Helmets, mascots and scoreboards: Ridgefield schools received $392,000 worth of gifts in 2018-19

Helmets for the boys varsity lacrosse program, library furniture at Veterans Park Elementary School, and $1,902 for a new tiger mascot suit at the high school — those were some of the myriad of gifts received by the Ridgefield Public Schools this year.
All told, the schools took in $392,288 through gifts, mostly donated by parent-teacher associations.
“Most of these gifts are very small,” said Assistant Superintendent Craig Creller at the school board’s June 24 meeting. “They range from around $3,000 to $16,000.”
By far the largest gift accepted was $268,515 for three new electronic scoreboards at Tiger Hollow stadium, the high school softball field, and the high school gym.
Not counting the scoreboards, the schools received $84,513 through gifted equipment, money, or mini-grants funded by the PTAs.
The new LED scoreboard at Tiger Hollow, which has the capacity to show both pre-recorded and live video, was installed in April. The gym scoreboard, which can show pre-recorded video, was installed in June.
Creller said that after the boards were installed, he looked back through the minutes of the Board of Education and found that the board never voted to accept the gift. “Everything else has followed the protocol exactly,” he said.
High school
Ridgefield High School was the largest recipient of gifts from parent-teacher associations and other community members, at $24,488 — not including the scoreboards.
Among the gifts were two new laptops for student presentations, eight $500 mini-grants to buy curriculum supplies, $4,477 for picnic tables in the student courtyard, two mini grants for library supplies and the school book giveaway, and a humidifier and dehumidifier for the school choir room.
The mini grants are money raised by the PTAs through fundraising efforts which schools can apply for with a specific request.
Besides the scoreboard, the high school sports program received a $1,902 for a tiger mascot costume from the PTSA, $250 for transportation for the girls lacrosse team, 30 boys lacrosse helmets worth $7,200, and $2,800 for embroidered jackets for the girls lacrosse team.
The helmets and jackets, which were up for approval by the Board of Education, spurred some discussion from board members concerned about parity between boys and girls lacrosse teams.
Board member Carina Borgia Drake asked if the helmets should be included in the school budget, because they are part of the safety equipment players have to wear.
“Pairing it with the girls jackets for title IX... they’re not really equal,” Borgia-Drake said, referring to the federal law that ensures that school sports programs have to give equal opportunity to boys and girls. “You don’t need a jacket to play the sport, you do need a helmet.”
The board eventually voted to approve the helmets, but declined to vote on the girls varsity jackets because they were given to the individual members of the team, rather than to the school.
“It’s not that we don’t like this gift,” said Chairwoman Margaret Stamatis, “it’s that the board doesn’t have a role in this gift.”
Elementary schools
Three elementary schools received a large number of gifts totaling more than $10,000.
Besides the scoreboards at the high school, the other big-ticket item donated to the district’s nine schools was a gift of $39,160 for a new outdoor playground at Branchville Elementary School.
Stamatis said that project is being coordinated between the Branchville PTA and the town, because the school grounds are managed by the town rather than Board of Education.
Excluding the playground, Branchville took in $16,181 in gifts, including almost $1,500 in books for the library, $1,003 for robotics materials for the library maker space, two coffee makers, and $5,000 in library furniture.
Farmingville Elementary received $12,616 in gifts, including $2500 for a weeklong engineering program, $1500 for an artist visit, and $1325 for Kindergarten sensory tables.
Veterans Park Elementary School received $12,567 in gifts, including $3600 for music, $1,952 for t-shirts, and $1,729 for document cameras for the school literacy specialist.
Barlow Mountain Elementary received $5905 in gifts, among them $1,204 in mini grants for curriculum, $1203 for cabinets for the library maker space, and $980 in a mini grant for big books and cd players for Kindergarten teachers.
Scotland Elementary School received $2,360 in gifts, including $865 for a school sign, $584 for a Tchoki ball game, and $458 for a library sofa.
Ridgebury Elementary school received four gifts totaling $1,167 — $749 in supplies for play therapy, $232 in mural supplies for the fifth grade, $185 toward a conference on curriculum, and three bean bags.
Middle schools
Of the middle schools, East Ridge received $6,393 in gifts. Those included $1,988 in courtyard tables, $642 for virtual reality goggles, and $1,000 from Exxon Mobil for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) materials.
Scotts Ridge received $2,935 in gifts, including $600 in a mini grant to the school English department, $581 for a presentation from the state historical society, and a $500 mini grant to support the library makerspace.
The school board also approved a gift from the Ridgefield Education Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the schools through fundraising, for $2,160 to send two special education teachers to a four-day course at New York University called “Advancing Thinking Through Writing.”
Creller said the teachers will instruct their peers after they attend the course.
“We’re hoping that they’ll come back and share the wealth,” he told the board.