Learning and Technology, starting of an intramural basketball program, $2,000
Tim McCormick, principal, Gardner Academy for Learning and Technology, mindfulness program through “Ivy Child,” $8,750
Karen McCrillis, guidance counselor, Gardner High School, Harrington O’Shea Career Decision-Making System, $1,011
Henry Richard and Joy Yan, teachers, Gardner High School, development of an engineering and physics course, $6,822
Lynne Berthiaume, teacher, Gardner High School Rise IV Special Ed Program, Boston State House tour, $1,000
Frances LeMieux, teacher, Gardner High School, School-Master K-12 kilns plus electrical work, $6,000
Frances LeMieux, teacher, Gardner High School, Museum of Fine Arts tour, $800
Frances LeMieux, teacher, Gardner High School, large drying cabinets, $3,500