Photographs by William Taufic.
Fairfield Foundation for Education (FFE), Center for Family Justice, Bridgeport Public Education Fund, Assumption Catholic School, Bridgeport Diocese, Center for Not-for-Profit Organizations at Sacred Heart University
“I’m inspired by helping kids and teachers,” says Ann Clark, PhD, who founded FFE in 2009, shortly before retiring from her job as Fairfield’s superintendent of schools. Board member Beth Fitzpatrick says: “Dr. Clark’s retirement gift to the Fairfield community she loves and calls home was this foundation to fund innovative projects and curriculum in classrooms throughout the town.” Concerned about an increase in standardized testing and budget cuts, Ann felt compelled to help. “A great deal of our future is going to rest on our ability to innovate and create,” she says. “Other countries can manufacture at a lower cost; we have always been the innovators. I found that when teachers were motivated to innovate, kids had more fun in the classroom and they learned more. With grants from FFE, teachers don’t have to spend their own money to bring in creative ideas.”
Courage Into Action
“We have almost no overhead costs, and we have board members who are really committed to putting funds in the hands of creative people,” explains Ann. “It took commitment more than courage. But it does take gumption to ask people to donate and attend fundraisers.” She says the administration has been “really supportive.” Grants have gone to setting up an in-classroom salmon fishery; standing desks for fidgety kids; and lighted “electric strings” for orchestral students to perform techno-funk pieces. Beth notes, “FFE has funded more than fifty innovative programs in classrooms throughout town and invested tens of thousands of dollars into teacher-conceived projects.” Successful projects are considered for integration into the broader curriculum.
In addition to FFE, Ann is a board member of the Center for Family Justice, where she has focused on ways of helping children impacted by domestic and sexual violence. She is on the board of the Bridgeport Public Education Fund, striving to give inner-city kids the same opportunities suburban children enjoy. And that is only a sampling of the many organizations Ann supports in her quest to make kids’ lives and educational experiences better.
Hopes & Dreams
“I hope that every child comes home every day having had some measure of success in school, because achieving is a motivator to continue achieving,” says Ann. “My dream is that every child, every day, has a good experience in school. We need to understand how critical public schools are to the future of this country and support innovative, creative teachers.”